The Jataka Tales are native literature stories about Buddha’s previous lives in forms of human or animals. They’re mostly insightful and wise stories of how one should treat strangers and his loved ones. The interactions also include moral decision making and allows you to foresee the possible consequences. There are also some extreme stories of sacrificing that the future Buddha will commit. I’ll examine both examples in this post.
In the story Quail, Crow, Fly, Frog, and Elephants, a quail mother asks a herd of elephants to not kill her fledgling since she’s too small and weak comparing to them. As the leader of the herd (future Buddha) protect her fledgling, warns the quail of a solitary elephant who does not listen to others. The rebellious solitary elephant crushes the fledging as soon as the quail asks him not to. There is a paradox in what quail said before and after this incident. When asking for protection from the elephant, she claimed she’s small and weak; however, after her fledgling being crushed by the elephant, she decided to take her revenge, despite of her tininess. Wisely, she united with three other small animals and using togetherness and teamwork, they successfully destroyed the cruel elephant by the crow poking his eyes out, the fly infecting them, and the frog pretending there is water on the tip of a mountain. The former rebellious, now blind elephant falls down the mountain and is deceased. The quail very considerably planned his destruction and thought of every step; was this punishment fair and adequate for the elephant? One might ask. Is getting revenge an ethical decision? Is killing for revenge morally correct in this story? The focus of this story could be about the value of friendship and community, and pondering about the life, even in the animal realm.
In The Story of a Tigress, the future Buddha is in form of a spiritual guru. One day, when walking in the forest with his disciple Ajita, they face a hungry tigress, desperate enough to attack her own cubs for survival. Seeing this, the guru send away Ajita in search of food and when Ajuta leaves, the guru offers his own flesh to the tigress by jumping off the cliff. There is absolutely no higher sacrifice that one’s own flesh. In some practices, the ultimate sacrifice is strict fasting and abstinent from food in general. To be able to offer one’s own flesh to the other is morally and in reality very loaded. The tigress is generally known as the predator and in that level the human is usually the prey, if so. Indeed, there is a huge difference between unintentionally becoming the prey of the tigress, and willingly. The notion of will makes a huge difference from just being trapped and eaten (powerless) to making the ultimate sacrifice by one’s full wishfulness (taking power and authority).