21 May 2022

#28. Ṣaḍdanta

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Cave No. 17

Identification: Foucher (1911, p. 234).—

There lived an elephant called Ṣaḍdanta (Six-tusked), the king of a herd, in the Vindhya ranges. One day, a beautiful lotus fell from a flying nymph at the elephant’s feet, which he offered to his second wife, who appeared before him first. The first wife flew into a jealous rage and left her husband. Out of her mind with envy, she wandered and came across a Pratyekabuddha. She offered him a flower to ensure a good rebirth and jumped off a rock to her death. Born as a queen, she pretended to have an ailment that could only be cured with the tusk paste of a six-tusked elephant. The king found a hunter, and the queen advised him to disguise himself as a monk and go on the expedition. As he reached the Vindhyas, he was caught by the elephant herd, but the elephant king asked them to calm down as a human in a monk’s robe was supposed to be harmless. The hunter shot a poisonous arrow at the elephant’s forehead, who in turn protected him from the herd’s attack. The elephant swore love for his murderer, and uttered a wish that the virtue of his truth may neutralise the arrow’s poison. No sooner had he uttered the spell, the lethal venom receded. The hunter, having seen this, threw himself at his feet and narrated the motive behind the shot. The elephant, using his trunk, pulled out his tusks and gave them to the hunter. The power of his oath healed the wound and the new tusks grew back. The hunter took the tusks to the queen. On seeing the tusks, she felt great remorse for her actions and confessed her motives to the king. The hunter calmed her down, telling her about the miraculous healing.—Ṣaḍdanta, the elephant king, was none other than the Buddha in a former existence.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33; Schlingloff 2013, I, 35

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