#46. Śibi-Kapota

Ajanta Cave 1

The narrative was identified by Alfred Foucher (1921, narrative no. 15).

When Lord Indra complained about the imperfections of human beings, his architect Viśvakarmān drew his attention to King Śibi who was an archetype of justice and compassion. To test Śibi, Indra asked Viśvakarmān to assume a pigeon’s (kapota) appearance, while he became a falcon chasing the pigeon. When the king granted a word of protection to the pigeon, the falcon argued for his right to the prey, complaining that he would, otherwise, die of hunger. The king, known for his justice announced that he could sacrifice his own body to save the life of the pigeon. Then, the king chopped off a portion of his own flesh as much as the weight of the pigeon. On the balance, however, Indra as pigeon kept on increasing his weight. The king too continued cutting more and more flesh from his body to match the weight. When this was not enough, King Śibi attempted to offer his whole body on one side of the balance. Thereupon, Indra and Viśvakarmān assumed their original forms and explained the scenario. The king was given back his original body.—King Śibi was none other than the Buddha in a former existence.

—Source: Singh 2019, 20-21; cf. Schlingloff 2013, I, 222-228 .

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