Ja 138 Godhajātaka
The Story about the Iguana (1s)

In the present one monk gets his living in dishonest ways. When the Buddha finds out he tells a story about a false ascetic who tried to capture and eat a lizard who was his erstwhile disciple.

The Bodhisatta = the wise iguana (godhāpaṇḍita),
Sāriputta = the virtuous ascetic (sīlavantatāpasa).

Present Source: Ja 487 Uddāla,
Quoted at: Ja 89 Kuhaka, Ja 138 Godha, Ja 173 Makkaṭa, Ja 175 Ādiccupaṭṭhāna, Ja 336 Brahāchatta, Ja 377 Setaketu.

Keywords: Deceit, Treachery, Animals.

“With matted hair.” [1.297] This story was told by the Buddha while at Jetavana, about a deceitful monk. The incidents were like those above related. [It appears this references Ja 89 Kuhakajātaka, which itself references Ja 487 Uddālakajātaka. I include the story here.]

This man, even though dedicated to the dispensation that leads to safety, notwithstanding to gain life’s necessaries fulfilled the threefold cheating practice [seeking requisites, seeking honour and hinting].

The monks brought to light all the evil parts in the man as they conversed together in the Dhamma Hall, “Such a one, monks, after he had dedicated himself to this dispensation which leads to safety, yet lives in deceit!” The Teacher came in, and asked what they talked of there. They told him. Said he, “This is not now the first time; he was deceitful before,” and so saying he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a lizard; and in a hut nearby a village on the borders there lived a rigid ascetic who had attained the five Super Knowledges, and was treated with great respect by the villagers. In an ant-hill at the end of the walk where the recluse paced up and down, dwelt the Bodhisatta, and twice or thrice each day he would go to the recluse and hear words of edification and holiness. Then with due obeisance to the good man, the Bodhisatta would depart to his own abode.

After a certain time the ascetic bade farewell to the villagers and went away. In his stead there came another ascetic, a rascally fellow, to dwell in the hermitage. Assuming the holiness of the newcomer, the Bodhisatta acted towards him as to the first ascetic. One day an unexpected storm in the dry season brought out the ants on their hills, and the lizards, coming abroad to eat them, were caught in great numbers {1.481} by the village folk; and some were served up with vinegar and sugar for the ascetic to eat. Pleased with so savoury a dish, he asked what it was, and learned that it was a dish of lizards. Hereon he reflected that he had a remarkably fine lizard as his neighbour, and resolved to dine off him. Accordingly he made ready the pot for cooking and sauce to serve the lizard in, and sat at the door of his hut with a mallet hidden under his yellow robe, awaiting the Bodhisatta’s coming, with a studied air of perfect peace.

At evening the Bodhisatta came, and as he drew near, marked that the ascetic did not seem quite the same, but had a look about him that boded no good. Snuffing up the wind which was blowing towards him from the ascetic’s cell, the Bodhisatta smelt the smell of lizard’s flesh, and at once realised how the taste of lizard had made the ascetic want to kill him with a mallet and eat him up. So he retired homeward without calling on the ascetic. Seeing that the Bodhisatta did not come, the ascetic judged that the lizard must have divined his plot, but marvelled how he could have discovered it. Determined that the lizard should not escape, he drew out the mallet and threw [1.298] it, just hitting the tip of the lizard’s tail. Quick as thought the Bodhisatta dashed into his fastness, and putting his head out by a different hole to that by which he had gone in, cried, “You deceitful person, your garb of piety led me to trust you, but now I know your villainous nature. What has a thief like you to do with ascetic’s clothing?” Thus upbraiding the false ascetic, the Bodhisatta recited this verse:

1. “With matted hair and garb of skin
Why ape ascetic’s piety?
A saint without, your heart within
Is choked with foul impurity.” Dhp v. 394. {1.482}

In this wise did the Bodhisatta expose the wicked ascetic, after which he retired into his ant-hill. And the wicked ascetic departed from that place.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “The deceitful person was the wicked ascetic of those days, Sāriputta the good ascetic who lived in the hermitage before him, and I myself the lizard.”