Ja 325 Godhajātaka
The Story about the (King of the) Iguanas (4s)

Alternative Title: Godharājajātaka (Cst)

In the present one monk makes his living in deceptive ways. The Buddha tells a story of a lizard who used to visit an ascetic. The latter, getting a taste for lizard meat, tried to kill his visitor, but the latter was too smart for him and drove him away.

The Bodhisatta = the king of the iguanas (godharājā),
the deceitful monk = the cheating matted-haired ascetic (kūṭajaṭila).

Keywords: Falsity, Cheating, Animals.

“One that plays.” This story was told by the Teacher, while living at Jetavana, with regard to a certain cheating monk. The introductory story has already been given in full. [The locus classicus (Ja 487 Uddālajātaka) gives us very little further information: This man, even though dedicated to the faith that leads to safety, notwithstanding to gain life’s necessaries fulfilled the threefold cheating practice (which are explained in the commentaries as seeking requisites, seeking honour and hinting).]

But on this occasion they brought the monk to the Teacher and exposed him, saying: “Venerable sir, this monk is a cheat.” The Teacher said: “Not only now, but formerly also he was a rogue.” And then he told a story about the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a young lizard, and when he grew up and was lusty and strong, he dwelt in a forest. And a certain wicked ascetic built a hut of leaves, and took up his abode near him. The Bodhisatta, in ranging about for food, saw this hut of leaves and thought to himself, [3.57] “This hut must certainly belong to some holy ascetic,” and he went there and after saluting the holy man returned to his own place of abode.

Now one day this false ascetic ate some savoury food prepared in the house of one of his retainers, and asked what meat it was. On hearing that it was lizard-flesh, he became such a slave to his love of dainties that he thought: “I will kill this lizard that so constantly keeps coming to my hermitage and will cook him to my taste and eat him.” So he took some ghee, curds, condiments and the like, and went with his club concealed under his yellow robe and sat perfectly still at the door of his hut, waiting for the Bodhisatta to come, as quiet as quiet could be. {3.85}

When the Bodhisatta saw this depraved fellow he thought: “This wretch must have been eating the flesh of my kinsfolk. I will put it to the test.” So he stood to leeward of him and getting a whiff from his person he knew that he had been eating the flesh of a lizard, and without going near him he turned back and made off. And when the ascetic saw he was not coming, he threw his club at him. The club missed his body, but just reached the tip of his tail. The ascetic said: “Be off with you, I have missed you.” Said the Bodhisatta, “Yes, you have missed me, but you will not miss the fourfold States of Suffering.” Than he ran off and disappeared in an ant-hill which stood at the end of the cloister walk, and putting out his head at some other hole, he addressed the ascetic in these two verses:

1. “One that plays the ascetic role
Should exhibit self-control.
You did hurl your stick at me,
False ascetic you must be.

2. Matted locks and robe of skin
Serve to cloak some secret wrong.
Fool! To cleanse for outward show,
Leaving what is foul below.”

The ascetic, on hearing this, replied in a third verse:

3. “Pray you, lizard, hasten back,
Oil and salt I do not lack:
Pepper too I would suggest
May to boiled rice add a zest.” {3.86}

The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, uttered the fourth verse:

4. “I will hide me snug and warm
Midst the anthill’s myriad swarm.
Cease of oil and salt to prate,
Pepper I abominate.”

Moreover he threatened him and said: “Fie! False ascetic, if you continue to dwell here, I will have you seized as a thief by the people who [3.58] live in my feeding ground, and given over to destruction. So make haste and be off.” Then the false ascetic fled from that place.

The Teacher, his lesson ended, identified the Jātaka, “At that time the rogue of a monk was the false ascetic, but I myself was the royal lizard.”