Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was born in a farmer’s family, and when he grew up he got a livelihood by tillage.
At the same time there was a Merchant who used to go about hawking goods, which a donkey carried for him. Wherever he went, he used to take his bundle off the donkey, and throw a lion-skin over him, and then turn him loose in the rice and barley fields. When the watchmen saw this creature, they imagined him to be a lion, and so dared not come near him.
One day this hawker stopped at a certain village, and while he was getting his own breakfast cooked, he turned the donkey loose in a barley field with the lion-skin on. The watchmen thought it was a lion, and dared not come near, but fled home and gave the alarm. All the villagers armed themselves, and hurried to the field, shouting and blowing on conchs and beating drums. The donkey was frightened out of his wits, and gave a hee-haw! Then the Bodhisattva, seeing that it was a donkey, said:
“Nor lion not tiger I see,
Not even a leopard is he:
But a donkey–the miserable old one!
With a lion-skin over his back!”
As soon as the villagers learnt that it was only a donkey, they beat it with sticks till they broke his bones, and then went off with the lion-skin. When the Merchant appeared, and found that his donkey had come to grief, said:-
“The donkey, if he had been wise,
Might long the green barley have eaten;
A lion-skin was his disguise:
But he gave a hee-haw, and got beaten!”
As he was in the act of uttering these words, the donkey expired. The Merchant left him, and went his way.
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