Home » Excerpts » The Slave Of Passion (Maccha Jataka)

We are slaves of our craving,
before being enslaved
by that craved for.

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… When a Bhikkhu [monk] admitted that he was being tempted by his former wife and that he was still feeling passion for her, the Buddha said, “Bhikkhu, this woman is a danger to you. Long ago, too, she was the cause of your downfall, but I [as a chaplain] managed to save you.” Then he told this story of the past.

Long, long ago… there was a group of fishermen… One day, as they were casting their net, a large fish was swimming along amorously intent on seducing his mate. Suddenly, she sensed the presence of the net ahead and turned sharply to avoid it. He was so distracted by his passion that he didn’t even notice that she had turned, and he swam right into the mesh. As soon as the fishermen felt him hit the net, they hauled it in…. As the fish lay on the wet sand, he lamented, “It isn’t the fear of the skewer piecing my body or of the fire burning me to death that distresses me most! I cannot stand the thought that my mate might think that I have been unfaithful to her and that I have gone off with another.”

Just as he was saying this, the king’s chaplain, who understood the language of animals, happened to be passing by… He heard the fish’s lament and thought, “This poor fish is suffering from blind passion. If he dies in this unhealthy, deluded state of mind, he will be reborn in hell. I will save him.”… [Given the fish by the fishermen who assumed he wanted it for the palace,] he carried the fish to the water’s edge and, looking into the fish’s eyes, said, “Friend, if I had not heard you just now, you would had died confused. Cease being the slave of passion.”…

Jataka Tales Of The Buddha: An Anthology: Volume 1
Retold By Ken & Visakha Kawasaki

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