Home » Excerpts » The Buddha When Just A Gardener Sage

Cherry blossoms
Scatter at the peak of their beauty –
It is much harder for us
To fall away from our own
Attachment to the world.

– Rengetsu

The Bodhisattva, a gardener, decides to leave home to fully practice the Way when he sees his old spade lying on the ground. He picks it up, starts doing a last bit of gardening – and forgets all about leaving. Time passes. Again he decides to leave and commit to spiritual practice. But again, picking up his spade, he is just a gardener once more. This happens six times.

The seventh time he thinks, “If I don’t go now to accomplish what I might, I never will!” Going to the river, he tosses his spade backward over his shoulder into the water. As the spade sinks, the gardener cries out, “I have won! I have triumphed!”

A king who’d just held the day on the field of battle hears this and thinks, “There’s a champion whose victory seems even greater than my own!” He leads his army to the river and finds the gardener. He asks, ‘Where is the conqueror who gave that shout?” The Bodhisattva answers, “I have conquered myself. What external victories can compare?

Rising cross-legged in the air, he teachers the king, inspiring him to also practice the Way. Seeing this the king’s soldiers throw down their weapons and join the Bodhisattva and the king setting out together for the mountains and a life of spiritual practice. The people of the city soon also join them.

(Retelling of Kuddala Jataka, No. 70)
Before Buddha Was Buddha: Learning From The Jataka Tales
Rafe Martin

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