Cullaka-Setthi Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. He had an innate understanding of signs and omens. One day, when he saw a dead mouse along the road during a special position of the stars, he remarked out loud, to no one in particular, that anyone who took the mouse would have good luck starting a business and finding a wife. A poor young man with a good heart overheard these words and, knowing that the Bodhisatta was a wise man, picked it up and promptly sold it for one farthing to a tavernkeeper as cat food. And this set up a series of events that would prove the Bodhisatta’s prediction.

The young man used his farthing to buy molasses that he gave, along with drinking water, to some flower gatherers in exchange for some of their flowers. He sold these flowers and the next day bought a larger batch of molasses. This time, the same people gave him flowering plants, which he quickly turned into eight pennies profit.

Later on, a storm blew down leaves and rotten branches all around the king’s palace. It was far too much work for the gardener to manage by himself, but the young man agreed to remove it all if he could keep everything, and the gardener happily agreed. He got children from a playground to help him gather the debris by offering them molasses. When it was all piled up in front of the palace, the royal potter, in need of fuel for his kiln, passed by and bought it for sixteen pennies plus some pottery.

Then the young man took a jar of drinking water to serve five hundred grass cutters working near the city gate. Appreciative of his deed, they asked the young man how to repay him and he said he would return soon to ask a favor from them. He had also become acquainted with a wealthy merchant in the town, and this man informed him that a horse dealer would arrive tomorrow with five hundred horses to sell. The young man went back to call in his favor with the cutters and they gave him a bundle of grass and agreed to delay selling any of theirs until he had sold his first. When the horse dealer arrived, he had no choice but to buy grass from the young man at the premium price of one thousand coins.

A few days later, his merchant friend informed him about a large ship arriving in port, and the young man made another plan. He hired a fancy carriage to make a grand entrance at the port, where he convinced the ship’s owner to sell him all its cargo on credit. Other merchants arriving later to buy from the ship were told the goods were no longer for sale. But the young man, presenting a facade of power, had them escorted into his pavilion by three successive ushers to meet with him. There, each of them agreed to buy a share in the ship, and the young man earned a fast two hundred thousand coins.

Now a very wealthy man, just four months after picking up a dead mouse, he went to see the Bodhisatta and expressed his gratitude by giving him one hundred thousand coins. After hearing the entire story, the Bodhisatta was so impressed by the young man that he took him into the family by marrying him to his daughter. And after the Bodhisatta died, the young man replaced him as royal treasurer.

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