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Prince Sattva

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Prince Sattva was one of the previous incarnations of Gautama Buddha, according to a jataka story. The son of King Maharatha, he became an aescetic and gained a few disciples. On his walk with his closest disciple, he comes to the edge of a cliff, at the bottom of which is a starving tigress about to eat her newborn cubs in desperation. The bodhisattva (buddha-to-be) tells his disciple to go look for food and he will stay and try to figure out a way to save her and her young. While his disciple is gone, the bodhisattva reflects that while his disciple very well may not find food, his body is just so much flesh ("a sack of shit," literally, as the tradition states), and by giving it up, he can save the tigress' purity and her cubs' lives. He leaps off the cliff to his death, attracting the tigress' attention with his impact, and she eats his body. In this way, he comes closer to perfecting some of the ten Buddhist perfections, those of generosity, renunciation, morality, resolution and equanimity. His disciple returns, having not found food, and, upon discovering what the bodhisattva has done, rejoices in his good deed. He comes back with other disciples and they and the heavens shower the spot with lotus flowers


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