|The Future Buddha as Judge|
A woman, carrying her child, went to the future Buddha’s tank to wash. And having first bathed the child, she put on her upper garment and descended into the water to bathe herself.
Then a Yaksha, seeing the child, had a craving to eat it. And taking the form of a woman, she drew near, and asked the mother, “Friend, this is a very pretty child. Is it one of yours?” And when she was told it was, she asked if she might nurse it. And this being allowed, she nursed it a little, and then carried it off.
But when the mother saw this, she ran after her, and cried out, “Where are you taking my child to?” and caught hold of her.
The Yaksha boldly said, “Where did you get the child from? It is mine!” And so quarreling, they passed the door of the future Buddha’s Judgment Hall.
He heard the noise, sent for them, inquired into the matter, and asked them whether they would abide by his decision. And they agreed. Then he had a line drawn on the ground; and told the Yaksha to take hold of the child’s arms, and the mother to take hold of its legs; and said, “The child shall be hers who drags him over the line.”
But as soon as they pulled at him, the mother, seeing how he suffered, grieved as if her heart would break. And letting him go, she stood there weeping.
Then the future Buddha asked the bystanders, “Whose hearts are tender to babes? Those who have borne children, or those who have not?”
And they answered, “Oh sire! The hearts of mothers are tender.”
Then he said, “Who, think you, is the mother? She who has the child in her arms, or she who has let go?”
And they answered, “She who has let go is the mother.”
And he said, “Then do you all think that the other was the thief?”
And they answered, “Sire! We cannot tell.”
And he said, “Verily, this is a Yaksha, who took the child to eat it.”
And he replied, “Because her eyes winked not, and were red, and she knew no fear, and had no pity, I knew it.”
And so saying, he demanded of the thief, “Who are you?”
And she said, “Lord! I am a Yaksha.”
And he asked, “Why did you take away this child?”
And she said, “I thought to eat him, Oh my Lord!”
And he rebuked her, saying, “Oh foolish woman! For your former sins you have been born a Yaksha, and now do you still sin!” And he laid a vow upon her to keep the Five Commandments, and let her go.
But the mother of the child exalted the future Buddha, and said, “Oh my Lord! Oh great physician! May your life be long!” And she went away, with her babe clasped to her bosom.
Source: Buddhist Birth-Stories; or, Jataka Tales, edited by V. Fausbll and translated by T. W. Rhys Davids (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1925), pp. xiv-xvi. First published 1880.