A Buddhist Judgment of Solomon

[Extracted Mr. Betram Fulke Hartshorne's 'A Chapter of Buddhist Folk-Lore.
The Ummagga Jataka, which gives an account of the birth and childhood of Guatama Buddha.'
 From
Fortnightly Review, 30, August 1st, 1878, 214-30.]



A certain woman took her child in her arms, and went to the pond of the Pandit, and having first bathed it and set it upon her cloth, washed her head, and went herself down to the water to bathe. At that very moment a she-devil, having seen her child, and wishing to eat it, took the disguise of a woman, and drew near, saying, "My friend, this child is very beautiful; is it a child of yours?"

Upon her answering, "It is even so, my friend," she asked, "Shall I give the child milk to drink?" and the mother replied, "It is good."

She then took the child in her arms, gave it a little milk to drink, and, taking it with her, hastened away. The mother, seeing her going with her child, ran and seized her, saying, "Whither are you going with my child!" The she-devil replied, fearlessly, "Whence did you get a child? this child is mine;" and so they went, both of them quarrelling, by the door of the judgment hall.

The great Bodhisat, having heard the noise of their quarrel, sent for them both, and inquired, "What quarrel is this?" but knowing within himself this one is a she-devil, both because she does not wink her eyes, and also because they are red like two olinda seeds, he asked. "Will you abide by the decision I small give?"

They answered, “Even so, we will abide.”

He then caused a line to be drawn, and placed the child in the midst of the line, and commanded the two hands to be taken by the devil and the two feet by the mother, saying, "Pull both of you together; let the child be adjudged to the one which pulls it to herself."

Now they both pulled the child toward themselves, and the child being pulled by both of them came to sorrow; but the mother being in anguish, like as when the heart is rent, let go the child and stood and wept. Then the Bodhisat asked many persons saying, "Is the heart of those who have brought forth children soft toward them, or, if not, is the heart soft of those who have not brought them forth?"

They said, "O Pandit, assuredly the heart of those who bring them forth becomes soft."

Having heard that, the Pandit asked them all, saying, "What is this, think ye that she who now stands here with the child in her arms is the mother? or think ye that she who stands there, having let it go. is the mother?"

They all replied, "O Pandit, the mother is assuredly she who stands there and has let go the child."

Then, he demanded, "What is this, do ye all know the stealer of the child?"

They answered, "We do not know, O Pandit."

And he said, "This, my friends, is a she-devil; she took the child in order to eat it."

"O Pandit." they replied, "now knowest thou that?"

"Because she winked not with her eyes, because her two eyes were red, because she had no fear toward any one and because she showed no mercy; for all these reasons," he said.

Afterward, having spoken in this manner, he asked the she-devil, "Who art thou?"

"I am a she-devil, O my lord."

"Wherefore didst thou take this child?" he said.

"In order to eat it O my lord," she replied.

"Oh! thou that art bereft of wisdom, being also a she-devil in a former state of existence from committing sin, now again art thou born, and art become a worker of iniquity, fie upon thee, thou ignorant one!" he said, and having admonished her, he afterward established her in the five precepts and sent her away.

But the mother of the child gave thanks to the great Bodhisat, saying, "Long mayest thou live, O my lord," took her son in her arms, arose, and went her way.