The Tiger (Panthera tigris) figures in a number of Jataka Tales. Here is one that illustrates the fate of those who grow arrogant on account of half-baked knowledge.

Sanjiva Jataka (The Rash Magician)

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into the family of a wealthy brahmin. Arriving at years of discretion, he went to study at Takkasila, where he received a complete education. In Benares as a teacher he enjoyed world-wide fame and had five hundred young brahmins as pupils. Among these was one named Sanjiva, to whom the Bodhisatta taught the spell for raising the dead to life. But though the young man was taught this, he was not taught the counter charm. Proud of his new power, he went with his fellow-pupils to the forest for wood-gathering, and there came on a dead tiger. ” Now see me bring the tiger to life again,” said he. ” You can’t,” said they. ” You look and you will see me do it.” ” Well, if you can, do so,” said they, and climbed up a tree forthwith.

Then Sanjiva repeated his charm and struck the dead tiger with a potsherd. Up started the tiger and quick as lightning sprang at Sanjiva and bit him on the throat, killing him outright. Dead fell the tiger then and there, and dead fell Sanjiva too at the same spot. So there the two lay dead side by side. The young brahmins took their wood and went back to their master to whom they told the story. “My dear pupils,” said he, “mark herein how by reason of shewing favour to the sinful and paying honour where it was not due, he has brought all this calamity upon himself.” And so saying he uttered this stanza:

Befriend a villain, aid him in his need,

And, like that tiger which Sanjiva raised

To life, he straight devours you for your pains.

Such was the Bodhisatta’s lesson to the young brahmins, and after a life of almsgiving and other good deeds he passed away to fare according to his deserts.


Image Attribution: This image from Wikimedia Commons is of a painting, ‘Tiger Rolling’ by the French artist Antoine-Louis Barye. Famed for his sculptures and illustrations of animals, he portrayed the tiger rolling on the ground, much like a house cat. Painted between 1850 and 1869, it is preserved in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (USA).