Sariputta | Dhammapada | The Story of the Boa Constrictor Peta Sariputta

The Story of the Boa Constrictor Peta

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (136) of this book, with reference to a boa constrictor peta*.

Once, as Thera Maha Moggallana was coming down the Gijjhakuta hill with Thera Lakkhana he saw a boa constrictor peta and smiled, but he did not say anything. When they were back at the Jetavana monastery, Thera Maha Moggallana told Lakkhana, in the presence of the Buddha about the boa constrictor peta, with its long body burning in flames. The Buddha also said he himself had also seen that very peta soon after he had attained Buddhahood, but that he did not say anything about it because people might not believe him and thus they would be doing a great wrong to the Buddha. So out of compassion for these beings, the Buddha had kept silent. Then he continued, "Now that I have a witness in Moggallana, I will tell you about this boa constrictor peta. This peta was a thief during the time of Kassapa Buddha. As a thief and a cruel-hearted man, he had set fire to the house of a rich man seven times. And not satisfied with that, he also set fire to the perfumed hall donated by the same rich man to Kassapa Buddha, while Kassapa Buddha was out on an alms-round. As a result of those evil deeds he had suffered for a long time in niraya. Now, while serving out his term of suffering as a peta, he is being burnt with sparks of flames going up and down the length of his body. Bhikkhus, fools when doing evil deeds do not know them as being evil; but they cannot escape the evil consequences"

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 136: A fool while doing evil deeds does not know them as being evil; but that fool suffers for his evil deeds like one who is burnt by fire.

*peta: an always hungry spirit or ghost.
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