There was a time when the city of Benaras was ruled by King Brahmadatta. In the same city, lived Bodhisatta, the son of a potter. He too led the life of a potter with his family.
There was a great lake situated near the river flowing through Benaras. The river and the lake would merge when the water was aplenty. The inhabitants of the lake – the fishes and the tortoises were well aware of the quantity of water that would suffice them.
One year, a great drought was predicted. The tortoise and fishes knew that there would soon be no water. So, when the time the river and lake were one, all, except one, tortoise swam out to the river.
The foolish tortoise, unaware of the impending danger, refused to let go of his home.
“I was born and brought up here. This is my parents’ home. I cannot abandon it.”
When summer arrived, the lake dried up. The tortoise dug a hole in the soft clay and hid inside. It was the same spot where Bodhisatta used to get his clay from. When he arrived at the place, he dug the land using his big spade and the tortoise’s shell cracked open. Bodhisatta turned him on the back thinking it as a large chunk of clay. The tortoise lay moaning in pain and thought in agony.
“If only I had moved out of this place, I would not have got killed.”
Writhing in pain, the tortoise moaned a verse,
Here was I born, and here I lived; my refuge was the clay;
And now the clay has played me false in a most grievous way;
Thee, thee I call, oh Bhaggava; hear what I have to say!
Go where thou canst find happiness, where’er the place may be;
Forest or village, there the wise both home and birthplace see;
Go where there’s life; nor stay at home for death to master thee.
Thus, he passed away. Bodhisatta picked up the tortoise and said to the gathered villagers,
“Look at this reluctant tortoise that lost his life when I broke his shell with my spade digging for clay. He refused to abandon his house, the lake which is now drying.”
He continued, “Learn from this and take not to be too fond of things that you are attached to. Do not cling to them with desire. Move on with equanimity at all stages of life.”
Saying thus, he imparted a valuable lesson of Buddha. The discourse was passed all around India and it was cherished for a full seven thousand years. Generations after generation led fulfilled lives through charity and reached the holy heavens when it was their time.