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About Aaron Shepard’s

The Millionaire Miser
A Buddhist Fable


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Copyright © 1995, 2005 Aaron Shepard. All rights reserved.


Here is background info on my story.—Aaron

The tale of the “Millionaire Miser” appears in several versions in the Jataka, a gigantic collection of folktales, legends, and fables compiled by Buddhists and set down in final form around the 5th century A.D. The Jataka tales are intended to illustrate moral points and are used by Buddhist preachers and teachers much as Christian clergy use stories from the Bible.

Sakka, the King of Heaven, is a popular figure appearing in many of the Jataka tales. He is actually a Buddhist version of the Hindu god Indra, borrowed like many other elements from Hindu folklore and mythology. (One of Indra’s standard epithets is Sakra, meaning “powerful.”) Among Chinese Buddhists, Sakka becomes known as Yu Huang, the Jade Emperor.

A distinctive feature of the Buddhist Sakka is that he is more a position than a person. Virtuous people may find themselves incarnating as the King of Heaven in between lives on earth. Buddha himself is said to have earned the post at various times before his enlightenment.

My sources for this retelling were #78, #450, and #535, in The Jataka, edited by E. B. Cowell, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1905; and Tales Told in India, retold by Berta Metzger, Oxford University Press, Madras, 1935.