Ma Ho Saddha Jataka

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Baltimore, WA

Performance Date: 03/19/2024

Y.Y. has been my friend since Kindergarten, and is also a Burmese person who is originally from Yangon, Myanmar. He recounts the time P, his grandma told him a story that is a well known legend back home. Their relationship is very close knit, as his grandma would regularly tell him Burmese legends and superstitions that she has learned about. 

“When I was younger, maybe 13 or 14, my grandma told me about a legend about the Ma Ho Saddha, a scholar prodigy that is well known in the Buddhist community. He is also someone that became Buddha after his next few lives. In this story, a mother is traveling with her baby. She wanted to take a bath so she stopped by a river and left the baby on the shore momentarily. In Buddhism, there’s a type of ogre or ‘ogress’ as you know, called Belu Ma. They can shapeshift and such and they also like to feed on humans. This one Belu Ma that disguised herself as an extremely beautiful woman, and tried to take the baby. She picked up the baby and was about to leave, but the mother saw her and started arguing. She exclaimed that the baby was her child and why she was taking him. In response to this, the Belu Ma claimed that the baby was her child, and they started arguing in front of many other people who started to look at the loud scene. The people told them to go to the Ma Ho Saddha so that he can decide whose baby it is and resolve the problem. They went to him and he said that they should play a game. He told them to pull the child on either end of his limbs, and whoever is able to take the baby will be known as the mother. The two women did as they were told, but of course the baby started crying since it hurts. The true mom started to feel bad and let the baby go. The Belu Ma started celebrating and said that she was the mother but surprisingly, the Ma Ho Saddha stopped her. He said that no, she isn’t because the true mother would have stopped pulling since she would care for her child. And so he gave the baby to the real mother. I think my grandma told me this story mostly because she loves to share these types of legends; she even has a  subscription to a magazine on Burmese superstitions and legends! I think this was one of the stories that showed how knowledgeable and smart the Ma Ho Saddha was so I took it as a lesson showing how Buddha’s past life as a scholar was very wise.”

I personally found this story kind of creepy but also really interesting because of its twist. I think it’s possible that this story was used to spread Buddhism and preach about how Buddha was a very good and wise figure even in his previous lives. Since it is perceived as a true story that he was a prodigy scholar in his past life, it would only encourage people to live by Buddha’s morals. The series of stories about Ma Ho Saddha’s intelligence continues to prove that. I think this story also solidified people’s beliefs in Belu and Belu Ma (demons) which in turn can enforce people to pray often out of fear for the Belu.