Apr 30, 2023
Martin Goodson

The Bandit and the Spider

Stories from the Buddhist Tradition

An evil-doing Bandit gets one last chance at saving himself after helping a spider.



Once there lived a notorious bandit who for many years had terrorised a particular province of a large kingdom.

He had robbed and murdered many people, young and old, rich and poor. There came a time when the King’s officers, who had been hunting for him to arrest him and bring him to justice, finally cornered him.

The other members of his criminal gang had either been killed or deserted him and he was now alone and surrounded. He looked about him in fury to see if he could lay his hands on any weapon but there was nothing to hand. He spotted, near his foot, a spider weaving a web and raising his foot to crush the life out of the tiny creature, in a final act of spite, he suddenly had a thought.

My life here is over, there is nothing I can do to avoid my capture and it is obvious that any judge will find me guilty and my life will be brought to a close by a length of rope. I do not know what comes next but I will need all the good karma that I can gain and so, little spider, I will spare your life!”

Shortly afterwards, he surrendered to the King’s men and, as predicted, he was found guilty of many counts of wrongdoing and sentenced to hang.

The bandit was immediately reborn in one of the deepest realms of hell where for many lifetimes he suffered out the consequences of his wicked karma.

One day he looked up from his fiery pit and saw above him a single thread of gossamer silk descending out of the sky near him. His eyes followed the thread up and high above his realm he saw in the human realm the little spider whose life he had spared weaving the thread towards him. The bandit stretched out his hand and grasped the thread. Pulling himself up out of the fiery pit he began to climb up. Hand over hand through the various realms of miserable beings up towards the human realm once more. He felt a surge of confidence that salvation was at hand and that in a few moments he would once more gain rebirth in the human realm. What would he do? Why he would take to his old life that is what he would do. He had buried the loot from his robberies and also had a cache of weapons still hidden which would allow him to take up his old career of banditry, theft and murder. A cruel smile broke upon his face and in that moment the thread snapped under the increasing weight of his wicked thoughts. 

He tumbled back down through the realms back into the fiery pit that would be his home for a long time yet to come.

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