This jataka is quite popular in Thailand. The first time I did read this story when I was in 5th grade and loved it!
But I love it much more now.
Prince Temiya: The Great Pretender
[Translated from the Pali by Dr.C.B. Varma] and [The Buddha-Images.com]
Chanda Devi, the wife of the king of Kashi had no son. This filled her life with misery. Sakka, the king of the devas, when saw her grief he decided to help her because she was a virtuous lady. So, he persuaded the Bodhisatta, who was then born in the realm of the Tavatimsa to prepare for his descent in her womb for the sake of her happiness.
The Bodhisatta then entered the womb of the queen. When born, there was a heavy rain-fall in the city. As he was born wet he was called Temiya.
When Temiya was one month old and was lying in his father’s lap, he overheard the father’s harsh sentence meant for some bandits. This made him remember one of his births when he was the king of Varanasi and reigned there for twenty years for which he suffered for twenty thousand years in the Ussada Niraya (a kind of hell). So, he loathed the idea of being a king for the second time. As he was conversant with the deities of the higher world he received the advice from one of them to pretend to be dumb and inactive to avoid the inheritence of the kingdom. He took the advice and accordingly pretended to be dumb and inactive for sixteen years.
Owing to his pretence he was declared unfit as a prince or a future king and was eventually handed over to the royal charioteer Sunanda to be taken to the cemetery to be clubbed to death and buried there.
The Bodhisatta was at last freed from his vow, and as Sunanda worked at digging the grave, Temiya thought to himself, "In sixteen years, I have never moved my hands or feet. Can I do so now?" Whereupon he rose, rubbed his hands together, rubbed his feet with his hands, and alighted onto the ground, which at his touch became like a cushion filled with air. He then exercised his limbs by walking back and forth until he was satisfied that he had the strength he thought he had lost.
Temiya walked over to the charioteer who was digging the grave to dispose off the dead body. Sunanda looked up but was so dazzled by the Bodhisatta's beauty that he did not recognize him at first. Again Temiya identified himself. Suddenly Sunanda understood and fell at his feet, stammering that he would be honored to escort the prince home to inherit the kingdom. He who was destined for Buddhahood chided him, for nothing would deter him now from leading the pure meditative life. He described his previous existence and subsequent generations in hell and then ordered Sunanda to return to the palace immediately to tell his parents that he was still alive and thus spare them unnecessary grief over the loss of their only son.
As the charioteer(Sunanda) approached the palace alone, the queen, who had been waiting by a window, saw him, assumed that her son was dead, and began to weep. But when Sunanda told her his story, she ceased. The king was told what his son had done, and he and the queen set out at once for the Victory Gate, hoping to lure the prince home.
When the long procession of horse-drawn carriages came to a halt, the royal pair found their son living in a hut of leaves prepared for him by Sakka. They saw that he had already put on an ascetic's garments of red bark and leopard skin, a black antelope skin over one shoulder and a carrying pole over the other. His hair was tied up and matted, and he held a walking staff in one hand. Temiya welcomed them and explained to them the reasons for his sixteen years of self-denial. In awe of their son, they no longer begged him to wear the crown but were themselves inspired to embrace the holy life. Temiya gave them a sermon to praise the ideals of asceticism. All the people, including the king and the queen, were highly impressed by his sermon and became ascetics. Soon, the fame of Temiya spread all over the place, which made the citizens of the three kingdoms adjacent to Varanasi his followers.
Sakka built for the entire kingdom a hermitage three leagues long, so that all who aspired to Nirvana could partake of the meditative life.
(Temiya’s parents are identified with Suddhodana and Mahamaya; and Sariputta as Sunanda)
Love Buddha's dhamma,