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Book 1: Ekanipāta

No. 129

Aggika-Jātaka

Translated from the Pāli by
Robert Chalmers, B.A., of Oriel College, Oxford
Under the Editorship of Professor E. B. Cowell
Published 1969 For the Pāli Text Society.
First Published by The Cambridge University Press in 1895

This work is in the Public Domain. The Pali Text Society owns the copyright."

 


 

"'Twas greed." — This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana, about another hypocrite.

 


 

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was King of the Rats and dwelt in the forest. Now a fire broke out in the forest, and a jackal who could not run away put his head against a tree [462] and let the flames sweep by him. The fire singed the hair off his body everywhere, and left him perfectly bald, except for a tuft like a scalp-knot[1] where the crown of his head was pressed against the tree. Drinking one day in a rocky pool, he caught sight of this top-knot reflected in the water. "At last I've got wherewithal to go to market," thought he. Coming in the course of his wanderings in the forest to the rats' cave, he said to himself, "I'll hoodwink those rats and devour them;" and with this intent he took up his stand hard by, just as in the foregoing story.

On his way out in quest of food, the Bodhisatta observed the jackal and, crediting the beast with virtue and goodness, came to him and asked what his name was.

"Bhāradvāja,[2] Votary of the Fire-God."

"Why have you come here?"

"In order to guard you and yours."

"What will you do to guard us?"

"I know how to count on my fingers, and will count your numbers both morning and evening, so as to be sure that as many came home at night, as went out in the morning. That's how I'll guard you."

"Then stay, uncle, and watch over us."

And accordingly, as the rats were starting in the morning he set about counting them "One, two, three;" and so again when they came back at night. And every time he counted them, he seized and ate the hindmost. Everything came to pass as in the foregoing story, except that here the King of the Rats turned and said to the jackal, "It is not sanctity, [284] Bhāradvāja, Votary of the Fire-God, but gluttony that has decked your crown with that top-knot." So saying, he uttered this stanza:—

'Twas greed, not virtue, furnished you this crest.
Our dwindling numbers fail to work out right;
We've had enough, Fire-votary, of you.

 


 

His lesson ended, the Master identified the Birth by saying, "This Brother was the jackal of those days, and I the King of the Rats."

 


[1] The Buddhist 'Brother' shaves his crown, except for a tuft of hair on the top, which is the analogue of the tonsure of Roman Catholic priests.

[2] Bhāradvāja was the name of a clan of great Rishis, or religious teachers, to whom the sixth book of the Rigveda is ascribed.

 


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