Stories of the Buddha's Former Births
Book 2: Dukanipāta
Translated from the Pāli by
W.H.D Rouse, M.A., Sometime Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge
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."
" ... ," etc. — This story the Master told while staying at Jetavana, about an old Brother. Once, we are told, two of the chief disciples were sitting together, questioning and answering; when up came au old Brother, and  made a third.  Taking a seat, he said, "I have a question too, Sirs, which I should like to ask you: and if you have any difficulty, you may put it to me." The Elders were disgusted; they rose up and left him. The congregation who listened to the discourse of the Elders, after the meeting broke up, came to the Master; he asked what brought them there untimely and they told him what had happened. He replied, "This is not the first time, Brethren, that Sāriputta and Moggallāna have been disgusted with this man, and left him without a word; it was just the same in olden days." And he proceeded to tell a story of the past.
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta became a tree-sprite that lived in a forest. Two young Geese flew down from Mount Cittakūṭa and perched upon this tree. They flew about in search of food, returned thither again, and after resting flew back to their mountain home. As time went on and on, the sprite struck up a friendship with them. Coming and going, they were great friends, and used to talk of religion to one another before they parted.
It happened one day as the birds sat on the treetop, talking with the Bodhisatta, that a Jackal, halting at the foot of the tree, addressed the young Geese in the words of the following stanza:
"Sit and sing upon the tree
If in private you would be.
Sit upon the ground, and sing
Verses to the beasts' own king!"
Filled with disgust, the young Geese took wing and flew back to Cittakūṭa. When they were gone, the Bodhisatta repeated the second stanza for the Jackal's benefit:—
"Fairwing here to fairwing sings,
God to god sweet converse brings;
Perfect beauty, you must then
Back into your hole again!"
 When the Master had ended this discourse, he identified the Birth: — "In those times the old man was the Jackal, Sāriputta and Moggallāna the two young Geese, and I myself was the tree-sprite."
 Lit. 'lovely in four points,' i.e. as the schol. explains 'in form, in birth, in voice, in quality': said sarcastically.