Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births
Book 6 Chanipāta
395. Kaka Jātaka
“Our old friend,” etc.—The Master told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning a greedy Brother. The occasion is as above.
Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a pigeon and lived in a nest-basket in the kitchen of a Benares merchant. A crow became intimate with him and lived there also. Here the story is to be expanded. The cook pulled out the crow’s feathers and sprinkled him with flour, then piercing a cowrie he hung it on the crow’s neck and threw him into a basket. The Bodhisatta came from the wood, and seeing him made a jest and spoke the first stanza—
Our old friend! look at him!
A jewel bright he wears;
His beard in gallant trim,
How gay our friend appears!
My nails and hair had grown so fast,
They hampered me in all I did:
A barber came along at last,
And of superfluous hair I’m rid.
Then the Bodhisatta spoke the third stanza—
Granted you got a barber then,
Who has cropped your hair so well:
Round your neck, will you explain,
What’s that tinkling like a bell?
Then the crow uttered two stanzas—
Men of fashion wear a gem
Round the neck: it’s often done:
I am imitating them:
Don’t suppose it’s just for fun.
If you’re really envious
Of my beard that’s trimmed so true:
I can get you barbered thus;
You may have the jewel too.
The Bodhisatta hearing him spoke the sixth stanza—
Nay, ’Tis you they best become,
Gem and beard that’s trimmed so true.
I find your presence troublesome:
I go with a good-day to you.
After the lesson, the Master declared the Truths and identified the Birth—After the Truths, the greedy Brother was established in the fruition of the Third Path: “At that time the crow was the greedy Brother, the pigeon was myself.”