Samyukta Āgama (2) 49

Sakka Saṃyutta


Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī at the Jeta Grove in the Anāthapiṇḍika Park.

At that time the World-honored One said to the monks: “Once, long ago, Sakka did battle with the asuras. At that time the devas were inferior and the asuras were winning. Sakka, having seen that the devas were inferior, had his charioteer turn around, and wanted to return to his heavenly palace. On the way he noticed a withered sāla tree, where a suparṇa bird had built its nest. Sakka said to his charioteer Mātali: ‘In this nest there are two bird’s eggs. Let’s avoid damaging them. Make a turn and avoid that tree.’ Sakka addressed Mātali in verse:

“Do you see the nest in this tree? /
It contains two eggs.
If the chariot continues its course /
it will strike the tree and break the eggs.
I would rather throw my body /
against the host of the asuras
and lose my life /
than harm these eggs.”

Having spoken this verse, he promptly turned the chariot. When the asuras saw Sakka turning around, they all became afraid and said: ‘Sakka was just faking a retreat! Now that he has turned, he will certainly destroy our army!’ Then the asuras were routed and the devas pursued them all the way back to their city.”

The Buddha told the monks: “Sakka Devānaṃ Inda dwells as king among the gods. Just as he is always practicing loving-kindness and patience, so you, monks, should train yourselves likewise.”

The monks heard what the Buddha said, were happy and remembered it well.