Saṃyutta Nikāya 11

Connected Discourses with Sakka

6. The Bird Nests

At Savatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past the devas and the asuras were arrayed for battle. In that battle the asuras won and the devas were defeated. In defeat the devas withdrew towards the north while the asuras pursued them. Then Sakka, lord of the devas, addressed his charioteer Matali in verse:

“‘Avoid, O Matali, with your chariot pole
The bird nests in the silk-cotton woods;
Let’s surrender our lives to the asuras
Rather than make these birds nestless.’

“‘Yes, your lordship,’ Matali the charioteer replied, and he turned back the chariot with its team of a thousand thoroughbreds.

“Then, bhikkhus, it occurred to the asuras: ‘Now Sakka’s chariot with its team of a thousand thoroughbreds has turned back. The devas will engage in battle with the asuras for a second time.’ Stricken by fear, they entered the city of the asuras. In this way, bhikkhus, Sakka, lord of the devas, won a victory by means of righteousness itself.”