Ja 226 The Story about the (Impatient) Owl

In the present the king of Kosala wants to go on an expedition with his army, but first he sought the counsel of the Buddha, who tells a story of an owl who came to a bamboo thicket at the wrong time and was killed by a bunch of crows.

1. Kāle nikkhamanā sādhu, nākāle sādhu nikkhamo,
Akālena hi nikkhamma, ekakam-pi bahujjano,
Na kiñci atthaṁ joteti dhaṅkasenāva kosiyaṁ.

Going at the right time is good, not going at the wrong time is good, by going out at the wrong time, alone, and with the many folk, nothing explains the meaning like the owl with the army of crows.

2. Dhīro ca vidhividhānaññū, paresaṁ vivarānugū,
Sabbāmitte vasīkatvā, kosiyo va sukhī siyā ti.

The wise one knows the rules and commands, follows the faults of others, bringing all foes under control, he will be happy like the owl.

In this connection, going at the right time is good, great king, going out is called going out or advancing at a suitable, very suitable, time is good.

Not going at the wrong time is good, but going out at the wrong time to go to another place from your own place of residence, going out or advancing is not good.

At the wrong time and so on, amongst the four lines, by joining the first line with the third line, and the second line with the fourth line, so is the meaning to be understood. I do not really follow this, as the verse makes perfect sense as it is, and would be hard to understand if reordered in the way suggested here. From his own place of residence, whatever person, at the wrong time, having gone out, or having advanced.

Nothing explains the meaning, he is unable to generate even an insignificant development for himself, then alone, and with the many folk, with the many hostile folk, at the wrong time going out or advancing, alone, or being surrounded by folk, he is led to complete destruction.

In this connection, this is the simile: like the owl with the army of crows, like this army of crows, at the wrong time going out or advancing, they lead the owl to complete destruction by attacking him with their beaks, so therefore, beginning with animals, no one, at the wrong time, and from his own place of residence should go out or advance.

In the second verse, the wise one means the wise one. Dhīra can mean wise or firm. The commentary clarifies which meaning is intended here.

The rules means the traditions established by the wise men of old.

Commands means the divisions or the commands.

Follows the faults means knowing and following a fault.

Bringing means bringing under his own control.

The owl means from this foolish owl likewise to another wise owl.

This is what is said: he who is wise, thinking: “At the right time I should go out, I should advance, but, at this time I should not go out, I should not advance.” What are known as the traditions established by the wise ones of old, the rules and what is reckoned as the divisions, or the commands, he knows his rules, commands, his undertaking of the commands, he knows the rules and commands. And knowing the faults of others, of his foes, like for sure a wise owl at what is reckoned as night, in his own time going out and advancing, cutting the crows’ heads off as they lie right there, having brought all foes under control, he will live happily. So the wise one at the right time, having gone out, having advanced, having brought all of his foes under his control, will be happy, without suffering.