Ja 21 Kuruṅgamigajātaka
The Birth Story about the Antelope (1s)

In the present the monks discuss Devadatta and his attacks on the Buddha. The Buddha explains to them he did this in previous lives too, and tells a story of a wise antelope who evaded destruction at the hands of a hunter by reading the signs.

The Bodhisatta = the antelope (kuruṅgamiga),
Devadatta = the hunter on the platform (aṭṭakaluddaka).

Present Source: Ja 21 Kuruṅgajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 342 Vānarajātaka.

Keywords: Caution, Discernment, Animals.

“For the antelope knows.” [1.57] {1.173} This story was told by the Teacher while at the Bamboo Grove about Devadatta.

For once when the monks were gathered together in the Dhamma Hall, they sat talking reproachfully of Devadatta, saying: “Sirs, with a view to destroy the Tathāgata, Devadatta hired bowmen, hurled down a rock, and let loose the elephant Dhanapālaka; in every way he goes about to slay the One with Ten Powers.” See Vinaya, Cullavagga, vii. 3, for details of Devadatta’s attempt to kill Gotama. In the Vinaya, the elephant is named Nālāgiri. Entering and seating himself on the seat prepared for him, the Teacher asked, saying: “Sirs, what is theme you are discussing here in a meeting?” “Sir,” was the reply, “we were discussing the wickedness of Devadatta, saying that he was always going about to slay you.” Said the Teacher, “It is not only in these present days, monks, that Devadatta goes about seeking to slay me; he went about with the like intent in bygone days also – but was unable to slay me.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as an antelope, and used to live on fruits in his haunts in the forest.

At one period he was subsisting on the fruit of a Sepaṇṇi tree. [This is Gmelina Arborea, a kind of beechwood.] And there was a village hunter, whose method was to build a platform in trees at the foot of which he found the track of deer, and to watch aloft for their coming to eat the fruits of the trees. When the deer came, he brought them down with a javelin, and sold the flesh for a living. This hunter one day marked the tracks of the Bodhisatta at the foot of the tree, and made himself a platform up in the boughs. Having breakfasted early, he went with his javelin into the forest and seated himself on his platform. The Bodhisatta, too, came abroad early to eat the fruit of that tree; but he was not in too great a hurry to approach it. “For,” thought he to himself, “sometimes these platform-building hunters build themselves platforms in the boughs. Can it be that this can have happened here?” And he halted some way off to reconnoitre.

Finding that the Bodhisatta did not approach, the hunter, still seated aloft on his platform, {1.174} threw fruit down in front of the antelope. Said the latter to himself, “Here’s the fruit coming to meet me; I wonder if there is a hunter up there.” So he looked, and looked, till he caught sight of the hunter in the tree; but, feigning not to have seen the man, he shouted, “My worthy tree, hitherto you have been in the habit of letting your fruit fall straight to [1.58] the ground like a pendant creeper; but today you have ceased to act like a tree. And therefore, as you have ceased to behave as becomes a tree, I too must change, and look for food beneath another tree.” And so saying, he repeated this verse:

1. Ñātam-etaṁ kuruṅgassa yaṁ tvaṁ Sepaṇṇi seyyasi,
Aññaṁ Sepaṇṇi gacchāmi, na me te ruccate phalan-ti.

For the antelope knows who it is drops fruit from the Sepaṇṇi, I will go to another Sepaṇṇi, I do not like your fruit.

Then the hunter from his platform hurled his javelin at the Bodhisatta, crying, “Begone! I’ve missed you this time.” Wheeling round, the Bodhisatta halted and said: “You may have missed me, my good man; but depend upon it, you have not missed the reward of your conduct, namely, the eight Large and the sixteen Lesser hells and all the five forms of bondage and torture.” With these words the antelope bounded off on its way; and the hunter, too, climbed down and went his way.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse and had repeated what he had said about Devadatta’s going about to slay him in bygone days also, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka, by saying: “Devadatta was the platform-hunter of those days, and I myself the antelope.”