Ja 22 Kukkurajātaka
The Birth Story about the Dog (1s)

In the present the Buddha reconciles the king of Kosala to his queen, and then tells this story about a king who condemned all dogs to die for destroying the straps of his carriages. The Bodhisatta, as a leader of the dogs, showed the king that not all dogs were guilty, and thereby earned them a reprieve.

The Bodhisatta = the wise dog (kukkurapaṇḍita),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
the Buddha’s disciples = the rest of the cast (avasesā parisā).

Present Source: Ja 465 Bhaddasāla,
Compare: Ja 7 Kaṭṭhahārijātaka, Dhp-a IV.3 Viḍūḍabha,
Quoted at: Ja 22 Kukkurajātaka, Ja 407 Mahākapijātaka.

Keywords: Discernment, Justice, Animals.

“Those hounds.” {1.175} This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about acting for the good of kinsfolk, as will be related in the Twelfth Book in the Bhaddasālajātaka [Ja 465].

Tradition tells us that she was the daughter of Mahānāma Sakka by a slave girl named Nāgamuṇḍā, and that she afterwards became the consort of the king of Kosala. She conceived a son by the king; but the king, coming to know of her servile origin, degraded her from her rank, and also degraded her son Viḍūḍabha. Mother and son never came outside the palace.

Hearing of this, the Teacher at early dawn came to the palace attended by five hundred monks, and, sitting down on the seat prepared for him, said: “Sire, where is Vāsabhakhattiyā?”

Then the king told him what had happened.

“Sire, whose daughter is Vāsabhakhattiyā?” “Mahānāma’s daughter, sir.” “When she came away, to whom did she come as wife?” “To me, sir.” “Sire, she is a king’s daughter; to a king she is wed; and to a king she bore her son. Wherefore is that son not in authority over the realm which owns his father’s sway? In bygone days, a monarch who had a son by a casual faggot-gatherer gave that son his sovereignty.”

It was to drive home that lesson that he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the result of a past act of the Bodhisatta was that he came to life as a dog, and dwelt in a great cemetery at the head of several hundred dogs.

Now one day, the king set out for his pleasure gardens in his chariot of state drawn by milk-white horses, and after amusing himself all the day in the grounds came back to the city after sunset. The carriage-harness [1.59] they left in the courtyard, still hitched on to the chariot. In the night it rained and the harness got wet. Moreover, the king’s dogs came down from the upper chambers and gnawed the leather work and straps.

Next day they told the king, saying: “Sire, dogs have got in through the mouth of the sewer and have gnawed the leather work and straps of your majesty’s carriage.” Enraged at the dogs, the king said: “Kill every dog you see.” Then began a great slaughter of dogs; and the creatures, finding that they were being slain whenever they were seen, repaired to the cemetery to the Bodhisatta. “What is the meaning,” asked he, “of your assembling in such numbers?” They said: “The king is so enraged at the report that the leather work and straps of his carriage have been gnawed by dogs within the royal precincts, that he has ordered all dogs to be killed. Dogs are being destroyed wholesale, and great peril has arisen.”

Thought the Bodhisatta to himself, “No dogs from without can get into a place so closely watched; it must be the thoroughbred dogs inside the palace who have done it. At present nothing happens to the real culprits, while the guiltless are being put to death. What if I were to discover the culprits to the king and so save the lives of my kith and kin?” He comforted his kinsfolk by saying: “Have no fear; I will save you. {1.176} Only wait here till I see the king.”

Then, guided by the thoughts of love, and calling to mind the Ten Perfections, he made his way alone and unattended into the city, commanding thus, “Let no hand be lifted to throw stick or stone at me.” Accordingly, when he made his appearance, not a man grew angry at the sight of him.

The king meantime, after ordering the dogs’ destruction, had taken his seat in the hall of justice. And straight to him ran the Bodhisatta, leaping under the king’s throne. The king’s servants tried to get him out; but his majesty stopped them. Taking heart a little, the Bodhisatta came forth from under the throne, and bowing to the king, said: “Is it you who are having the dogs destroyed?” “Yes, it is I.” “What is their offence, king of men?” “They have been gnawing the straps and the leather covering my carriage.” “Do you know the dogs who actually did the mischief?” “No, I do not.” “But, your majesty, if you do not know for certain the real culprits, it is not right to order the destruction of every dog that is seen.” “It was because dogs had gnawed the leather of my carriage that I ordered them all to be killed.” “Do your people kill all dogs without exception; or are there some dogs who are spared?” “Some are spared – the thoroughbred dogs of my own palace.” “Sire, just now you were saying that you had ordered the universal slaughter of all dogs wherever found, because dogs had gnawed the leather of your carriage; whereas, now, you say that the thoroughbred dogs of your own palace escape death. Therefore you are following [1.60] the four Evil Courses of partiality, dislike, ignorance and fear. Such courses are wrong, and not kinglike. For kings in trying cases should be as unbiassed as the beam of a balance. But in this instance, since the royal dogs go scot-free, while poor dogs are killed, this is not the impartial doom of all dogs alike, but only the slaughter of poor dogs,” And moreover, the Great Being, lifting up his sweet voice, said: “Sire, it is not justice that you are performing,” and he taught the Dhamma to the king in this verse: {1.177}

1. Ye kukkurā rājakulamhi vaddhā,
Koleyyakā vaṇṇabalūpapannā,
Te me na vajjhā, mayam-asma vajjhā,
Nāyaṁ saghaccā dubbalaghātikāyan-ti.

Those hounds reared by the royal family, well-bred and endowed with good looks and strength, these are not slaughtered, but we are slaughtered, this is not just, only the weak are killed.

After listening to the Bodhisatta’s words, the king said: “Do you in your wisdom know who it actually was that gnawed the leather of my carriage?” “Yes, sire.” “Who was it?” “The thoroughbred dogs that live in your own palace.” “How can it be shown that it was they who gnawed the leather?” “I will prove it to you.” “Do so, sage.” “Then send for your dogs, and have a little buttermilk and kusa grass brought in.” The king did so.

Then said the Great Being, “Let this grass be mashed up in the buttermilk, and make the dogs drink it.”

The king did so; with the result that each of the dogs, as he drank, vomited. And they all brought up bits of leather! “Why it is like a judgment of a Perfect Buddha himself,” cried the king overjoyed, and he did homage to the Bodhisatta by offering him the royal umbrella. But the Bodhisatta taught the Dhamma in the ten verses on righteousness in the Tesakuṇajātaka [Ja 521], beginning with the words:

To friends and courtiers, [These verses were omitted here, but written out in Ja 501 and 521. I include them in this edition.] warrior king, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

In war and travel, warrior king, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

In town and village, warrior king, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

In every land and realm, O king, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

To brahmins and ascetics all, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

To beasts and birds, O warrior king, do righteously; and so
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

Do righteously, O warrior king; from this all blessings flow:
By living according to Dhamma to heaven the king shall go.

With watchful vigilance, O king, on paths of goodness go:
The brahmins, Sakka, and the gods have won their godhead so.

These are the maxims told of old: and following wisdom’s ways
The goddess of all happiness herself to heaven did raise.”

Then having established the king in the Five Precepts, and having exhorted his majesty to be steadfast, the Bodhisatta handed back to the king the white umbrella of kingship.

At the close of the Great Being’s words, {1.178} the king commanded that the lives of all creatures should be safe from harm. He ordered that all dogs from the Bodhisatta downwards, should have a constant supply of food such as he himself ate; and, abiding by the teachings of the Bodhisatta, he spent his life long in generosity and other good deeds, so that when he died he was reborn in the Deva Heaven. The ‘Dog’s Teaching’ endured for ten thousand years. The Bodhisatta also lived to a ripe old age, and then passed away to fare according to his deeds. [1.61]

When the Teacher had ended this lesson, and had said: “Not only now, monks, does the Tathāgata do what profits his kindred; in former times also he did the like,” he showed the connection, and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the king of those days, the Buddha’s followers were the others, and I myself was the dog.”