Ja 33 Sammodamānajātaka See for the migrations of this story Benfey’s Pañcatantra 1. 304, and Fausböll in JRAS, 1870. See also Julien’s Avadānas, Vol. 1. page 155.
The Birth Story about being in Agreement (1s)
Alternative Title: Vaṭṭakajātaka (Comm)
In the present the Sākiyas and the Koliyas fall into a dispute over water. The Buddha reconciles them and then tells a story of the past showing how, when quails were united, they lifted the net and flew away safely from their hunter; but as soon as he managed to sew discord, they fell to him as prey.
The Bodhisatta = the wise quail (paṇḍitavaṭṭaka),
Devadatta = the unwise quail (apaṇḍitavaṭṭaka).
Keywords: Concord, Cooperation, Animals, Birds.
This was a story told by the Teacher, while dwelling beside lake Kuṇāla, concerning five hundred monks who were overwhelmed with discontent. Here follows the story in due order. The Sākiya and Koliya tribes had the river Rohinī which flows between the cities of Kapilavatthu and Koliya confined by a single dam and by means of it cultivated their crops. In the month Jeṭṭhamūla when the crops began to flag and droop, the labourers from amongst the dwellers of both cities assembled together. Then the people of Koliya said: “Should this water be drawn off on both sides, it will not prove sufficient for both us and you. But our crops will thrive with a single watering; give us then the water.” The people of Kapilavatthu said: “When you have filled your garners with corn, we shall hardly have the courage to come with ruddy gold, emeralds and copper coins, and with baskets and sacks in our hands, to hang about your doors. Our crops too will thrive with a single watering; give us the water.” “We will not give it,” they said. “Neither will we,” said the others.
As words thus ran high, one of them rose up and struck another a blow, and he in turn struck a third and thus it was that what with interchanging of blows and spitefully touching on the origin of their princely families they increased the tumult. The Koliya labourers said: “Be off with your people of Kapilavatthu, men who like dogs, jackals, and such like beasts, cohabited with their own sisters. What will their elephants and horses, their shields and spears avail against us?” The Sākiya labourers replied, “Nay, do you, wretched lepers, be off with your children, destitute and ill-conditioned fellows, who like brute beasts had their dwelling in a hollow jujube tree (koli). What shall their elephants and horses, their spears and shields avail against us?”
So they went and told the councillors appointed to such services and they reported it to the princes of their tribes. Then the Sākiyas said: “We will show them how strong and mighty are the men who cohabited with their sisters,” and they sallied forth, ready for the fray. And the Koliyas said: “We will show them how strong and mighty are they who dwelt in the hollow of a jujube tree,” and they too sallied forth ready for the fight.
But other teachers tell the story thus, “When the female slaves of the Sākiyas and Koliyas came to the river to fetch water, and throwing the coils of cloth that they carried on their heads upon the ground were seated and pleasantly conversing, a certain woman took another’s cloth, thinking it was her own; and when owing to this a quarrel arose, each claiming the coil of cloth as hers, gradually the people of the two cities, the serfs and the labourers, the attendants, headmen, councillors and viceroys, all of them sallied forth ready for battle.”
On this occasion, however, the Teacher spoke thus to his kinsfolk, “My lords, strife among kinsfolk is unseemly. Yes, in bygone times, animals, who had defeated their enemies when they lived in concord, came to utter destruction when they fell out.” And at the request of his royal kinsfolk, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a quail, and lived in the forest at the head of many thousands of quails. In those days a fowler who caught quails came to that place; and he used to imitate the note of a quail till he saw that the birds had been drawn together, when he flung his net over them, and whipped the sides of the net together, so as to get them all huddled up in a heap. Then he crammed them into his basket, and going home sold his prey for a living.
Now one day the Bodhisatta said to those quails, “This fowler is making havoc among our kinsfolk. I have a device whereby he will be unable to catch us. Henceforth, the very moment he throws the net over you, let each one put his head through a mesh and then all of you together must fly away with the net to such place as you please, and there let it down on a thorn-brake; this done, we will all escape from our several meshes.” “Very good,” said they all in ready agreement.
On the morrow, when the net was cast over them, they did just as the Bodhisatta had told them: they lifted up the net,
“No, my dear,” said the fowler, “I’ve no second establishment to keep up. The fact is those quails have come to work together now. The moment my net is over them, off they fly with it and escape, leaving it on a thorn-brake. Still, they won’t live in unity always. Don’t you bother yourself; as soon as they start bickering among themselves, I shall bag the lot, and that will bring a smile to your face to see.” And so saying, he repeated this verse to his wife:
1. Sammodamānā gacchanti, jālam-ādāya pakkhino,
Yadā te vivadissanti, tadā ehinti me vasan-ti.
Joyously the birds fly away, carrying the net together, when they begin to quarrel, then they will come into my power.
Not long after this, one of the quails, in alighting on their feeding ground, trod by accident on another’s head. “Who trod on my head?” angrily cried this latter. “I did; but I didn’t mean to. Don’t be angry,” said the first quail. But notwithstanding this answer, the other remained as angry as before. Continuing to answer one another, they began to swap taunts, saying: “I suppose it is you single-handed who lift up the net.” As they wrangled thus with one another, the Bodhisatta thought to himself, “There’s no safety with one who is quarrelsome. The time has come when they will no longer lift up the net, and thereby they will come to great destruction. The fowler will get his opportunity. I can stay here no longer.” And thereupon he with his following went elsewhere.
Sure enough the fowler
But while they were each inviting the other to lift the net, the fowler himself lifted the net for them and crammed them in a heap into his basket and bore them off home, so that his wife’s face was wreathed with smiles.
“Thus, sire,” said the Teacher, “such a thing as a quarrel among kinsfolk is unseemly; quarrelling leads only to destruction.” His lesson ended, he showed the connection, and identified the Jātaka, by saying: “Devadatta was the foolish quail of those days, and I myself the wise and good quail.”
last updated: August 2023