Ja 34 Macchajātaka
The Birth Story about the Fish (1s)
In the present a monk is overcome by passion thinking about his former wife. When the Buddha hears about this he tells a story of the past in which, blinded by passion, a fish had almost lost his life, and grieved that his wife may think him unfaithful, while she herself had escaped capture. The Bodhisatta saved him from his fate.
The Bodhisatta = the family priest (purohita),
the lustful monk = the male fish (maccha),
his former wife = the female fish (macchī).
Past Compare: Ja 297 Kāmavilāpa.
Keywords: Regret, Lust, Animals, Fish.
“It’s not the cold or heat for me.”
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta became his family priest.
In those days some fishermen had cast their net into the river. [For a similar, but less complete story, see Ja 216 Macchajātaka.] And a great big fish came along amorously toying with his wife. She, scenting the net as she swam ahead of him, made a circuit round it and escaped. But her amorous spouse, blinded by passion, sailed right into the meshes of the net. As soon as the fishermen felt him in their net, they hauled it in and took the fish out; they did not kill him at once, but flung him alive on the sands.
1. Na maṁ sītaṁ na maṁ uṇhaṁ, na maṁ jālasmi bādhanaṁ,
Yañ-ca maṁ maññate macchī: ‘Aññaṁ so ratiyā gato’ ti.
It’s not the cold or heat for me, not the being caught in a net, but my lady thinking of me: ‘He went for joy to another.’
Just then the priest came to the riverside with his attendant servants to bathe. Now he understood the language of all animals. Therefore, when he heard the fish’s lamentation, he thought to himself, “This fish is lamenting the lament of passion. If he should die in this unhealthy state of mind, he cannot escape rebirth in hell. I will save him.” So he went to the fishermen and said: “My men, don’t you supply us with a fish every day for our curry?” “What do you say, sir?” said the fishermen, “pray take away with you any fish you may take a fancy to.” “We don’t need any but this one; only give us this one.” “He’s yours, sir.”
Taking the fish in his two hands, the Bodhisatta seated himself on the bank and said: “Friend fish, if I had not seen you today, you would have met your death. Cease for the future to be the slave of passion.” And with this exhortation he threw the fish into the water, and went into the city.
His lesson ended, the Teacher preached the Truths, at the close whereof the monk overcome by passion won the First Path. Also, the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “The former wife was the female fish of those days, the monk overcome by passion was the male fish, and I myself the family priest.”
last updated: August 2023