Ja 105 Dubbalakaṭṭhajātaka
The Birth Story about the Rotten Wood (1s)

In the present one monk lives in constant fear of dying. The Buddha tells how, in a previous life as an elephant, he had been sent for training and had been so mistreated, that even when he escaped, he was still constantly in fear for his life.

The Bodhisatta = the Tree Devatā (Rukkhadevatā),
the monk = the elephant (nāga).

Keywords: Fear, Trepidation, Devas, Animals.

“Although the wind breaks off.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a monk who lived in a perpetual state of nervous alarm. We learn that he came of a good family in Sāvatthi, and was led to give up the world by hearing the Dhamma preached, and that he was always in fear of his life [1.247] both by night and by day. The sound of the wind, the rustle of a fan, or the cry of bird or beast would inspire him with such abject terror that he would shriek and dash away. He never reflected that death was sure to come upon him; though, had he practised meditation on the certainty of death, he would not have feared it. {1.415} For only they that do not so meditate fear death.

Now his constant fear of dying became known to the monks, and one day they met in the Dhamma Hall and fell to discussing his fearfulness and the propriety of every monk’s taking death as a theme for meditation. Entering the Hall, the Teacher asked, and was told, what they were discussing. So he sent for that monk and asked him whether it was true he lived in fear of death. The monk confessed that he did. “Be not angry, monks,” said the Teacher, “with this monk. The fear of death that fills his breast, now was no less strong in bygone times.” So saying he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a Tree Devatā near the Himālayas. And in those days the king put his state elephant in the elephant-trainers’ hands to be broken in to stand firm. And they tied the elephant up fast to a post, and with goads in their hands set about training the animal. Unable to bear the pain while he was being made to do their bidding, the elephant broke the post down, put the trainers to flight, and made off to the Himālayas. And the men, being unable to catch it, had to come back empty-handed. The elephant lived in the Himālayas in constant fear of death. A breath of wind sufficed to fill him with fear and to start him off at full speed, shaking his trunk to and fro. And it was with him as though he was still tied to the post to be trained. All happiness of mind and body gone, he wandered up and down in constant dread. Seeing this, the Tree Devatā stood in the fork of his tree and uttered this verse:

1. Bahum-petaṁ vane kaṭṭhaṁ vāto bhañjati dubbalaṁ,
Tassa ce bhāyasī, nāga, kiso nūna bhavissasī ti.

Although the wind breaks off many of the weak branches in this wood, if you are fearful about it, elephant, you will waste away. {1.416}

Such were the Tree Devatā’s cheering words. And the elephant thenceforth feared no more.

His lesson ended, the Teacher taught the Four Truths, at the close whereof the monk entered the Paths, and identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk was the elephant of those days and I the Tree Devatā.”