Ja 107 Sālittakajātaka
The Birth Story about the Sling (1s)

In the present one monk is very skilful in throwing stones and manages to bring down a goose as it flies through the air. He is brought to the Buddha and reprimanded. Then the Buddha tells how he was skilful in a similar manner in a previous life, when every time a family priest had opened his mouth he had shot goat dung pellets into it, until the priest had learned the error of his ways.

The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (paṇḍitāmacca),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
the monk = the handicapped man (pīṭhasappī).

Present Compare: Ja 107 Sālittaka, Ja 276 Kurudhamma, Dhp-a XXV.2 Haṁsaghātakabhikkhu.
Past Compare: Dhp-a V.13 Saṭṭhikūṭapeta.
Keyword: Worldly skill.

“Having what is known as a craft is good.” {1.418} This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a monk who threw and hit a swan. We are told that this monk, who came of a good family in Sāvatthi, had acquired great skill in hitting things with stones; and that hearing the Dhamma preached one day he gave his heart to the dispensation and went forth. But neither in study nor practice did he excel as a monk.

One day, with a youthful monk, he went to the river Aciravatī, The modern Rāpti, in Oudh. and was standing on the bank after bathing, when he saw two white swans flying by. Said he to the younger monk, “I’ll hit the following swan in the eye and bring it down.” “Bring it down indeed!” said the other, “you can’t hit it.” “Just you wait a moment. I’ll hit it on the eye this side through the eye on the other.” “Oh, nonsense.” “Very well; you wait and see.” Then he took a three-cornered stone in his hand and flung it after the swan. ‘Whiz’ went the stone through the air and the swan, suspecting danger, stopped to listen. At once the monk seized a smooth round stone and as the resting swan was looking in another direction hit it full in the eye, so that the stone went in at one eye and came out at the other. And with a loud scream the swan fell to the ground at their feet.

“That is a highly improper action,” said the other monk, and brought him before the Teacher, with an account of what had happened. After rebuking the monk, the Teacher said: “The same skill was his, monks, in past times as now.” And he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was one of the king’s courtiers. And the royal family priest of those days was so talkative and longwinded that, when he once started, no [1.250] one else could get a word in. So the king cast about for someone to cut the family priest short, and looked high and low for such a one.

Now at that time there was a handicapped man in Benares who was a wonderful marksman with stones, and the boys used to put him on a little cart and {1.419} draw him to the gates of Benares, where there is a large branching banyan tree covered with leaves. There they would gather round and give him half-pence, saying ‘Make an elephant,’ or ‘Make a horse.’ And the handicapped man would throw stone after stone till he had cut the foliage into the shapes asked for. And the ground was covered with fallen leaves.

On his way to his pleasure gardens the king came to the spot, and all the boys scampered off in fear of the king, leaving the handicapped man there helpless. At the sight of the litter of leaves the king asked, as he rode by in his chariot, who had cut the leaves off. And he was told that the handicapped man had done it. Thinking that here might be a way to stop the family priest’s mouth, the king asked where the handicapped man was, and was shown him sitting at the foot of the tree. Then the king had him brought to him and, motioning his retinue to stand apart, said to the handicapped man, “I have a very talkative family priest. Do you think you could stop his talking?”

“Yes, sire – if I had a peashooter full of dry goat’s dung,” said the handicapped man. Then the king had him taken to the palace and set with a pea-shooter full of dry goat’s dung behind a curtain with a slit in it, facing the family priest’s seat. When the brahmin came to wait upon the king and was seated on the seat prepared for him, his majesty started a conversation. And the family priest forthwith monopolized the conversation, and no one else could get a word in. Hereon the handicapped man shot the pellets of goat’s dung one by one, like flies, through the slit in the curtain right into the family priest’s gullet. And the brahmin swallowed the pellets down as they came, like so much oil, till all had disappeared. When the whole peashooter-full of pellets was lodged in the family priest’s stomach, they swelled to the size of half a peck; and the king, knowing they were all gone, addressed the brahmin in these words, “Venerable sir, so talkative are you, that you have swallowed down a peashooter-full of goat’s dung without noticing it. That’s about as much as you will be able to take at a sitting. Now go home and take a dose of panick seed and water by way of emetic, and put yourself right again.”

From that day {1.420} the family priest kept his mouth shut and sat as silent during conversation as though his lips were sealed.

“Well, my ears are indebted to the handicapped man for this relief,” said the king, and bestowed on him four villages, one in the north, one in the south, one in the west, and one in the east, producing a hundred thousand a year.

The Bodhisatta drew near to the king and said: “In this world, sire, [1.251] skill should be cultivated by the wise. Mere skill in aiming has brought this handicapped man all this prosperity.” So saying he uttered this verse:

1. Sādhu kho sippakaṁ nāma, api yādisa’ kīdisaṁ,
Passa khañjappahārena – laddhā gāmā catuddisā ti.

Having what is known as a craft is good, whatever kind is found, see the disabled man give blows – he got villages in four directions!

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk was the handicapped man of those days, Ānanda the king, and I the wise courtier.”