Ja 136 Suvaṇṇahaṁsajātaka
The Story about the Golden Goose (1s)

In the present one nun is greedy and spoils things for the other nuns, and annoys the monks and lay people also. The Buddha tells a story of how, in a previous life, she had tried to pluck the golden feathers of her previous husband, and had lost the advantage she had.

The Bodhisatta = the golden goose king (suvaṇṇahaṁsarājā),
the sisters = the daughters (tisso dhītaro),
Thullanandā = the brahmini (brāhmaṇī).

Present Compare: Vin Bhikkhunī Pāc 1 (4.259).

Keywords: Greed, Animals.

“Contented be.” This story was told by the Teacher about a nun named Thullanandā.

A lay brother at Sāvatthi had offered the nuns a supply of garlic, and, sending for his bailiff; had given orders that, if they should come, each nun was to receive two or three handfuls. After that they made a practice {1.475} of coming [1.293] to his house or field for their garlic. Now one holiday the supply of garlic in the house ran out, and the nun Thullanandā, coming with others to the house, was told, when she said she wanted some garlic, that there was none left in the house, it had all been used up out of hand, and that she must go to the field for it. So away to the field she went and carried off an excessive amount of garlic. The bailiff grew angry and remarked what a greedy lot these nuns were! This piqued the more moderate nuns; and the monks too were piqued at the taunt when the nuns repeated it to them, and they told the Fortunate One. Rebuking the greed of Thullanandā, the Teacher said: “Monks, a greedy person is harsh and unkind even to the mother who bore him; a greedy person cannot convert the unconverted, or make the converted grow in grace, or cause alms to come in, or save them when come in; whereas the moderate person can do all these things.” In such wise did the Teacher point the moral, ending by saying: “Monks, as Thullanandā is greedy now, so she was greedy in times gone by.” And thereupon he told the following story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a brahmin, and growing up was married to a bride of his own rank, who bore him three daughters named Nandā, Nandavatī and Sundarinandā. The Bodhisatta dying, they were taken in by neighbours and friends, while he was born again into the world as a golden mallard endowed with consciousness of its former existences. Growing up, the bird viewed its own magnificent size and golden plumage, and remembered that previously it had been a human being. Discovering that his wife and daughters were living on the generosity of others, the mallard bethought him of his plumage like hammered and beaten gold and how by giving them a golden feather at a time he could enable his wife and daughters to live in comfort. So away he flew to where they dwelt and alighted on the top of the central beam of the roof.

Seeing the Bodhisatta, {1.476} the wife and girls asked where he had come from; and he told them that he was their father who had died and been born a golden mallard, and that he had come to visit them and put an end to their miserable necessity of working for hire. “You shall have my feathers,” said he, “one by one, and they will sell for enough to keep you all in ease and comfort.” So saying, he gave them one of his feathers and departed. And from time to time he returned to give them another feather, and with the proceeds of their sale these brahmin women grew prosperous and quite well-to-do.

But one day the mother said to her daughters, “There’s no trusting animals, my children. Who’s to say your father might not go away one of these days and never come back again? Let us use our time and pluck him clean next time he comes, so as to make sure of all his feathers.” Thinking this would pain him, the daughters refused. The mother in her greed called the golden mallard to her one day when he came, and then took him with both hands and plucked him. Now the Bodhisatta’s feathers had this property that if [1.294] they were plucked out against his wish, they ceased to be golden and became like a crane’s feathers. And now the poor bird, though he stretched his wings, could not fly, and the woman flung him into a barrel and gave him food there. As time went on his feathers grew again (though they were plain white ones now), and he flew away to his own abode and never came back again.

At the close of this story the Teacher said: “Thus you see, monks, how Thullanandā was as greedy in times past as she is now. And her greed then lost her the gold in the same way as her greed now will lose her the garlic. Observe, moreover, how her greed has deprived all the nuns of their supply of garlic, and learn therefrom to be moderate in your desires and to be content with what is given you, however small that may be.” So saying, he uttered this verse:

1. “Contented be, nor itch for further store.
They seized the swan – but had its gold no more.”

So saying, the Teacher soundly rebuked the erring nun and laid down the precept that any nun who should eat garlic would have to do penance. Then, {1.477} making the connection, he said: “Thullanandā was the brahmin’s wife of the story, her three sisters were the brahmin’s three daughters, and I myself the golden mallard.”