Ja 140 Kākajātaka
The Birth Story about the Crow (1s)

In the present one wise councillor brings justice to the courts, thereby cutting off the sources of bribery, and making himself enemies. The latter slander him to the king and see to it that he and his sons are killed. The Buddha tells a story of a crow who fouled on a brahmin, and how the brahmin tried to get his revenge by having all the crows killed.

The Bodhisatta = the king of the crows (kākarājā),
Ānanda = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā).

Past Compare: Ja 140 Kāka, Ja 404 Kapi.

Keywords: Treachery, Revenge, Animals, Birds.

“Always frantic in heart.” [1.300] This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a sagacious counsellor. The incidents will be related in the twelfth book in connection with the Bhaddasālajātaka [Ja 465].

Now at this time there lived close to the gate a Licchavi named Mahāli, who had been educated by the same teacher as the king of Kosala’s general, Bandhula. This man was blind, and used to advise the Licchavis on all matters temporal and spiritual. Hearing the clatter of the chariot as it went over the threshold, he said: “The noise of the chariot of Bandhula the Mallian! This day there will be fear for the Licchavis!” By the tank there was set a strong guard, within and without; above it was spread an iron net; not even a bird could find room to get through. But the general, dismounting from his carriage, put the guards to flight with the blows of his sword, and burst through the iron network, and in the tank bathed his wife and gave her to drink of the water; then after bathing himself, he set Mallikā in the chariot, and left the town, and went back by the way he came.

The guards went and told all to the Licchavis. Then were the kings of the Licchavis angry; and five hundred of them, mounted in five hundred chariots, departed to capture Bandhula the Mallian. They informed Mahāli of it, and he said: “Go not! For he will slay you all.” But they said: “Nay, but we will go.” “Then if you come to a place where a wheel has sunk up to the nave, you must return. If you return not then, return back from that place when you hear the noise of a thunderbolt. If then you turn not, turn back from that place where you shall see a hole in front of your chariots. Go no further!” But they did not turn back according to his word, but pursued on and on.

Mallikā espied them and said: “There are chariots in sight, my lord.” “Then tell me,” said he, “when they all look like one chariot.” When they all in a line looked like one, she said: “My lord, I see as it were the head of one chariot.” “Take the reins, then,” said he, and gave the reins into her hand: he stood upright in the chariot, and strung his bow. The chariot-wheel sank into the earth nave-deep. The Licchavis came to the place, and saw it, but turned not back. The other went on a little further, and twanged the bow string; then came a noise as the noise of a thunderbolt, yet even then they turned not, but pursued on and on. Bandhula stood up in the chariot and sped a shaft, and it cleft the heads of all the five hundred chariots, and passed right through the five hundred kings in the place where the girdle is fastened, and then buried itself in the earth. As they did not perceive that they were wounded they pursued still, shouting, “Stop, holloa, stop!” Bandhula stopped his chariot, and said: “You are dead men, and I cannot fight with the dead.” “What!” they said, “dead, such as we now are?” “Loose the girdle of the first man,” said Bandhula.

They loosed his girdle, and at the instant the girdle was loosed, he fell dead. Then he said to them, “You are all of you in the same condition: go to your homes, and set in order what should be ordered, and give your directions to your wives and families, and then doff your armour.” They did so, and then all of them gave up the ghost.

And Bandhula conveyed Mallikā to Sāvatthi. She bore twin sons sixteen times in succession, and they were all mighty men and heroes, and became perfected in all manner of accomplishments. Each one of them had a thousand men to attend him, and when they went with their father to wait on the king, they alone filled the courtyard of the palace to overflowing.

One day some men who had been defeated in court on a false charge, seeing Bandhula approach, raised a great outcry, and informed him that the judges of the court had supported a false charge. So Bandhula went into the court, and judged the case, and gave each man his own. The crowd uttered loud shouts of applause. The king asked what it meant, and on hearing was much pleased; all those officers he sent away, and gave Bandhula charge of the judgement court, and thenceforward he judged aright. Then the former judges became poor, because they no longer received bribes, and they slandered Bandhula in the king’s ear, accusing him of aiming at the kingdom himself. The king listened to their words, and could not control his suspicions. “But,” he reflected, “if he be slain here, I shall be blamed.” He instigated certain men to harry the frontier districts; then sending for Bandhula, he said: “The borders are in a blaze; go with your sons and capture the brigands.” With him he also sent other men sufficient, mighty men of war, with instructions to kill him and his two-and-thirty sons, and cut off their heads, and bring them back.

While he was yet on the way, the hired brigands got wind of the general’s coming, and took to flight. He settled the people of that district in their homes, and quieted the province, and set out for home. Then when he was not far from the city, those warriors cut off his head and the heads of his sons.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a crow. One day the king’s family priest went out from the city to the river, bathed there, and having perfumed and garlanded himself, donned his bravest array and came back to the city. On the archway of the city gate there sat two crows; and one of them said to his mate, “I mean to foul on this brahmin’s head.” “Oh, don’t do any such thing,” said the other, “for this brahmin is a great man, and it is an evil thing to incur the hatred of the great. If you anger him, he may destroy the whole of our kind.” “I really must,” said the first. “Very well, you’re sure to be found out,” said the other, and flew quickly away. Just when the brahmin was under the battlements, down dropped the filth upon him as if the crow were dropping a festoon. The enraged brahmin forthwith conceived a hatred against all crows.

Now at this time it chanced that a female slave in charge of a granary spread the rice out in the sun at the granary door and was sitting there to watch it, when she fell asleep. Just then up came a shaggy goat and fell to eating the rice till the girl woke up and drove it away. Twice or three times the goat came back, as soon as she fell asleep, and ate the rice. {1.485} So when she had driven the creature away for the third time she bethought her that continued visits of the goat would consume half her store of rice and that steps must be taken to scare the animal away for good and so save her from so great a loss. So she took a lighted torch, and, sitting down, pretended to fall asleep as usual. And when the goat was eating, she suddenly sprang up and hit its shaggy back with her torch. At once the goat’s shaggy hide was all ablaze, and to ease its pain, it dashed into a hay-shed near the elephant’s stable and rolled in the hay. So the shed caught fire and the flames spread to the stables. As these stables caught fire, the elephants began to suffer, and many of them were badly burnt beyond the skill of the elephant-doctors to cure. When this [1.301] was reported to the king, he asked his family priest whether he knew what would cure the elephants. “Certainly I do, sire,” said the family priest, and being pressed to explain, said his cure was crows’ fat. Then the king ordered crows to be killed and their fat taken. And forthwith there was a great slaughter of crows, but never was any fat found on them, and so they went on killing till dead crows lay in heaps everywhere. And a great fear was upon all crows.

Now in those days the Bodhisatta had his dwelling in a great cemetery, at the head of eighty thousand crows. One of these brought tidings to him of the fear that was upon the crows. And the Bodhisatta, feeling that there was none but him who could essay the task, resolved to free his kinsfolk from their great dread. Reviewing the Ten Perfections, and selecting therefrom Loving-Kindness as his guide, he flew without stopping right up to the king’s palace, and entering in at the open window alighted underneath the king’s throne. Straightaway a servant tried to catch the bird, but the king entering the chamber forbade him.

Recovering himself in a moment, the Great Being, remembering Loving-Kindness, came forth from beneath the king’s throne and spoke thus to the king; “Sire, a king should remember the maxim that kings should not walk according to lust and other evil passions in ruling their kingdoms. Before taking action, it is meet first to examine and know the whole matter, and then only to do that which being done is salutary. If kings do that which being done is not salutary, they fill thousands with a great fear, even the fear of death. {1.486} And in prescribing crows’ fat, your family priest was prompted by revenge to lie; for crows have no fat.”

By these words the king’s heart was won, and he bade the Bodhisatta be set on a throne of gold and there anointed beneath the wings with the choicest oils and served in vessels of gold with the king’s own meats and drink. Then when the Great Being was filled and at ease, the king said: “Sage, you say that crows have no fat. How comes it that they have none?”

“In this wise,” answered the Bodhisatta with a voice that filled the whole palace, and he proclaimed the Dhamma in this verse:

1. Niccaṁ ubbiggahadayā, sabbalokavihesakā,
Tasmā nesaṁ vasā natthi, kākānamhāka ñātinan-ti.

Always frantic in heart, troubled by the whole world, therefore they have no fat, our relatives the crows.

This explanation given, the Great Being taught the king, saying: “Sire, kings should never act without examining and knowing the whole matter.” Well pleased, the king laid his kingdom at the Bodhisatta’s feet, but the Bodhisatta restored it to the king, whom he established in the Five Precepts, beseeching him to shield all living creatures from harm. And the king was moved by these words to grant immunity to all living [1.302] creatures, and in particular he was unceasingly bountiful to crows. Every day he had six bushels of rice cooked for them and delicately flavoured, and this was given to the crows. But to the Great Being there was given food such as the king alone ate.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was king of Benares in those days, and I myself the king of the crows.’