Ja 154 Uragajātaka
The Story about the Snake (2s)

In the present two persons of high rank are always arguing with each other, and not even the king can prevent them. The Buddha teaches them loving-kindness and they are reconciled. He then tells a story of how he stopped the fighting of a Nāga and a Supaṇṇa in a past life.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
the great ministers = the Nāga and Supaṇṇa (nāgo ca supaṇṇo ca).

Present Source: Ja 154 Uraga,
Quoted at: Ja 165 Nakula, Ja 273 Kacchapa.

Keywords: Reconciliation, Loving-kindness, Devas.

“Concealed within a stone.” This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about a soldiers’ quarrel.

Tradition tells how two soldiers, in the service of the king of Kosala, of high rank, and great persons at court, no sooner caught sight of one another than they used to exchange ill words. Neither king, nor friends, nor kinsfolk could make them agree.

It happened one day that early in the morning the Teacher, looking around to see which of his disciples were ripe for release, perceived that these two were ready to enter upon the First Path. Next day he went all alone seeking alms in Sāvatthi, and stopped before the door of one of them, who came out and took the Teacher’s bowl; then led him within, and offered him a seat. The Teacher sat, and then enlarged on the profit of cultivating loving-kindness. When he saw the man’s mind was ready, he declared the Truths. This done, the other was established in the Fruit of the First Path. Seeing this, the Teacher persuaded him to take the bowl; then rising he proceeded to the house of the other. Out came the other, and after salutation given, begged the Teacher to enter, and gave him a seat. He also took the Teacher’s bowl, and entered along with him. To him the Teacher lauded the Eleven Blessings of Loving-kindness; [Mettānisaṁsasutta, AN 11.16.] and perceiving that his heart was ready, declared the Truths. And this done, he too became established in the Fruit of the First Path.

Thus they were both converted; they confessed their faults one to the other, and asked forgiveness; peaceful and harmonious, they were at one together. That very same day they ate together in the presence of the Fortunate One.

His meal over, the Teacher returned to the monastery. They both returned with him, bearing a rich present of flowers, scents and perfumes, of ghee, honey, and sugar. The Teacher, having preached of duty {2.13} before the Saṅgha, and uttered a Sugata’s discourse, retired to his scented chamber.

Next morning, the monks talked the matter over in the Dhamma Hall. “Friend,” one would say to another, “our Teacher subdues the unsubdued. [2.10] Why, here are these two grand persons, who have been quarrelling all this time, and could not be reconciled by the king himself, or friends and kinsfolk: and the Tathāgata has humbled them in a single day!” The Teacher came in, “What are you talking about,” asked he, “as you sit here together?” They told him. Said he, “Monks, this is not the first time that I have reconciled these two; in bygone ages I reconciled the same two persons.” And he told a story of the past.

In the past, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, a great multitude gathered together in Benares to keep festival. Crowds of men and of gods, of Nāgas, and Supaṇṇas, A mythical bird, which we see is able to assume human form. Morris (Journal of the Pali Text Society, 1893, p. 26) concludes that the Supaṇṇa, or Garuḷa, was a “winged man.” The Supaṇṇa is often represented as a Winged Man in art. See Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship, pl. xxvi. 1, xxviii. 1, &c. Examples are numerous; e.g. British Museum, 2nd N. Gallery, ‘Brahmanism,’ side case, sect. 5 (little bronzes); a large steatite image, ibid.; Berlin, Mus. f. Völkerkunde, Indian Section, Case 45, i. c. 448, praying Supaṇṇa from Siam, with wings and bird feet. Often the Supaṇṇa is a bird of peculiar shape. One or two of each are figured in Grünwedel, Buddhistische Kunst in Indien, pp. 47-50. came together to see the meeting.

It so happened that in one spot a Nāga and a Supaṇṇa were watching the goings-on together. The Nāga, not noticing that this was a Supaṇṇa beside him, laid a hand on his shoulder. And when the Supaṇṇa turned and looked round to see whose hand had been laid upon his shoulder, he saw the Nāga. The Nāga looked too, and saw that this was a Supaṇṇa; and frightened to death, he flew off over the surface of a river. The Supaṇṇa gave chase, to catch him.

Now the Bodhisatta was a recluse, and lived in a leaf-hut on the river bank. At that time he was trying to keep off the sun’s heat by putting on a wet cloth and doffing his garment of bark; and he was bathing in the river. “I will make this recluse,” thought the Nāga, “the means of saving my life.” Putting off his own proper shape, and assuming the form of a fine jewel, he fixed himself upon the bark garment. The Supaṇṇa in full pursuit saw where he had gone; but for very reverence he would not touch the garment; so he thus addressed the Bodhisatta:

“Sir, I am hungry. Look at your bark garment: in it there is a Nāga which I desire to eat.” And to make the matter clear, he repeated the first verse: {2.14}

1. “Concealed within a stone this wretched snake
Has taken harbourage for safety’s sake.
And yet, in reverence of your holiness,
Though I am hungry, yet I will not take.”

Standing where he was in the water, the Bodhisatta said the second verse in praise of the Supaṇṇa king:

2. “Live long, preserved by Brahmā, though pursued,
And may you never lack for heavenly food.
Do not, in reverence of my holiness,
Do not devour him, though in hungry mood.”

In these words the Bodhisatta expressed his approval, standing there in the water. Then he came out, and put on his bark garment, and took [2.11] both creatures with him to his hermitage; where he rehearsed the blessings of Loving-kindness until they were both at one. Thenceforward they lived together happily in peace and harmony.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, saying: “In those days, the two great personages were the Nāga and the Supaṇṇa, and I myself was the recluse.”