Ja 170 Kakaṇṭakajātaka
The Story about (the Proud) Chameleon (2s)
There is no story of the present. In a previous life a chameleon shows his respect to a king and is amply rewarded, but when one day he is given a coin he wears it with pride, and the king becomes angry.
The Bodhisatta = paṇḍita Mahosadha.
Present Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 170 Kakaṇṭaka.
Keywords: Pride, Conceit, Animals.
On a day the king went with the sage [Mahosadha] into the park; when a chameleon, which lived on the top of the arched gateway, saw the king approach, came down and lay flat upon the ground. The king seeing this asked, “What is he doing, wise sir?” “Paying respect to you, sire.” “If so, let not his service be without reward; give him a largess.” “Sire, a largess is of no use to him; all he wants is something to eat.” “And what does he eat?” “Meat, sire.” “How much ought he to have?” “A farthing’s worth, sire.” “A farthing’s worth is no gift from a king,” said the king, and he sent a man with orders to bring regularly and give to the chameleon a half-anna’s worth of meat. This was done thereafter. But on a fast day, when there is no killing, the man could find no meat; so he bored a hole through the half-anna piece, and strung it upon a thread, and tied it upon the chameleon’s neck. This made the creature proud. That day the king again went into the park; but the chameleon as he saw the king draw near, in pride of wealth made himself equal to the king, thinking within himself, “You may be very rich, Vedeha, but so am I.” So he did not come down, but lay still on the archway, stroking his head. The king seeing this said: “Wise sir, this creature does not come down today as usual; what is the reason?” And he recited the first verse:
1. “That chameleon used not to climb upon the archway: explain, Mahosadha, why the chameleon has become stiff-necked.”
The sage perceived that the man must have been unable to find meat on this fast day when there was no killing, and that the creature must have become proud because of the coin hung about his neck; so he recited this verse:
2. “The chameleon has got what he never had before, a half-anna piece; hence he despises Vedeha lord of Mithilā.”
The king sent for the man and questioned him, and he told him all about it truly. Then he was more than ever pleased with the sage, who (it seemed) knew the thoughts of the chameleon, without asking any questions, with a wisdom like the supreme wisdom of a Buddha; so he gave him the revenue taken at the four gates. Being angry with the chameleon, he thought of discontinuing the gift, but the sage told him that it was unfitting and dissuaded him.
last updated: November 2021