Ja 176 Kalāyamuṭṭhijātaka
The Story about the Fistful of Peas (2s)

Alternative Title: Kaḷāyamuṭṭhijātaka (Cst)

In the present a king of Kosala wants to go on an expedition with his army, but first he sought the counsel of the Buddha, who tells a story of monkey who lost one pea, and dropped all the other peas he had when seeking to find the lost one.

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

Present Source: Ja 176 Kalāyamuṭṭhi,
Quoted at: Ja 226 Kosiya.

Keywords: Contentment, Greed, Animals.

“A foolish monkey.” {2.74} This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about a king of Kosala.

One rainy season, disaffection broke out on his borders. The troops stationed there, after two or three battles in which they failed to conquer their adversaries, sent a message to the king. In spite of the season, in spite of the rains, he took the field, and encamped before Jetavana. Then he began to ponder. “ ’Tis a bad season for an expedition; every crevice and hollow is full of water; the road is heavy: I’ll go visit the Teacher. He will be sure to ask ‘whither away,’ then I’ll tell him. It is not only in things of the future life that our Teacher protects me, but he protects in the things which we now see. So if my going is not to prosper, he will say ‘It is a bad time to go, sire;’ but if I am to prosper, he will say nothing.” So into Jetavana he came, and after greeting the Teacher sat down on one side.

“Whence come you, O king,” asked the Teacher, “at this unseasonable hour?” “Sir,” he replied, “I am on my way to quell a border rising; and I come first to bid you farewell.” To this the Teacher said: “So it happened before, that mighty monarchs, before setting out for war, have listened to the word of the wise, and turned back from an unseasonable expedition.” Then, at the king’s request, he told a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, he had a councillor who was his right-hand man and gave him advice in things spiritual and temporal. There was a rising on the frontier, and the [2.52] troops there stationed sent the king a letter. The king started, rainy season though it was, and formed a camp in his park. The Bodhisatta stood before the king. At that moment the people had steamed some peas for the horses, and poured them out into a trough. One of the monkeys that lived in the park jumped down from a tree, filled his mouth and hands with the peas, then up again, and sitting down in the tree he began to eat. As he ate, one pea fell from his hand upon the ground. Down dropped at once all the peas from his hands and mouth, {2.75} and down from the tree he came, to hunt for the lost pea. But that pea he could not find; so he climbed up his tree again, and sat still, very glum, looking like someone who had lost a thousand in some lawsuit.

The king observed what the monkey had done, and pointed it out to the Bodhisatta. “Friend, what do you think of that?” he asked. To which the Bodhisatta made answer, “King, this is what fools of little wit are wont to do; they spend a pound to win a penny,” and he went on to repeat the first verse:

1. “A foolish monkey, living in the trees,
O king, when both his hands were full of peas,
Has thrown them all away to look for one:
There is no wisdom, sire, in such as these.”

Then the Bodhisatta approached the king, and addressing him again, repeated the second verse:

2. “Such are we, O mighty monarch, such all those that greedy be;
Losing much to gain a little, like the monkey and the pea.” {2.76}

On hearing this address the king turned and went straight back to Benares. And the outlaws hearing that the king had set forth from his capital to make mincemeat of his enemies, hurried away from the borders.

At the time when this story was told, the outlaws ran away in just the same fashion. The king, after listening to the Teacher’s utterances, rose and took his leave, and went back to Sāvatthi.

The Teacher, after this discourse was at an end, identified the Jātaka, “In those days Ānanda was the king, and I myself was the wise councillor.”