Ja 187 Catumaṭṭajātaka
The Story about being Polished in Four Ways (2s)

Alternative Title: Catumaṭṭhajātaka (Cst)

In the present one vain old monk comes and sits with the two chief disciples and offers to teach them. They walk away in disgust. The Buddha tells a story of how a jackal interrupted the virtuous talk of two geese and a Devatā in a tree, and how they flew away back to the Himālayas.

The Bodhisatta = the Tree Devatā (Rukkhadevatā),
Sāriputta and Moggallānā = the two young geese (dve haṁsapotakā),
the old monk = the jackal (sigāla).

Keywords: Vanity, Suitability, Devas, Animals, Birds.

“Sit and sing.” This story the Teacher told while staying at Jetavana, about an old monk. Once, we are told, the two chief disciples were sitting together, questioning and answering; when up came an old monk, and [2.74] made a third. {2.107} Taking a seat, he said: “I have a question too, sirs, which I should like to ask you, and if you have any difficulty, you may put it to me.” The elders were disgusted; they rose up and left him. The Saṅgha who listened to the discourse of the elders, after the meeting broke up, came to the Teacher; he asked what brought them there untimely and they told him what had happened. He replied, “This is not the first time, monks, that Sāriputta and Moggallāna have been disgusted with this man, and left him without a word; it was just the same in olden days.” And he proceeded to tell a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta became a Tree Devatā that lived in a forest. Two young geese flew down from Mount Cittakūṭa and perched upon this tree. They flew about in search of food, returned there again, and after resting flew back to their mountain home. As time went on and on, the Devatā struck up a friendship with them. Coming and going, they were great friends, and used to talk about the dispensation to one another before they parted.

It happened one day as the birds sat on the treetop, talking with the Bodhisatta, that a jackal, halting at the foot of the tree, addressed the young geese in the words of the following verse:

1. “Sit and sing upon the tree
If in private you would be.
Sit upon the ground, and sing
Verses to the beasts’ own king!”

Filled with disgust, the young geese took wing and flew back to Cittakūṭa. When they were gone, the Bodhisatta repeated the second verse for the jackal’s benefit:

2. “Fairwing here to fairwing sings,
God to god sweet converse brings;
Perfect beauty, Lit. ‘lovely in four points,’ i.e. as the commentator explains ‘in form, in birth, in voice, in quality’, said sarcastically. you must then
Back into your hole again!” {2.108}

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “In those times the old man was the jackal, Sāriputta and Moggallāna the two young geese, and I myself was the Tree Devatā.”