Ja 204 Vīrakajātaka
The Story about (the Hero Crow) Vīrika (2s)
In the present Devadatta makes himself out a Buddha, but loses all his disciples in a stroke. The Buddha tells a story about a crow who tried to imitate a cormorant, and died when he dived underwater.
The Bodhisatta = (the hero crow) Vīrika,
Devadatta = (the foolish crow) Saviṭṭhaka.
Keywords: Imitation, Vanity, Devas, Animals, Birds.
“O have you seen.”
When the elders had gone with their followers to visit Devadatta, Sāriputta and Moggallāna visited the arch-heretic to try if they could win back his followers to the Master. The story of their visit, and how it succeeded, is told in the Vinaya, Cullavagga, vii. 4 foll. (translated in Sacred Books of the East, Vinaya Texts, iii. 256). See also vol. i. no. 11. the Teacher asked Sāriputta what Devadatta had done when he saw them. The reply was that he had imitated the Buddha. [See Ja 143 Virocanajātaka, for more details about these events.] The Teacher rejoined, “Not only now has Devadatta imitated me and thereby come to ruin; he did just the same before.” Then, at the elder’s request, he told a story of the past.
In the past, while Brahmadatta reigned as king in Benares, the Bodhisatta became a cormorant, and dwelt by a certain pool. His name was Vīraka, the Hero.
There arose a famine in Kāsi. Men could not spare food for the crows, nor make offerings to Yakkhas and Nāgas. One by one the crows left the famine-stricken land, and betook them to the woods.
A certain crow named Saviṭṭhaka, who lived at Benares, took with him his lady crow and went to the place where Vīraka lived, making his abode beside the same pool.
One day, this crow was seeking food about the pool. He saw how Vīraka went down into it, and made a meal off some fish; and afterwards came up out of the water again, and stood drying his feathers. “Under the wing of that crow,” he thought, “plenty of fish are to be got. I will become his servant.” So he drew near.
“What is it, sir?” asked Vīraka. “I want to be your servant, my lord!” was the reply.
Vīraka agreed, and from that time the other served him. And from that time, Vīraka used to eat enough fish to keep him alive, and the rest he gave to Saviṭṭhaka as soon as he had caught them; and when Saviṭṭhaka had eaten enough to keep him alive, he gave what was over to his wife.
After a while pride came into his heart. “This crow,” said he, “is black, and so am I: in eyes and beak and feet, too, there is no difference between us. I don’t want his fish; I will catch my own!” So he told Vīraka that for the future he intended to go down to the water and catch fish himself. Then Vīraka said: “Good friend, you do not belong to a
But in spite of this attempt to dissuade him, Saviṭṭhaka did not take the warning to heart. Down he went to the pool, down into the water; but he could not make his way through the weeds and come out again – there he was, entangled in the weeds, with only the tip of his beak appearing above the water. So not being able to breathe he perished there beneath the water.
His mate noticed that he did not return, and went to Vīraka to ask news of him. “My lord,” she asked, “Saviṭṭhaka is not to be seen, where is he?” And as she asked him this, she repeated the first verse: [Additional note from Vol. IV:] For the first verse compare Dhp p. 146.
1. “O have you seen Saviṭṭhaka, O Vīraka, have you seen
My sweet-voiced mate whose neck is like the peacock in its sheen?”
When Vīraka heard it, he replied, “Yes, I know where he is gone,” and recited the second verse:
2. “He was not born to dive beneath the wave,
But what he could not do he needs must try;
So the poor bird has found a watery grave,
Entangled in the weeds, and left to die.”
When the lady-crow heard it, weeping, she returned to Benares.
After this discourse was ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “Devadatta was then incarnate as Saviṭṭhaka, and I myself was Vīraka.”
last updated: November 2021