Ja 214 Puṇṇanadījātaka
The Story about the Full River (2s)

In the present the monks are talking about the Buddha’s wisdom. The Buddha explains that even in past lives he had been wise and resourceful and tells how he interpreted a verse and a present of a cooked crow from a king, and so won favour with him again.

The Bodhisatta = the family priest (purohita),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Keywords: Wisdom, Resourcefulness.

“That which can drink.” This story the Teacher told while staying at Jetavana, about the Perfection of Wisdom.

On one occasion, the monks were gathered in the Dhamma Hall, talking of the Tathāgata’s wisdom. “Friend, the Supreme Buddha’s wisdom is great, and wide, cutting, and quick, sharp, penetrating, and full of resource.” The Teacher came in, and asked what they talked about as they sat there together. They told him. “Not only is the Tathāgata wise this one time, but he was wise before, and had skill in means.” And then he told them a story.

In the past, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came into the world as the son of the court family priest. When he grew up, he studied at Taxila; and at his father’s death he received the office of family priest, and he was the king’s counsellor in things human and divine.

Afterwards the king opened his ear to those who provoke quarrels, and in anger bade the Bodhisatta dwell before his face no more, and sent him away from Benares. So he took his wife and family with him, and lived in a certain village of Kāsi. Afterward the king remembered his goodness, and said to himself: [2.122]

“It is not meet that I should send a messenger to fetch my teacher. I will compose a verse of poetry, {2.174} and write it upon a leaf; I will cause crow’s flesh to be cooked; and after I have tied up letter and meat in a white cloth, I will seal it with the king’s seal, and send it to him. If he is wise, when he has read the letter and seen that it is crow’s-meat, he will come; if not, then he will not come.” And so he wrote on the leaf this verse:

1. “That which can drink when rivers are in flood;
That which the corn will cover out of sight;
That which forebodes a traveller on the road
O wise one, eat! My riddle read aright.” Kākapeyya, both in Sanskrit and in Pali, is proverbial for rivers at the flood. For Sanskrit see Pāṇini, 2. 1. 33, where some comm. say ‘deep,’ some ‘shallow.’ The commentator here says: “They call rivers Kākapeyya when a crow standing on the bank can stretch out its neck and drink.” Buddhaghosa, quoted by Rhys Davids in note to Buddhist Suttas, Sacred Books of the East, p. 178, says the same. Kākaguyha is corn tall enough to hide a crow; see Pāṇ. 3.2.5 and the Kāśikā’s comment, with the commentator’s note here. In the dictionary of Vacaspati, vol. 2, p. 1846, col. 1, it is said “When the crow cries Khare Khare, a traveller is coming.” The commentator here says: “If people wish to know whether an absent friend is coming back, they say – Caw, crow, if so-and-so is coming! and if the crows caw, they know that he will come.” – This verse riddles on these three proverbs and beliefs. (For part of this note I am indebted to Prof. Cowell.)

This verse did the king write upon a leaf, and sent it to the Bodhisatta. He read the letter, and thinking: “The king wishes to see me,” he repeated the second verse: {2.175}

2. “The king does not forget to send me crow:
Geese, herons, peacocks – other birds there are:
If he gives one, he’ll give the rest, I know;
If he sent none at all ’twere worse by far.” I am not sure of the meaning of these obscure lines, but this is the best I can make of it. The commentator says: “When he gets crow’s flesh he remembers to send me some; surely he will remember when he gets geese, etc.” The phrase – “Geese, herons, peacocks,” is a reminiscence of the verse quoted in Ja 202, above.

Then he caused his vehicle to be made ready, and went, and looked upon the king. And the king, being pleased, set him again in the place of the king’s family priest.

This discourse ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “Ānanda was the king in those days, and I was his family priest.”