Ja 226 Kosiyajātaka
The Story about the (Impatient) Owl (2s)

In the present the 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 an owl who came to the bamboo at the wrong time and was killed by a bunch of crows.

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

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

Keywords: Contentment, Timing, Animals, Birds.

“There is a time.” {2.208} A story told by the Teacher at Jetavana, about the king of Kosala. This king started to quell a border rising at a bad season of the year. The circumstances have been described already. [Ja 176. I include the story here.]

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.”

The Teacher as before told the king a story.

In the past, the king of Benares having started for the field of war at an unseasonable time, set up a camp in his park. At that time an owl entered a thicket of bamboos, and hid in it. There came a flock of crows, “We will catch him,” they said, “so soon as he shall come out.” And they compassed it around. Out he came before his time, nor did he wait until the sun should set; and tried to make his escape. The crows surrounded him, and pecked him with their beaks till he fell to the ground. The king asked the Bodhisatta, “Tell me, wise sir, why are the crows attacking this owl?” And the Bodhisatta made answer, “They that leave their dwelling before the right time, great king, fall into just such misery as this. Therefore before the time one should not leave one’s [2.147] dwelling place.” And to make the matter clear, he uttered this pair of verses:

1. “There is a time for everything: who forth from home will go
One man or many, out of time, will surely meet some woe;
As did the owl, unlucky fowl! Pecked dead by many a crow.

2. Who masters quite each rule and rite; who others’ weakness knows;
Like wise owls, he will happy be, and conquer all his foes.” {2.209}

When the king heard this, he turned back home again.

This discourse ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “Ānanda was then the king, and the wise courtier was I myself.”