Ja 227 Gūthapāṇajātaka
The Story about the Muckworm (2s)

In the present one youth harrasses the monks as they go round for alms, so much so they abandon the village. One monk rectifies the situation by giving him a good beating. The Buddha then tells a story of how in a previous life an elephant had killed a dung-beetle with excrement.

The Bodhisatta = the Devatā who lived in the thicket (vanasaṇḍe nivutthadevatā),
the monk = the elephant (vāraṇa),
the handicapped man = the muckworm (gūthapāṇaka).

Keywords: Harrassment, Vanity, Devas, Animals.

“Well matched.” This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana, about one of the monks.

There stood at that time, about three-quarters Gāvutaddhayojanamatte. It may possibly mean ‘an eighth.’ of a league from Jetavana, a market town, where a great deal of rice was distributed by ticket, and special meals were given. Here lived an inquisitive lout, who pestered the young monks and novices who came to share in the distribution – {2.210} “Who are for solid food? Who for drink? Who for moist food?” And he made those who could not answer feel ashamed, and they dreaded him so much that they would not go to that village.

One day, a monk came to the ticket-hall, with the question, “Any food for distribution in such-and-such a village, sir?” “Yes, friend,” was the answer, “but there’s a roughneck here asking questions; if you can’t answer them, he abuses and reviles you. He is such a pest that nobody will go near the place.” “Sir,” said the other, “give me an order on the place, and I’ll humble him, and make him modest, and so influence him that whenever he sees you after this, he’ll feel inclined to run away.”

The monks agreed, and gave the necessary order. The monk walked to our village, and at the gate of it he put on his robe. The loafer spied him – was at him like a mad ram, with, “Answer me a question, monk!” “Layman, let me go first about the village for my broth, and then come back with it to the waiting hall.”

When he returned with his meal, the man repeated his question. The monk answered, “Leave me to finish my broth, to sweep the room, and to fetch my ticket’s worth of rice.” So he fetched the rice; then placing his bowl in this very man’s hands, he said: “Come, now I’ll answer your question.” [2.148]

Then he led him outside the village, folded his outer robe, put it on his shoulder, and taking the bowl from the other, stood waiting for him to begin. The man said: “Monk, answer me one question.” “Very well, so I will,” said the monk; and with one blow he felled him to the ground, bruised his eyes, beat him, dropped filth in his face, and went off, with these parting words to frighten him, “If ever again you ask a question of any monk who comes to this village, I’ll see about it!” After this, he took to his heels at the mere sight of a monk.

By and by all this became known among the Saṅgha. One day they were talking about it in the Dhamma Hall, “Friend, I hear that monk So-and-so dropped filth in the face of that loafer, and left him!” The Teacher came in, and wanted to know what they were all talking about as they sat there. They told him. Said he, “Monks, this is not the first time this monk attacked the man with dirt, but he did just the same before.” Then he told them a story. {2.211}

In the past, those citizens of the kingdoms of Aṅga and Magadha who were travelling from one land to the other, used to stay in a house on the marches of the two kingdoms, and there they drank liquor and ate the flesh of fish, and early in the morning they yoked their carts and went away. At the time when they came, a certain dung-beetle, led by the odour of dung, came to the place where they had drunken, and saw some liquor shed upon the ground, and for thirst he drank it, and returned to his lump of dung intoxicated. When he climbed upon it the moist dung gave way a little. “The world cannot hear my weight!” he bawled out. At that very instant a maddened elephant came to the spot, and smelling the dung went back in disgust. The beetle saw it. “That creature,” he thought, “is afraid of me, and see how he runs away! – I must fight with him!” and so he challenged him in the first verse:

1. “Well matched! For we are heroes both: here let us issue try:
Turn back, turn back, friend elephant! Why would you fear and fly?
Let Magadha and Aṅga see how great our bravery!”

The elephant listened, and heard the voice; he turned back towards the beetle, and said the second verse, by way of rebuke:

2. “Not with my feet will I kill you, nor with tusks, nor with trunk,
With excrement I will kill you, the rotten destroys the rotten!” [This verse was translated into Latin in the original: Non pede, longinquave manu, non dentibus utar: Stercore, cui stercus cura, perisse decet.] {2.212}

And so, dropping a great piece of dung upon him, and making water, he killed him then and there; and scampered into the forest, trumpeting.

When this discourse was ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “In those days, this lout was the dung-beetle, the monk in question was the elephant, and I was the Tree Devatā who saw it all from a clump of trees.”