Ja 271 Udapānadūsakajātaka
The Story about Spoiling the Well (3s)

In the present one jackal fouls the well he drinks from, and is driven off by the novices. The Buddha tells a story of how a similar event happened in a previous life and how he had admonished the jackal who avowed that his ancestors did ever behave this way.

The Bodhisatta = the leader of a group (gaṇasatthā),
the jackal = the one who fouled a well (udapānadūsaka).

Keywords: Civility, Custom, Animals.

“This well a forest-ascetic.” This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Isipatana, about a jackal that fouled a well.

We learn that a jackal used to foul a well where the monks used to draw water, and then used to make off. One day the novices pelted him with clods of earth, and made it uncomfortable for him. After that he never came to look at the place again.

The monks heard of this and began to discuss it in the Dhamma Hall. “Friend, the jackal that used to foul our well has never come near it since the novices chased him away with clods!” The Teacher came in, and asked what they were talking about now as they sat together. They told him. Then he replied, “Monks, this is not the first time that this jackal fouled a well. He did the same before,” and then he told a story of the past. [2.244]

In the past, in this place near Benares called Isipatana was that very well. At that time the Bodhisatta was born of a good family. When he grew up he embraced the ascetic life, and with a body of followers dwelt at Isipatana. A certain jackal fouled the well as has been described, and took to his heels. One day, the ascetics surrounded him, and having caught him somehow, they led him before the Bodhisatta. He addressed the jackal in the lines of the first verse:

1. “This well a forest-ascetic has made
Who long has lived an ascetic in the glade.
And after all his trouble and his toil
Why did you try, my friend, the well to spoil?” {2.355}

On hearing this, the jackal repeated the second verse:

2. “This is the Dhamma of the jackal race,
To foul when they have drunk in any place:
My sires and grandfathers always did the same;
So there is no just reason for your blame.”

Then the Bodhisatta replied with the third:

3. “If this is ‘law’ in jackal polity
I wonder what their ‘lawlessness’ can be!
I hope that I have seen the last of you,
Your actions, lawful and unlawful too.”

Thus the Great Being admonished him, and said: “Do not go there again.” Thenceforward he did not even pause to look at it.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse he declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, “The jackal that fouled the well is the same in both cases; and I was the chief of the ascetic band.”