Ja 273 Kacchapajātaka
The Story about (the Biting) Tortoise (3s)
In the present two persons of high rank are always arguing with each other, and not even the king can prevent them. The Buddha tells a story of how a monkey attacked a tortoise and was bitten in return, and how the Bodhisatta persuaded the tortoise to let the monkey go.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
the two soldiers = the tortoise and the monkey (kacchapavānarā).
Present Source: Ja 154 Uraga,
Quoted at: Ja 165 Nakula, Ja 273 Kacchapa.
Keywords: Quarrels, Determination.
“What is that great meal.”
Tradition tells how two soldiers, in the service of the king of Kosala, of high rank, and great persons at court, no sooner caught sight of one another than they used to exchange ill words. Neither king, nor friends, nor kinsfolk could make them agree.
It happened one day that early in the morning the Teacher, looking around to see which of his friends were ripe for release, perceived that these two were ready to enter upon the First Path. Next day he went all alone seeking alms in Sāvatthi, and stopped before the door of one of them, who came out and took the Teacher’s bowl; then led him within, and offered him a seat. The Teacher sat, and then enlarged on the profit of cultivating loving-kindness. When he saw the man’s mind was ready, he declared the Truths. This done, the other was established in the Fruit of the First Path. Seeing this, the Teacher persuaded him to take the bowl; then rising he proceeded to the house of the other. Out came the other, and after salutation given, begged the Teacher to enter, and gave him a seat. He also took the Teacher’s bowl, and entered along with him. To him the Teacher lauded the Eleven Blessings of Loving-kindness; and perceiving that his heart was ready, declared the Truths. And this done, he too became established in the Fruit of the First Path.
Thus they were both converted; they confessed their faults one to the other, and asked forgiveness; peaceful and harmonious, they were at one together. That very same day they ate together in the presence of the Fortunate One.
His meal over, the Teacher returned to the monastery. They both returned with him, bearing a rich present of flowers, scents and perfumes, of ghee, honey, and sugar. The Teacher, having preached of duty before the Saṅgha, and uttered a Buddha’s admonition, retired to his scented chamber.
Next morning, the monks talked the matter over in the Dhamma Hall. “Friend,” one would say to another, “our Teacher subdues the unsubdued. Why, here are these two grand persons, who have been quarrelling all this time, and could not be reconciled by the king himself, or friends and kinsfolk: and the Tathāgata has humbled them in a single day!” The Teacher came in, “What are you talking about,” asked he, “as you sit here together?” They told him. Said he, “Monks, this is not the first time that I have reconciled these two; in bygone ages I reconciled the same two persons.” And he told a story of the past.
Once, when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisatta was reborn into a brahmin family in Kāsi. Having grown up and completed his education in all the arts at Taxila, he decided to give up sense pleasures and ordain as an ascetic. He established an ashram in the Himālayas on the banks of the Ganges and there attained the Super Knowledges and Attainments. In this birth, it seems, the Bodhisatta was exceptionally impartial, having had developed equanimity to perfection.
One day, while he was sitting at the door of his leaf hut, a mischievous and naughty monkey crept up on him and tried to put its penis in his ear. The Bodhisattva without resisting continued to sit there calmly. Then on another day, it happened that a tortoise, having come out of the water onto the bank of the river, went to sleep in the sun with its mouth open. Spying this, that lusty monkey stuck his penis into the tortoise’s mouth. Waking up, the tortoise snapped its mouth shut like someone banging the lid of a chest, causing the monkey great pain. Unable to bear the pain the monkey thought: “Whoever can free me from this agony, I will go to him.” Then thinking: “Who can free me from this pain, no one but that ascetic!” So carrying the tortoise in his hands the monkey approached the Bodhisatta and he, teasing the naughty monkey, spoke this first verse:
1. “What is that great meal you have,
Like a brahmin with a handful of rice.
Where did you go for alms?
What funeral did you attend?”
On hearing this, the naughty monkey spoke the second verse:
2. “I am truly a foolish monkey,
Having touched the untouchable.
If you release me, bless you,
Free, I will go to the mountain.”
The Bodhisatta, having compassion for him and addressing the tortoise, spoke this third verse:
3. “The Kassapa tribe are tortoises.
The Kondañña are monkeys.
Kassapa, please free Kondañña,
From coupling with you.”
The tortoise, having heard the Bodhisatta’s words and pleased with his reasoning, let go of the monkey’s penis. The moment the monkey was free, he bowed to the Bodhisatta, then ran away so fast he didn’t even look back. The tortoise worshiped the Bodhisatta and returned to his own place. As for the Bodhisatta, without ever having fallen from the Absorptions, he eventually passed away and was reborn in the Brahmā Realm.
When this discourse was ended, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, “The two soldiers were the monkey and tortoise, and I was the ascetic.”
The Original Latin Translation of Jātaka 273
Brahmadatta quondam Benari regnante, Bodisatta sacerdotali genere regno Kasensi natus, postquam ad puberem aetatem pervenit, in urbe Takkasila studiis se dedit, et mox, cum lubidines tandem compressisset, solitarius homo in agro Himavanto prope ripam Gangae frondibus ramisque arborum mapale contexit ubi habitaret, Facultates Potentiasque magicas foveret, gaudium perpetuae cogitationis perciperet. Tum quidem hoc modo nato ita mens erat placida placataque ut ad summam patientiam unus pervenerit.
Quem in limine casae sedentem visitabat Simius quidam impudentissimus pessimusque, inque aurem eius semen emittere solebat, neque tamen eius commovere poterat, sed sedebat porro summa animi tranquillitate Bodisatta. Accidit quondam ut ex aqua Testudo egressa somnum ore aperto captaret, in sole apricans. Quam cum vidisset Simius ille impudens, nec mora, pene in os inserto incepit futuere. Continuo Testudo experrecta os velut cistellam conclusit dentibusque comprendit id quod incertum erat. Simius cum nequiret nimium dolorem mulcere ‘quo eam,’ inquit, ‘cui persuadeam ut hoc dolore me liberet?’ Fore ut liberaretur ratus si ad Bodisattam pervenisset, Testudine ambabus manibus sublata ad Bodisattam pergit: qui ludos fecit Simium versibus his:
quis pateram extendens The tortoise looked like a begging bowl. nostram mendicat ad aulam?
unde venis? precibus quae, precor, esca datast?
Quibus auditis Simius respondit:
quod tetigisse nefas, tetigi: sum simius amens:
eripe me! Creptus mox nemora alta Petam.
Continuo pergit Bodisatta, Simium allocutus:
Cassapa testudo genus est: Condannus at ille:
Cassapa Condannum mitte fututa precor. A curious verse, as bearing on the laws of marriage. Kassapa means ‘belonging to the Tortoise clan’ (for which see e.g. Muir, Sanskrit Texts, i. 438). The commentator’s note is: “The Tortoises are of the Kassapa clan, monkeys of the Koṇḍañña” = Sanskrit Kauṇḍinya, “between which two clans there is intermarriage (āvāhavivāhasambandho); now that it is consummated, let go.”
His verbis valde delectata Testudo Simium omisit: qui Bodisattae dicta salute, se in fugam dedit, neque umquam postea eum locum ne oculis quidem usurpavit. Testudo quoque cum salutem dixisset abiit, at Bodisatta, defixo in contemplatione perpetua animo, tandem in eum locum, cuius dominus Brahmā deus, pervenit.
last updated: November 2021