Ja 292 Supattajātaka
The Story about (the Crow) Supatta (3s)

In the present Rāhula’s mother, after ordaining falls ill. Ven. Rāhula asks what is to be done, and she asks for mango juice, which Ven. Sāriputta then brings for her and which cures her. The Buddha tells a story of a crow who was willing to lay down his life to get his queen some fish from the king of Benares’ table. And how the king praised and rewarded him for his valour.

The Bodhisatta = (the crow) Supatta,
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
Rāhulamātā = (his wife) Suphassā,
Sāriputta = the good looking general (sumukho senāpati).

Present Source: Ja 281 Abbhantara,
Quoted at: Ja 292 Supatta,
Past Compare: Mvu iii p 153 Kāka.

Keywords: Heroism, Sacrifice, Animals, Birds.

“Here, in Benares city.” {2.433} This story the Teacher told in Jetavana, about a meal of rice mixed with new ghee, with red fish to flavour it, which was given by elder Sāriputta to Bimbādevī. The circumstances are like those given above in the Abbhantarajātaka [Ja 281].

When the Supreme Buddha inaugurated the universal reign of the dispensation, while living in a room at Vesāli, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, along with five hundred of the Sākiya clan, asked for initiation, and received initiation and full orders. Afterwards the five hundred nuns became Arahats on hearing the preaching of Nandaka. But when the Teacher was living near Sāvatthi, the mother of Rāhula thought to herself, “My husband on embracing the ascetic life has become omniscient; my son too has become an ascetic, and lives with him. What am I to do in the midst of the house? I will enter on this life, and go to Sāvatthi, and I will live looking upon the Supreme Buddha and my son continually.” So she betook herself to a nunnery, and entered the order, and went and lived in a cell at Sāvatthi, in company of her teachers and preceptors, beholding the Teacher and her beloved son. The novice Rāhula came and saw his mother.

Here too the holy nun had a pain in the stomach. The excellent Rāhula told the elder. He seated Rāhula in his waiting-room, and went to the king to get the rice, red fish and new ghee. The lad gave it to the holy nun, his mother. No sooner had she eaten than the pain subsided. The king sent messengers to make enquiries, and after that always sent her that kind of food.

One day they began to talk about it in the Dhamma Hall, “Friend, the Captain of the Dhamma satisfied the nun with such and such food.” The Teacher came in, and asked what they were talking about: they told him. Said he, “This is not the first time, monk, that Sāriputta has given Rāhula’s mother what she wanted; he did the same before.” So saying, he told a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a crow. He grew up, and became chief of eighty thousand crows, a crow king, by name, Supatta [Fairwing]; and his chief mate went by the name of Suphassā [Softie], his chief captain was called Sumukho [Prettybeak]. With his eighty thousand subjects, he dwelt nearby Benares.

One day he and his mate in search of food passed over the king’s kitchen. The king’s cook had been preparing a host of dishes, of all sorts of fish, and he had uncovered the dishes for a moment, to cool them. Queen crow smelt the odour of the food, and longed for a bit. But that day she said nothing. [2.296]

However the next day, when king crow proposed that they should go feeding, she said: “Go by yourself: there’s something I want very much!”

“What is it?” asked he.

“I want some of the king’s food to eat; {2.434} and as I can’t get it, I am going to die.”

The crow sat down to think. Sumukho approached him and asked if anything had displeased him. King crow told him what it was. “Oh, that’ll be all right,” said the captain; and added, to console them both, “you stay where you are today, and I’ll fetch the meat.”

So he gathered the crows together, and told them the matter. “Now come, and let’s get it!” said he; and off they all flew together to Benares. He posted them in companies here and there, near the kitchen to watch; and he, with eight champions, sat on the kitchen roof. While waiting for the king’s food to be served, he gave his directions to these, “When the food is taken up, I’ll make the man drop the dishes. Once that is done there’s an end of me. So four of you must fill your mouths with the rice, and four with the fish, and feed our royal pair with them; and if they ask where I am, say I’m coming.”

Well, the cook got his various dishes all ready, hung them on a balance-pole, and went off towards the king’s rooms. As he passed through the court, the crow captain with a signal to his followers flew and settled upon the carrier’s chest, struck him with extended claws, with his beak, sharp as a spear-point, pecked the end of the man’s nose, and with his two feet stopped up his jaws.

The king was walking up and down upon an upper floor, when looking out of a large window he saw what the crow was doing. He hailed the carrier, “Hello you, down with the dishes and catch the crow!” so the man dropped the dishes and caught the crow tight.

“Come here!” cried the king. Then the crows ate all they wanted, {2.435} and picked up the rest as they had been told, and carried it off. Next all the others flocked up, and ate what remained. The eight champions gave it to their king and queen to eat. The craving of Suphassā was appeased.

The servant who was carrying the dinner brought his crow to the king.

“O crow!” said he, “you have shown no respect for me! You have broken my servitor’s nose! You have smashed my dishes! You have recklessly thrown away your life! What made you do such things?”

Answered the crow, “O great king! Our king lives near Benares, and I am captain of his forces. His wife, whose name is Suphassā, conceived a great longing, and wanted a taste of your food. Our king told me what she craved. At once I devoted my life. Now I have sent her the food; [2.297] my desire is accomplished. This is the reason why I acted as I did.” And to explain the matter, he said:

1. “Here in Benares city, O great king,
There dwells a king of Crows called Supatta;
Who was attended by a following
Of eighty thousand crows.

2. Suphassā, his mate, had one o’ermastering wish:
She craved a supper of the king’s own fish,
Fresh caught, cooked in his kitchen – such a dish
As to kings’ tables goes.

3. You now behold me as their messenger;
It was my royal master sent me here;
And for that I my monarch do revere
I wounded that man’s nose.” {2.436}

When the king heard this, he said: “We do great honour to men, and yet cannot make friends of them. Even though we make presents of such things as a whole village, we can find no one willing to give his life for us. But this creature, crow as he is, sacrifices his life for his king. He is very noble, sweet-speaking, and good.” He was so pleased with the crow’s good qualities that he did him the honour of giving him a white umbrella. But the crow saluted the king with this, his own gift, and spoke about the virtues of Supatta. The king sent for him, and heard his teaching, and sent them both food of the same sort as he ate himself; and for the rest of the crows he had cooked each day a large measure of rice. He himself walked according to the admonition of the Bodhisatta, and protecting all creatures, practised virtue. The admonitions of Supatta the crow were remembered for seven hundred years.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the king was Ānanda, the captain was Sāriputta, but Supatta was I myself.”