Ja 296 Samuddajātaka
The Story about the Sea (3s)

In the present one monk is very greedy, and even talks other monks out of their property so he can increase his. The Buddha tells a story of a cormorant who flew over the sea warning everyone not to use it up, until driven away by a Sea Devatā.

The Bodhisatta = the Devatā (Devatā),
Upananda = the cormorant (samuddakāka).

Keywords: Greed, Ignorance, Devas, Animals, Birds.

“Over the salt sea wave.” This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about elder Upananda. This man was a great eater and drinker; there was no satisfying him even with cartloads of provisions. During the rainy season he would pass his time at two or three different settlements, leaving his shoes in one, his walking-stick in another, and his water jar in a third, and one he lived in himself. When he visited a country monastery, and saw the monks with their requisites all ready, he began to talk about the four classes of contented ascetics; See Childers, p. 56 b. The recluse who is contented with the robes presented to him, with the food, with the bedding, and he who delights in meditation. laid hold of their garments, and made them pick up rags from the dust-heap; made them take earthen bowls, and give him any bowls that he fancied and their metal bowls; then he filled a cart with them, and carried them off to Jetavana.

One day people began to talk in the Dhamma Hall. “Friend, Upananda of the Sakka clan, a great eater, a greedy fellow, has been preaching the dispensation to other people, and here he comes with a cartful of monastics’ property!” The Teacher came in, and wanted to know what they were talking of as they sat there. They told him. “Monks,” said he, “Upananda has gone wrong before by talking about this contentment. But a man ought first of all to become modest in his desires, before praising the good behaviour of other people.

Yourself first stablish in propriety,
Then teach; the wise should not self-seeking be. [2.302]

Pointing out this verse from the Dhammapada [Dhp 158], and blaming Upananda, he went on, “This is not the first time, monks, that Upananda has been greedy. Long ago, he thought even the water in the ocean ought to be saved.” And he told a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta became a Sea Devatā. Now it so happened that a cormorant was passing over the sea. He went flying about, and trying to check the shoals of fish and flocks of birds, crying, “Don’t drink too much of the sea-water! Be careful of it!” {2.442}

On seeing him, the Sea Devatā repeated the first verse:

1. “Over the salt sea wave who flies?
Who checks the shoals of fish, and tries
The monsters of the deep to stay
Lest all the sea be drunk away?”

The water-crow heard this, and answered with the second verse:

2. “A drinker never satisfied
So people call me the world wide,
To drink the sea I fain would try,
And drain the lord of rivers dry.”

On hearing which the sea-spirit repeated the third:

3. “The ocean ever ebbs away,
And fills again the self-same day.
Who ever knew the sea to fail?
To drink it up can none avail!”

With these words the Devatā assumed a terrible shape and frightened the cormorant away.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time, Upananda was the cormorant, but the Devatā was I myself.”