Ja 300 Vakajātaka Mahāvagga, i. 31. 3 foll. (translation in Sacred Books of the East, i. p. 175); Folk-Lore Journal, 3. 359; Morris, Contemporary Review xxiv. 739.
The Story about the Wolf (3s)

In the present while the Buddha is on retreat he gives leave for those who practice the austerities to visit him. Monks would dress up in old robes to get the privilege, and then throw the robes away. The Buddha told a story about a wolf who decided to keep the Uposatha precepts, including non-killing, until he saw a goat and then gave up on his austerity.

The Bodhisatta = (the King of the Devas) Sakka.

Present Compare: Vin Nis Pāc 15 (3.230).

Keywords: Falsehood, Impersonation, Animals.

“The wolf who takes.” {2.449} This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about old friendship. The circumstances were the same in detail as in the Vinaya; this is an abstract of them. The venerable Upasena, a two-years’ monk, visited [2.307] the Teacher along with a first year’s monk who lived in the same monastery; the Teacher rebuked him, and he retired. [The circumstances are hardly explained here. The Buddha wanted to go into solitude and a rule was made that no monk should approach him except the one who brought his almsfood. Ven Upasena, not knowing this rule did approach him, and was initially rebuked.] He acquired spiritual insight, and became an Arahat, having got contentment and kindred virtues, having undertaken the Thirteen Ascetic Practices, [Dhutaṅga, see Vism 59 ff. 1. the refuse-rag-wearer’s practice, 2. the triple-robe-wearer’s practice, 3. the alms-food-eater’s practice, 4. the house-to-house-seeker’s practice, 5. the one-sessioner’s practice, 6. the bowl-food-eater’s practice, 7. the later-food-refuser’s practice, 8. the forest-dweller’s practice, 9. the tree-root-dweller’s practice, 10. the open-air-dweller’s practice, 11. the charnel-ground-dweller’s practice, 12. the any-bed-user’s practice, 13. the sitter’s practice.] and taught them to his fellows, while the Fortunate One was secluded for three months, he with his monks, having accepted the blame first given for wrong speech and nonconformity, received in the second instance approval, in the words, “Henceforth, let any monks visit me when they will, provided they follow the Thirteen Ascetic Practices.” Thus encouraged, he returned and told it to the monks. After that, the monks followed these practices before coming to visit the Teacher; then, when he had come out from his seclusion, they would throw away their old rags and put on clean garments. As the Teacher with all the body of the monks went round to inspect the rooms, {2.450} he noticed these rags lying about, and asked what they were. When they told him, he said: “Monks, the practice undertaken by these monks is short-lived, like the wolf’s Uposatha day service,” and he told them a story.

In the past, when Brahmadatta reigned king in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as Sakka, King of the Devas. At that time a wolf lived on a rock by the Ganges bank. The winter floods came up and surrounded the rock. There he lay upon the rock, with no food and no way of getting it. The water rose and rose, and the wolf pondered, “No food here, and no way to get it. Here I lie, with nothing to do. I may as well keep the Uposatha precepts.” Thus resolved to keep the Uposatha precepts, as he lay he solemnly resolved to keep the precepts. Sakka in his meditations perceived the wolf’s weak resolve. He thought: “I’ll plague that wolf,” and taking the shape of a wild goat, he stood near, and let the wolf see him.

“I’ll keep Uposatha precepts another day!” thought the wolf, as he spied him; up he got, and leaped at the creature. But the goat jumped about so that the wolf could not catch him. When our wolf saw that he could not catch him, he came to a standstill, and went back, thinking to himself as he lay down again, “Well, my Uposatha precepts are not broken after all.”

Then Sakka, by his divine power, hovered above in the air; said he, “What have such as you, all unstable, to do with keeping the Uposatha precepts? You didn’t know that I was Sakka, and wanted a meal of goat’s-flesh!” and thus plaguing and rebuking him, he returned to the world of the gods.

1. “The wolf, who takes live creatures for his food,
And makes a meal upon their flesh and blood,
Once undertook a holy vow to pay –
Made his mind to keep the Uposatha day.

2. When Sakka learned what he resolved to do,
He made himself a goat to outward view.
Then the blood-bibber leaped to seize his prey,
His vow forgot, his virtue cast away. [2.308] {2.451}

3. Even so some persons in this world of ours,
That make resolves which are beyond their powers,
Swerve from their purpose, as the wolf did here
As soon as they behold the goat appear.”

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka as follows, “At that time I myself was Sakka.”

End of the Third Book