Ja 319 Tittirajātaka
The Story about the (Decoy) Partridge (4s)
In the present the Buddha’s son Rāhula is so keen to keep the rules he even sleeps in the outhouse at night. The Buddha commends his good qualities and tells a story of a partridge that had scruples when used by a hunter as a decoy to attract his prey, and the wise man who consoled him.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Rāhula = the partridge (tittira).
Present Source: Ja 16 Tipallatthamigajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 319 Tittirajātaka.
Keywords: Sruples, Animals, Birds.
Once when the Teacher was dwelling in the Aggāḷava Temple nearby the town of Āḷavi, many female lay-disciples and nuns used to flock there to hear the Dhamma preached. The preaching was in the daytime, but as time wore on, the women did not attend, and there were only monks and men disciples present. Then the preaching took place in the evening; and at the close the elder monks retired each to his own chamber. But the younger ones with the lay-disciples lay down to rest in the Attendance Hall. When they fell asleep, loud was the snoring and snorting and gnashing of teeth as they lay. After a short slumber some got up, and reported to the Fortunate One the impropriety which they had witnessed. Said he, “If a monk sleeps in the company of novices, it is a Pācittiya offence (requiring confession).” And after delivering this precept he went away to Kosambī.
Thereon the monks said to the venerable Rāhula, “Sir, the Fortunate One has laid down this precept, and now you will please find quarters of your own.” Now, before this, the monks, out of respect for the father and because of the anxious desire of the son to observe the rules of the Saṅgha, had welcomed the youth as if the place were his; they had fitted up a little bed for him, and had given him a cloth to make a pillow with. But on the day of our story they would not even give him house-room, so fearful were they of transgressing.
The excellent Rāhula went neither to the One with Ten Powers as being his father, nor to Sāriputta, Captain of the Dhamma, as being his preceptor, nor to the Great Moggallāna as being his teacher, nor to the elder Ānanda as being his uncle; but betook himself to the One with Ten Powers’ outhouse and took up his abode there as though in a heavenly mansion. Now in the One with Ten Powers’ outhouse the door is always closely shut: the levelled floor is of perfumed earth; flowers and garlands are festooned round the walls; and all night long a lamp burns there. But it was not this splendour which prompted Rāhula to take up his residence here. Nay, it was simply because the monks had told him to find quarters for himself, and because he reverenced instruction and yearned to observe the rules of the Saṅgha. Indeed, from time to time the monks, to test him, when they saw him coming from quite a distance, used to throw down a hand-broom or a little dust-sweepings, and then ask who had thrown it down, after Rāhula had come in. “Well, Rāhula came that way,” would be the remark, but never did the future elder say he knew nothing about it. On the contrary, he used to remove the litter and humbly ask pardon of the monk, nor go away till he was assured that he was pardoned; so anxious was he to observe the rules. And it was solely this anxiety which made him take up his dwelling in the outhouse.
Now, though day had not yet dawned, the Teacher halted at the door of the outhouse and coughed “Ahem.” “Ahem,” responded the venerable Rāhula. “Who is there?” said the Buddha. “It is I, Rāhula,” was the reply; and out came the young man and bowed low. “Why have you been sleeping here, Rāhula?” “Because I had nowhere to go to. Up till now, sir, the monks have been very kind to me; but such is their present fear of erring that they won’t give me shelter any more. Consequently, I took up my abode here, because I thought it a spot where I should not come into contact with anybody else.”
Then thought the Teacher to himself, “If they treat even Rāhula like this, what will they not do to other youths whom they admit to the Saṅgha?” And his heart was moved within him for the Dhamma. So, at an early hour he had the monks assembled, and questioned the Captain of the Dhamma thus, “I suppose you at all events, Sāriputta, know where Rāhula is now quartered?”
“No, sir, I do not.”
“Sāriputta, Rāhula was living this day in the outhouse. Sāriputta, if you treat Rāhula like this, what will be your treatment of other youths who go forth in this dispensation? Such treatment will not retain those who join us. In future, keep your novices in your own quarters for a day or two, and only on the third day let them lodge out, taking care to acquaint yourself with their lodging.” With this rider, the Teacher laid down the precept.
Now when the monks in the Dhamma Hall were setting forth the praises of the venerable Rāhula, and speaking of him as fond of instruction, scrupulous and patient of rebuke, the Teacher came up and on hearing from them the subject of their discourse said: “Not only now, but formerly also Rāhula possessed all these virtues.” And then he told them a legend of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family. And when he grew up, he studied all the arts at Taxila, and giving up the world devoted himself to the ascetic life in the Himālayas, and developed the Super Knowledges and Attainments. There enjoying the pleasures of Absorption he dwelt in a pleasant grove, whence he journeyed to a frontier village to procure salt and vinegar. The people, on seeing him, became believers, and built him a hut of leaves in a wood, and providing him with all that he required, made a home for him there.
At this time a fowler in this village had caught a decoy partridge, and putting it in a cage carefully trained and looked after it. Then he took it to the wood, and by its cry decoyed all the other partridges that came near. The partridge thought: “Through me many of my kinsfolk come by their death. This is a wicked act on my part.” So it kept quiet. When its master found it was quiet, he struck it on the head with a piece of bamboo. The partridge from the pain it suffered uttered a cry. And the fowler gained a living by decoying other partridges through it. Then the partridge thought: “Well, suppose they die. There is no evil intention on my part. Do the evil consequences of my action affect me? When I am quiet, they do not come, but when I utter a cry, they do. And all that come this fellow catches and puts to death. Is there any sinful act here on my part, or is there not?” Thenceforth the only thought of the partridge is, “Who verily may resolve my doubt?”
1. “Happy life I lead all day,
Food abundant falls to me:
Yet I’m in a parlous way,
What’s my future state to be?”
The Bodhisatta solving this question uttered the second verse:
2. “If no evil in your heart
Prompts to deed of villainy,
Should you play a passive part,
Guilt attaches not to you.”
The partridge on hearing this uttered the third verse:
3. “Lo! Our kinsman: thus they cry,
And in crowds they flock to see.
Am I guilty, should they die?
Please resolve this doubt for me.”
On hearing this, the Bodhisatta repeated the fourth verse:
4. “If no wrong lurks in the heart,
Innocent the deed will be.
He who plays a passive part
From all guilt is counted free.”
Thus did the Great Being console the partridge. And through him the bird was freed from remorse. Then the fowler waking up saluted the Bodhisatta and took up his cage and made off.
The Teacher, having ended his lesson, identified the Jātaka, “At that time Rāhula was the partridge, and I myself was the ascetic.”
last updated: November 2021