Ja 331 Kokālikajātaka
The Story about (the Monk) Kokālika (4s)
Alternative Title: Kokilajātaka (Cst)
In the present Kokālika blames the two chief disciples, and because of what he says, falls into hell. The Buddha tells a story of a cuckoo that was fostered on a crow, but started singing while still in the nest and was killed and thrown on the ground.
The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (paṇḍitāmacca),
Kokālika = the young cuckoo (kokālikapotaka).
Present Source: Ja 481 Takkāriya,
Quoted at: Ja 117 Tittira, Ja 215 Kacchapa, Ja 272 Vyaggha, Ja 331 Kokālika.
“They that with speech inopportune.” This story was told by the Teacher at Jetavana about Kokālika. The introductory story is told in full in the Takkārikajātaka [Ja 481].
During one rainy season the two chief disciples, desiring to leave the multitude and to dwell apart, took leave of the Teacher, and went into the kingdom where Kokālika was. They repaired to the residence of Kokālika, and said this to him, “Monk Kokālika, since for us it is delightful to dwell with you, and for you to dwell with us, we would abide here three months.” “How,” said the other, “will it be delightful for you to dwell with me?” They answered, “If you tell not a soul that the two chief disciples are dwelling here, we shall be happy, and that will be our delight in dwelling with you.” “And how is it delightful for me to dwell with you?” “We will teach the Dhamma to you for three months in your home, and we will discourse to you, and that will be your delight in dwelling with us.” “Dwell here, monks,” said he, “so long as you will,” and he allotted a pleasant residence to them. There they dwelt in the fruition of the Attainments, and no man knew of their dwelling in that place.
When they had thus past the rains they said to him, “Monk, now we have dwelt with you, and we will go to visit the Teacher,” and asked his leave to go. He agreed, and went with them on the rounds for alms in a village over against the place where they were. After their meal the elders departed from the village. Kokālika leaving them, turned back and said to the people, “Lay brethren, you are like brute animals. Here the two chief disciples have been dwelling for three months in the monastery opposite, and you knew nothing of it: now they are gone.” “Why did you not tell us, sir?” the people asked.
Then they took ghee and oil and medicines, raiment and clothes, and approached the elders, saluting them and saying: “Pardon us, sirs we knew not you were the chief disciples, we have learned it but today by the words of the venerable monk Kokālika. Pray have compassion on us, and receive these medicines and clothes.” Kokālika went after the elders with them, for he thought: “The elders are frugal, and content with little; they will not accept these things, and then they will be given to me.” But the elders, because the gift was offered at the instigation of a monk, neither accepted the things themselves nor had them given to Kokālika. The lay folk then said: “Sirs, if you will not accept these, come here once again to bless us.” The elders promised, and proceeded to the Teacher’s presence.
Now Kokālika was angry, because the elders neither accepted those things themselves, nor had them given to him. The elders, however, having remained a short while with the Teacher, each chose five hundred monks as their following, and with these thousand monks went on pilgrimage seeking alms, as far as Kokālika’s country. The lay folk came out to meet them, and led them to the same monastery, and showed them great honour day by day.
Great was the store given them of clothes and of medicines. Those monks who went out with the elders dividing the garments gave of them to all the monks which had come, but to Kokālika gave none, neither did the elders give him any. Getting no clothes Kokālika began to abuse and revile the elders, “Sāriputta and Moggallāna are full of wicked desire; they would not accept before what was offered them, but these things they do accept. There is no satisfying them, they have no regard for another.” But the elders, perceiving that the man was harbouring evil on their account, set out with their followers to depart; nor would they return, not though the people begged them to stay yet a few days longer.
Then a young monk said: “Where shall the elders stay, laymen? Your own particular elder does not wish them to stay here.” Then the people went to Kokālika, and said: “Sir, we are told you do not wish the elders to stay here. Go to! Either appease them and bring them back, or away with you and live elsewhere!” In fear of the people this man went and made his request to the elders. “Go back, monk,” answered the elders, “we will not return.” So he, being unable to prevail upon them, returned to the monastery. Then the lay brethren asked him whether the elders had returned. “I could not persuade them to return,” said he. “Why not, monk?” they asked. And then they began to think it must be no good monks would dwell there because the man did wrong, and they must get rid of him. “Sir,” they said, “do not stay here; we have nothing here for you.”
Thus dishonoured by them, he took bowl and robe and went to Jetavana. After saluting the Teacher, he said: “Sir, Sāriputta and Moggallāna are full of wicked desire, they are in the power of wicked desires!” The Teacher replied, “Say not so, Kokālika; let your heart, Kokālika, have confidence in Sāriputta and Moggallāna; learn that they are good monks.” Kokālika said: “You believe in your two chief disciples, sir; I have seen it with my own eyes; they have wicked desires, they have secrets within them, they are wicked men.” So he said thrice (though the Teacher would have stayed him), then rose from his seat, and departed. Even as he went on his way there arose over all his body boils of the size of a mustard seed, which grew and grew to the size of a ripe seed of the wood apple tree, burst, and blood ran all over him. Groaning he fell by the gate of Jetavana, maddened with pain.
A great cry arose, and reached even to the Brahmā Realm, “Kokālika has reviled the two chief disciples!” Then his spiritual teacher, the Brahmā Tudu by name, learning the fact, came with the intent of appeasing the elders, and said while poised in the air, “Kokālika, a cruel thing this you have done; make your peace with the chief disciples.” “Who are you, brother?” the man asked. “Tudu Brahmā, is my name,” said he. “Have you not been declared by the Fortunate One,” said the man, “one of those who return not? That word means that such come not back to this earth. You will become a Yakkha upon a dunghill!” Thus he upbraided the Mahābrahmā. And as he could not persuade the man to do as he advised, he replied to him, “May you be tormented according to your own word.” Then he returned to his abode of bliss. And Kokālika after dying was born again in the Lotus Hell. That he had been born there the great and mighty Brahmā told to the Tathāgata, and the Teacher told it to the monks.
In the Dhamma Hall the monks talked of the man’s wickedness, “Monks, they say Kokālika reviled Sāriputta and Moggallāna, and by the words of his own mouth came to the Lotus Hell.” The Teacher came in, and said he, “What speak you of, monks, as you sit here?” They told him. Then he said: “This is not the first time, monks, that Kokālika was destroyed by his own word, and out of his own mouth was condemned to misery; it was the same before.” And he told them a story.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was his valued minister. Now the king was very talkative. Thought the Bodhisatta, “I will put an end to his talkativeness,” and went about looking for an apt illustration. So one day the king came to his garden and sat down on the royal slab of stone. Above his head was a mango tree and there in a crow’s nest a black cuckoo had laid her egg and gone off. The female crow watched over that cuckoo’s egg. By and by a young cuckoo came forth from it. The crow thinking it was her own offspring took care of it, bringing food for it in her beak.
The young bird while still unfledged uttered a cuckoo cry prematurely. The crow thought: “This young bird even now utters a strange note.
1. “They that with speech inopportune offend
Like the young cuckoo meet untimely end.
2. Nor deadly poison, nor sharp-whetted sword
Is half so fatal as ill-spoken word.
3. The sage his measured words discreetly guides,
Nor rashly to his second self confides:
4. Before he speaks will prudent counsel take,
His foes to trap, as Garuḷa the snake.”
The king, after hearing the Dhamma teaching of the Bodhisatta, thenceforth became more measured in his words, and increasing the glory of the Bodhisatta ever gave him more and more.
The Teacher, having brought his lesson to an end, identified the Jātaka, “Kokālika in those days was the young cuckoo, and I myself was the wise minister.”
last updated: November 2021