Ja 342 Vānarajātaka
The Story about the (Clever) Monkey (4s)

In the present Devadatta is going around trying to kill the Buddha. The latter tells a story of how a crocodile had desired to eat the heart of a monkey, but the monkey tricked him into believing he had left his heart on a tree, and escaped.

The Bodhisatta = the monkey (vānara),
Devadatta = the crocodile (saṁsumāra).

Present Source: Ja 21 Kuruṅgajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 342 Vānarajātaka,
Past Compare: Ja 57 Vānarinda, Ja 208 Suṁsumāra, Ja 224 Kumbhīla, Ja 342 Vānara, Cp 27 Kapirājacariyā.

Keywords: Desire, Trickery, Animals.

“Have I from water.” {3.133} This story was told by the Teacher, when dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, concerning the going about of Devadatta to kill the Buddha. The incident that led to the story has already been given in detail. [There is no long story of these incidents in the Jātakas, the story being found in detail in the Vinaya Cullavagga, vii. iii. 6 foll. Ja 21 Kuruṅgajātaka gives the summary that follows.] [3.88]

For once when the monks were gathered together in the Dhamma Hall, they sat talking reproachfully of Devadatta, saying: “Sirs, with a view to destroy the Tathāgata, Devadatta hired bowmen, hurled down a rock, and let loose the elephant Dhanapālaka; in every way he goes about to slay the One with Ten Powers.” Entering and seating himself on the seat prepared for him, the Teacher asked, saying: “Sirs, what is theme you are discussing here in a meeting?” “Sir,” was the reply, “we were discussing the wickedness of Devadatta, saying that he was always going about to slay you.” Said the Teacher, “It is not only in these present days, monks, that Devadatta goes about seeking to slay me; he went about with the like intent in bygone days also – but was unable to slay me.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a young monkey in the Himālayas region. And when fully grown he lived on the banks of the Ganges. Now a certain female crocodile in the Ganges conceived a longing for the flesh of the Bodhisatta’s heart, and told it to her husband. He thought: “I will kill the Bodhisatta by plunging him in the water and will take his heart’s flesh and give it to my wife.” So he said to the Bodhisatta, “Come, my friend, we will go and eat wild fruits on a certain island.”

“How shall I get there?” he said. “I will put you on my back and bring you there,” answered the crocodile.

Innocent of the crocodile’s purpose he jumped on his back and sat there. The crocodile after swimming a little way began to dive. Then the monkey said: “Why, sir, do you plunge me into the water?” “I am going to kill you,” said the crocodile, “and give your heart’s flesh to my wife.”

“Foolish fellow,” said he, “do you suppose my heart is inside me?” “Then where have you put it?”

“Do you not see it hanging there on yonder fig tree?” “I see it,” said the crocodile.

“But will you give it me?” “Yes, I will,” said the monkey.

Then the crocodile – so foolish was he – took him and swam to the foot of the fig tree on the river bank. The Bodhisatta springing from the crocodile’s back perched on the fig tree and repeated these verses:

1. “Have I from water, fish, to dry land passed
Only to fall into your power at last?

2. Of bread fruit and rose apples I am sick,
And rather figs than yonder mangoes pick.

3. He that to great occasion fails to rise
’Neath foeman’s feet in sorrow prostrate lies: {3.134}

4. One prompt a crisis in his fate to know
Needs never dread oppression from his foe.”

Thus did the Bodhisatta in these four verses tell how to succeed in worldly affairs, and forthwith disappeared in the thicket of trees.

The Teacher, having brought his lesson to an end, identified the Jātaka, “At that time Devadatta was the crocodile, and I myself was the monkey.”