Ja 367 Sāliyajātaka
The Story about the Mynah Bird (5s)

Alternative Title: Sāḷiyajātaka (Cst)

In the present Devadatta tries to have the Buddha killed. The latter tells a story of how a false doctor tried to get a child bitten by a snake so he could cure them and take the gain. The snake, however, bit him, not the child, and he died.

The Bodhisatta = the wise boy (paṇḍitadāraka),
Devadatta = the feeble (doctor) (dubbala).

Present Source: Ja 358 Culladhammapāla,
Quoted at: Ja 367 Sāliya,
Past Source: Ja 367 Sāliya,
Quoted at: Ja 368 Tacasāra,
Past Compare: Dhp-a IX.9 Kokasunakhaluddaka.

Keywords: Greed, Malice.

“Who got his friend.” This was a story told by the Teacher, while living in the Bamboo Grove, in reference to a saying that Devadatta could not even inspire alarm. [Ja 358 Culladhammapālajātaka tells this story at length, most of which I include here.]

This story the Teacher, when dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, told concerning the going about of Devadatta to slay the Bodhisatta. In all other births Devadatta failed to excite so much as an atom of fear in the Bodhisatta, but in the Culladhammapālajātaka [Ja 358], when the Bodhisatta was only seven months old, he had his hands and feet and head cut off and his body encircled with sword cuts, as it were with a garland. In the Daddarajātaka [Ja 438] he killed him by twisting his neck, and roasted his flesh in an oven and ate it. In the Khantivādijātaka [Ja 313] he had him scourged with two thousand strokes of a whip, and ordered his hands and feet and ears and nose to be cut off, and then had him seized by the hair of his head and dragged along, and when he was stretched at full length on his back, he kicked him in the belly and made off, and that very day the Bodhisatta died. But both in the Cullanandakajātaka [Ja 222] and the Vevaṭiyakapijātaka [Ja 516] he merely had him put to death. Thus did Devadatta for a long time go about trying to slay him, and continued to do so, even after he became a Buddha.

So one day they raised a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Sirs, Devadatta is continually forming plots to slay the Buddhas. Being minded to kill the Supreme Buddha, he instigated archers to shoot him, he threw down a rock upon him, and let loose the elephant Nālāgiri on him.” When the Teacher came and inquired what subject the monks were assembled to discuss, on hearing what it was he said: “Monks, not only now, but formerly too he went about to kill me, but now he fails to excite a particle of fear in me...” And so saying, he related a story of the past.

When Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in the family of a village householder, and when he was young he played with other boys at the foot of a banyan tree, at the entrance of the village. A poor old doctor at that time who had no practice strayed out of the village to this spot, and saw a snake asleep in the fork of a tree, with its head tucked in. He thought: “There is nothing to be got in the village. I will cajole these boys and make the snake bite them, and then I shall get something for curing them.” So he said to the Bodhisatta, “If you were to see a young hedgehog, would you seize it?” “Yes, I would,” said he. {3.203}

“See, here is one lying in the fork of this tree,” said the old man.

The Bodhisatta, not knowing it was a snake, climbed up the tree and seized it by the neck, but when he found it was a snake, he did not allow [3.134] it to turn upon him, but getting a good grip of it, he hastily flung it from him. It fell on the neck of the old doctor, and coiling round him, it bit him so severely Reading karakarā nikhāditvā, cf. the Sanskrit kaṭakaṭā. that its teeth met in his flesh and the old man fell down dead on the spot, and the snake made its escape. People gathered together about him, and the Great Being, in expounding the Dhamma to the assembled multitude, repeated these verses:

1. “Who got his friend to seize
A deadly snake, as hedgehog, if you please,
By the snake’s bite was killed
As one that evil to his neighbour willed.

2-3. [The second and third verses are almost exact replicas with only one word change between them.] He that to strike is fain
The man that never striketh back again,
Is struck and lieth low,
E’en as this cheat sore hurt by deadly blow.

4. So dust that should be thrown
Against the wind, back in one’s face is blown;

5. And ill designed to one
That holy is, and has no evil done,
On the fool’s pate at last
Recoils, like dust when thrown against the blast.”

The Teacher here ended his lesson and identified the Jātaka, “At that time the poor old doctor was Devadatta, the wise youth was myself.”