Ja 370 Palāsajātaka
The Story about the Flame of the Forest (5s)

In the present 500 monks have wrong thoughts in the middle of the night and are reproved by the Buddha, who tells a story of a goose who warned a Tree Devatā not to tolerate a banyan seedling in his host tree, but was ignored and his home was eventually destroyed.

The Bodhisatta = the golden goose (suvaṇṇahaṁsa).

Present Source: Ja 408 Kumbhakāra,
Quoted at: Ja 370 Palāsa, Ja 412 Koṭisimbali, Ja 459 Pānīya,
Present Compare: Ja 305 Sīlavīmaṁsana.

Keywords: Caution, Parasites, Devas, Animals, Birds.

“The goose said to the Flame of the Forest.” This was a story told by the Teacher, while residing at Jetavana, concerning overcoming wrong. The incident that led to the story will be set forth in the Paññājātaka [Ja 4590]. [This is evidently another name for Ja 459 Pānīyajātaka. I include the story here.]

This story the Teacher told, while dwelling in Jetavana, about the subduing of evil passions.

At one time, we learn, five hundred citizens of Sāvatthi, being householders and friends of the Tathāgata, had heard the Dhamma and had renounced the world, and been ordained as monastics. Living in the house of the Golden Pavement, at midnight they indulged in thoughts of wrong.

The Teacher regards his disciples three times a night and three times a day, six times every night and day, as a jay guards her egg, or a yak-cow her tail, or a mother her beloved son, or a one-eyed man his remaining eye; so in the very instant he overcame wrong which was beginning. He was observing Jetavana on that midnight and knowing the monks’ conduct and their thoughts, he considered, “This wrong among these monks if it grows will destroy the foundation for becoming an Arahat. I will this moment repudiate this wrong and show them how to become Arahats,” so leaving the perfumed chamber he called Ānanda, and bidding him collect all the monks dwelling in the place, he got them together and sat down on the seat prepared for Buddha.

At the command of the Fortunate One, the Saṅgha was assembled by the venerable Ānanda.

But on this occasion the Teacher addressing the monks said: “Monks, wrong ought to be regarded with suspicion. Though it be as small as a banyan shoot, it may prove fatal. Sages of old too suspected whatever was open to suspicion.” And with this he related a story of the past.

In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a golden gosling, and when he came to be a full-grown goose, he lived in a golden cave, in the Cittakūṭa mountain in the Himālayas region, and used to go constantly and eat the wild paddy that grew on a natural lake. On the way by which he went to and fro was a big Flame of the Forest. Both in going and returning, he would always stop and rest there. So a friendship sprang up between him and the Devatā that dwelt in that tree. By and by a certain fowl, after eating the ripe fruit of a banyan, came and perched on the Flame of the Forest, and dropped its excrement into the fork of it. Thence there sprang up a young banyan, which grew to the height of four inches and was bright with red shoots and greenery. The royal goose, on seeing this, addressed the guardian deity of the tree and said: “My good friend, every tree on which a banyan shoot springs up is destroyed by its growth. Do not suffer this to grow, or it will destroy your place of abode. Go back at once, and root it up and throw it away. One ought to suspect that which justifies suspicion.” And thus conversing with the Tree Devatā the goose uttered the first verse: [3.138] {3.209}

1. “The goose said to the Flaming tree, [Butea Frondosa, Flame of the Forest.]
A banyan shoot is threatening you:
What you do in your bosom rear
Will rend you limb from limb, I fear.”

On hearing this the Tree Devatā, not heeding his words, repeated the second verse:

2. “Well! Let it grow, and should I be
A refuge to the banyan tree,
And tend it with a parent’s love,
It will to me a blessing prove.”

Then the goose uttered the third verse:

3. “It is a cursed shoot, I fear,
You do within your bosom rear.
I say goodbye and off I flee,
This growth, alas, misliketh me.”

With these words the royal goose spread out his wings and made straight for mount Cittakūṭa. Thenceforth he did not come back any more. By and by the banyan shoot grew up. This tree also had its guardian deity. And in its growth, it broke down the Flame of the Forest, and with a branch the abode of the Tree Devatā also fell. At this moment reflecting on the words of the royal goose, the Tree Devatā thought, {3.210} “The king of the geese foresaw this danger in the future and warned me of it, but I did not hearken unto his words.” And thus lamenting, he uttered the fourth verse:

4. “A spectre grim like Meru’s height
Has brought me to a fearful plight;
Scorning the words friend gosling said,
I now am overwhelmed with dread.”

Thus did the banyan, as it grew up, break down all the Flame of the Forest and reduce it to a mere stump, and the dwelling place of the Tree Devatā wholly disappeared.

5. “Wise men abhor the parasitic thing
That chokes the form to which it loves to cling.
The wise, suspecting danger from the weed,
Destroy the root before it comes to seed.”

This was the fifth verse, spoken after Fully Awakening.

The Teacher here, his lesson ended, revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths five hundred monks became Arahats, “At that time I myself was the golden goose.”