Ja 375 Kapotajātaka
The Story about the Pigeon (5s)

In the present one monk is very greedy and goes from supporter to supporter collecting food. The Buddha tells how this monk was also greedy in a previous life when, as a crow, he deceived his friend the pigeon in order to get access to a kitchen, which he stole from. But there the cook caught and plucked him and left him to die.

The Bodhisatta = the pigeon (kapota),
the covetous monk = the crow (kāka).

Past Compare: Ja 42 Kapota, Ja 274 Lola, Ja 275 Rucira, Ja 375 Kapota.

Keywords: Greed, Deception, Animals, Birds.

“I feel quite well.” This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Jetavana, told concerning a greedy monk. This story of the greedy monk has already been fully told in diverse ways. In this case the Teacher asked him if he were greedy and on his confessing that it was so, said: “Not only now, but formerly also, monk, you were greedy, and through greed came by your death.” And herewith he told a story of the past. {3.225}

In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a young pigeon and lived in a wicker cage, in the kitchen of a rich merchant of Benares. Now a crow hankering after fish and flesh made friends with this pigeon, and lived in the same place. One day he caught sight of a lot of fish and meat and thought: “I’ll have this to eat,” and lay loudly groaning in the cage. And when the pigeon said: “Come, my friend, let us sally out for our food,” he refused to go, saying: “I am laid up with a fit of indigestion. Do you go.” And when the pigeon was gone, he said: “My troublesome enemy is off. [3.149] I will now eat fish and meat to my heart’s content.” And so thinking, he repeated the first verse:

1. “I feel quite well and at my ease,
Since Mister Pigeon off is gone.
My cravings I will now appease:
Potherbs and meat should strengthen one.”

So when the cook, who was roasting the fish and meat, came out of the kitchen, wiping away streams of sweat from his brow, the crow hopped out of his basket and hid himself in a basin of spices. The basin gave forth a ‘click’ sound, and the cook came in haste, and seizing the crow pulled out his feathers. And grinding some moist ginger and white mustard he pounded it with a rotten date, and smeared him all over with it, and rubbing it on with a potsherd {3.226} he wounded the bird. Then he fastened the potsherd on his neck with a string, and threw him back into the basket, and went off.

When the pigeon came back and saw him he said: “Who is this crane lying in my friend’s basket? He is a hot-tempered fellow and will come and kill this stranger.” And thus jesting, he spoke the second verse:

2. “Child of the Clouds, Cranes are conceived at the sound of thunder-clouds. cf. Meghadūta 9. with tufted crest,
Why did you steal my poor friend’s nest?
Come here, sir Crane. My friend the crow
Has a hot temper, you must know.”

The crow, on hearing this, uttered the third verse:

3. “Well may you laugh at such a sight,
For I am in a sorry plight.
The cook has plucked and basted me
With rotten dates and spicery.”

The pigeon, still making sport of him, repeated the fourth verse:

4. “Bathed and anointed well, I think,
You have your fill of food and drink.
Your neck so bright with jewel sheen,
Have you, friend, to Benares been?”

Then the crow repeated the fifth verse:

5. “Let not my friend or bitterest foe
On visit to Benares go.
They plucked me bare and as a jest
Have tied a potsherd on my breast.” {3.227}

The pigeon hearing this repeated the final verse:

6. “These evil habits to outgrow
Is hard with such a nature, crow.
Birds should be careful to avoid
The food they see by man enjoyed.” [3.150]

After thus reproving him, the pigeon no longer dwelt there, but spread his wings and flew elsewhere. But the crow died then and there.

The Teacher here ended his lesson and revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths the greedy monk attained fruition of the Second Path. “At that time the crow was the greedy monk, the pigeon was myself.”