Ja 395 Kākajātaka
The Story about the Crow (6s)

Alternative Title: Pārāvatajātaka (Cst)

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 when he was seen by the pigeon he pretended it was his new style.

The Bodhisatta = the pigeon (pārāvata),
the greedy monk = the crow (kāka).

Present Source: Ja 434 Cakkavāka,
Quoted at: Ja 42 Kapota, Ja 260 Dūta, Ja 395 Kāka.

Keywords: Greed, Deception, Animals, Birds.

“Our old friend.” The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning a greedy monk. The occasion is as above. [I include the following from the parallel story at Ja 42 Kapotajātaka.]

This story the Teacher dwelling at Jetavana told concerning a greedy monk. He was, it was said, greedy after the Buddhist requisites and casting off all duties of master and pastor, entered Sāvatthi quite early, and after drinking excellent rice-gruel served with many a kind of solid food in the house of Visākhā, and after eating in the daytime various dainties, paddy, meat and boiled rice, not satisfied with this he went about thence to the house of Culla Anāthapiṇḍika, and the king of Kosala, and various others.

But on this occasion the monks told the Teacher, saying: “Sir, this monk is greedy.” Said the Teacher, “Is it true as they say, monk, that you are greedy?” “Yes, sir,” was the reply.“So too in bygone days, monk, you were greedy, and by reason of your greediness lost your life; also you caused the wise and good to lose their home.” And so saying he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a pigeon and lived in a nest-basket in the kitchen of a [3.196] Benares merchant. A crow became intimate with him and lived there also. Here the story is to be expanded. [I have expanded the story also from Ja 42 Kapotajātaka.]

Now one day the Lord High Treasurer had in a store of fish which the cook hung up about the kitchen. Filled with greedy longing at the sight, the crow made up his mind to stay at home next day and treat himself to this excellent fare.

So all the night long he lay groaning away; and next day, when the Bodhisatta was starting in search of food, and cried, “Come along, friend crow,” the crow replied, “Go without me, my lord; for I have a pain in my stomach.” “Friend,” answered the Bodhisatta, “I never heard of crows having pains in their stomachs before. True, crows feel faint in each of the three night-watches; but if they eat a lamp-wick, their hunger is appeased for the moment. cf. Vol. n. p. 362 (Pāli text). You must be hankering after the fish in the kitchen here. Come now, man’s food will not agree with you. Do not give way like this, but come and seek your food with me.” “Indeed, I am not able, my lord,” said the crow. “Well, your own conduct will show,” said the Bodhisatta. “Only fall not a prey to greed, but stand steadfast.” And with this exhortation, away he flew to find his daily food.

The cook took several kinds of fish, and dressed some one way, some another. Then lifting the lids off his saucepans a little to let the steam out, he put a colander on the top of one and went outside the door, where he stood wiping the sweat from his brow. Just at that moment out popped the crow’s head from the basket. A glance told him that the cook was away, and, “Now or never,” he thought, “is my time. The only question is shall I choose minced meat or a big lump?” Arguing that it takes a long time to make a full meal of minced meat, he resolved to take a large piece of fish and sit and eat it in his basket. So out he flew and alighted on the colander. “Click” went the colander.

“What can that be?” said the cook, running in on hearing the noise. Seeing the crow, he cried, “Oh, there’s that rascally crow wanting to eat my master’s dinner. I have to work for my master, not for that rascal! What’s he to me, I should like to know?”

The cook pulled out the crow’s feathers and sprinkled him with flour, then piercing a cowrie he hung it on the crow’s neck and threw him into a basket. The Bodhisatta came from the wood, and seeing him made a jest and spoke the first verse:

1. “Our old friend! Look at him!
A jewel bright he wears;
His beard in gallant trim,
How good our friend appears!” {3.315}

The crow hearing him spoke the second verse:

2. “My nails and hair had grown so fast,
They hampered me in all I did:
A barber came along at last,
And of superfluous hair I’m rid.”

Then the Bodhisatta spoke the third verse:

3. “Granted you got a barber then,
Who has cropped your hair so well:
Round your neck, will you explain,
What’s that tinkling like a bell?”

Then the crow uttered two verses:

4. “Men of fashion wear a gem
Round the neck, it’s often done;
I am imitating them,
Don’t suppose it’s just for fun.

5. If you’re really envious
Of my beard that’s trimmed so true:
I can get you barbered thus;
You may have the jewel too.”

The Bodhisatta hearing him spoke the sixth verse:

6. “Nay, ’tis you they best become,
Gem and beard that’s trimmed so true.
I find your presence troublesome;
I go with a good-day to you.” {3.316}

With these words he flew up and went elsewhere; and the crow died then and there.

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, After the Truths, the greedy monk was established in the fruition of the Third Path. “At that time the crow was the greedy monk, the pigeon was myself.”