Ja 429 Mahāsukajātaka
The Long Story about the Parrot (King) (9s)

Alternative Title: Mahāsuvajātaka (Cst)

In the present one monk has difficulties obtaining alms and decides to leave the village. The Buddha tells a story of a parrot who refused to leave a dead fig tree he had lived in, and how Sakka commended him and restored the tree.

The Bodhisatta = the king of the parrots (suvarājā),
Anuruddha = (the King of the Devas) Sakka.

Past Source: Ja 429 Mahāsuka,
Quoted at: Ja 430 Cullasuka,
Past Compare: Dhp-a II.9 Nigamavāsitissatthera.

Keywords: Contentment, Loyalty, Animals, Birds.

“Wherever fruitful trees.” This story the Teacher dwelling at Jetavana told concerning a certain monk. The story goes that he lived in a forest near a border village in the Kosala country, and received instruction in forms of meditation from the Teacher. The people made him a dwelling-place on a site where men continually passed to and fro, providing him with day and night quarters, and attentively ministered to him. In the very first month after he had entered upon the rainy season the village was burned down and the people had not so much as a seed left and were unable to supply his alms-bowl with savoury food; and though he was in a pleasant place of abode, he was so distressed for alms that he could not enter upon the Path or its Fruition. So when at the end of three months he went to visit the Teacher, after words of kindly greeting the Teacher hoped that though distressed for alms he had a pleasant place to live in. The monk told him how matters stood. The Teacher on hearing that he had pleasant quarters said: “Monk, if this is so, an ascetic ought to lay aside covetous ways, and be content to eat whatever food he can get, and to fulfil all the duties of a monastic. Sages of old when born into the world as animals, {3.491} though they lived on the powdered dust of the decayed [3.292] tree in which they had their abode, laid aside greedy desires and were contented to stay where they were, and fulfilled the law of love. Why then do you abandon a pleasant dwelling-place, because the food you receive is scanty and coarse?” And at his request the Teacher told a story of the past.

In the past many myriads of parrots lived in the Himālayas on the banks of the Ganges in a grove of fig trees. A king of the parrots there, when the fruit of the tree in which he dwelt had come to an end, ate whatever was left, whether shoot or leaf or bark or rind, and drank of water from the Ganges, and being very happy and contented he kept where he was. Owing to his happy and contented state the abode of Sakka was shaken. Sakka reflecting on the cause saw the parrot, and to test his virtue, by his supernatural power he withered up the tree, which became a mere stump perforated with holes, and stood to be buffeted by every blast of wind, and from the holes dust came out. The parrot king ate this dust and drank the water of the Ganges, and going nowhere else sat perched on the top of the fig-stump, thinking nothing of wind and sun.

Sakka noticed how very contented the parrot was, and said: “After hearing him speak of the virtue of friendship, I will come and give him his choice of a boon, and cause the fig tree to bear ambrosial fruit.” So he took the form of a royal goose, and preceded by Sujā in the shape of an Asura maiden, he went to the grove of fig trees, and perching on the bough of a tree close by, he entered into conversation with the parrot and spoke the first verse:

1. “Wherever fruitful trees abound,
A flock of hungry birds is found:
But should the trees all withered be,
Away at once the birds will flee.” {3.492}

And after these words, to drive the parrot thence, he spoke the second verse:

2. “Haste you, sir redbeak, to be gone;
Why do you sit and dream alone?
Come tell me, pray you, bird of spring,
To this dead stump why do you cling?”

Then the parrot said: “O goose, from a feeling of gratitude, I forsake not this tree,” and he repeated two verses:

3. “They who have been close friends from youth,
Mindful of goodness and of truth,
In life and death, in weal and woe
The claims of friendship ne’er forego.

4. I too would fain be kind and good
To one that long my friend has stood;
I wish to live, but have no heart
From this old tree, though dead, to part.” [3.293]

Sakka on hearing what he said was delighted, and praising him wished to offer him a choice, and uttered two verses: {3.493}

5. “I know your friendship and your grateful love,
Virtues that wise men surely must approve.

6. I offer you whate’er you will for choice;
Parrot, what boon would most your heart rejoice?”

On hearing this, the king parrot making his choice spoke the seventh verse:

7. “If you, O goose, what most I crave would give,
Grant that the tree I love, again may live.
Let it once more with its old vigour shoot,
Gather fresh sweetness and bear goodly fruit.”

Then Sakka, granting the boon, spoke the eighth verse:

8. “Lo! Friend, a fruitful and right noble tree,
Well fitted for your dwelling-place to be.
Let it once more with its old vigour shoot,
Gather fresh sweetness and bear goodly fruit.” {3.494}

With these words Sakka quit his present form, and manifesting the supernatural power of himself and Sujā, he took up water from the Ganges in his hand and dashed it against the fig tree stump. Straightaway the tree rose up rich in branch, and stem, and with honey-sweet fruit, and stood a charming sight, like unto the bare Jewel-Mount. The parrot king on seeing it was highly pleased, and singing the praises of Sakka he spoke the ninth verse:

9. “May Sakka and all loved by Sakka blesséd be,
As I today am blessed this goodly sight to see!”

Sakka, after granting the parrot his choice, and causing the fig tree to bear ambrosial fruit, returned with Sujātā to his own abode.

In illustration of this story these verses spoken after Fully Awakening were added at the close:

10. “Soon as king parrot wisely made his choice,
The tree once more put forth its fruit again;
Then Sakka with his queen did fly amain
To where in Nandana the gods rejoice.”

The Teacher, his lesson ended, said: “Thus, monk, sages of old though born in animal forms were free from covetousness. Why then do you, after being ordained under so excellent a dispensation, follow greedy ways? Go and dwell in the same place.” And he gave him a form of meditation, and the monk went back and by spiritual insight became an Arahat. He thus identified the Jātaka, “At that time Sakka was Anuruddha, and the parrot king was myself.”