Ja 434 Cakkavākajātaka
The Story about the Ruddy Geese

Alternative Title: Kākajātaka (Comm)

In the present one monk is very greedy in all his doings, troubling the supporters with his excessive needs. The Buddha tells a story of a crow who wanted to be as beautiful as the ruddy goose, and asked them what they ate, but was rebuked for the harm he caused to creatures by his omnivorous eating habits.

The Bodhisatta = the ruddy goose (cakkavāka),
Rāhulamātā = (his wife) the ruddy goose (cakkavākī),
the greedy monk = the crow (kāka).

Present Source: Ja 434 Cakkavāka,
Quoted at: Ja 42 Kapota, Ja 260 Dūta, Ja 395 Kāka,
Past Compare: Ja 434 Cakkavāka, Ja 451 Cakkavāka.

Keywords: Greed, Harm.

“Twin pair of birds.” {3.520} This story the Teacher dwelling at Jetavana told concerning a greedy monk. He was, it was said, greedy after the 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 [3.310] to the house of Culla Anāthapiṇḍika, and the king of Kosala, and various others.

So one day a discussion was raised in the Dhamma Hall concerning his greediness. When the Teacher heard what they were discussing, he sent for that monk and asked him if it were true that he was greedy. And when he said: “Yes,” the Teacher asked, “Why, monk, are you greedy? Formerly too through your greediness, not being satisfied with the dead bodies of elephants, you left Benares and wandering about on the bank of the Ganges, entered the Himālayas.” And hereupon he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, a greedy crow went about eating the bodies of dead elephants, and not satisfied with them he thought: “I will eat the fat of fish on the bank of the Ganges,” and after staying a few days there eating dead fish he went into the Himālayas and lived on various kinds of wild fruits. Coming to a large lotus-tank abounding in fish and turtles, he saw there two golden-coloured geese who lived on the aquatic eelgrass plant. He thought: “These birds are very beautiful and well-favoured: their food must be delightful. I will ask them what it is, and by eating the same I too shall become golden-coloured.” So he went to them, and after the usual kindly greetings to them as they sat perched on the end of a bough, he spoke the first verse in connection with their praises:

1. “Twin pair of birds in yellow dressed,
So joyous roaming to and fro;
What kind of birds do men love best?
This is what I would want to know.” {3.521}

The ruddy goose on hearing this spoke the second verse:

2. “O bird, of human kind the pest,
We above other birds are blessed.
All lands with our devotion The ruddy goose, in the poetry of the Hindus, is their turtle-dove. See Wilson’s Meghadūta, p. 77. ring
And men and birds our praises sing.
Know then that ruddy geese are we,
And fearless wander o’er the sea.” By the word “sea” the Ganges is here intended.

Hearing this the crow spoke the third verse:

3. “What fruits upon the sea abound,
And whence may flesh for geese be found?
Say on what heavenly food you live,
Such beauty and such strength to give.” {3.522}

Then the ruddy goose spoke the fourth verse:

4. “No fruits are on the sea to eat,
And whence should ruddy geese have meat?
Eelgrass plant, stripped of its skin,
Yields food without a taint of sin.” [3.311]

Then the crow spoke two verses:

5. “I like not, goose, the words you use:
I once believed the food we choose
To nourish us, ought to agree
With what our outward form might be.

6. But now I doubt it, for I eat
Rice, salt, and oil, and fruit, and meat:
As heroes feast returned from fight,
So I too in good cheer delight.
But though I live on dainty fare,
My looks with yours may not compare.” {3.523}

Then the ruddy goose told the reason why the crow failed to attain to personal beauty, while he himself attained to it, and spoke the remaining verses:

7. “Not satisfied with fruit, or garbage found
Within the precincts of the charnel ground,
The greedy crow pursues in wanton flight
The casual prey that tempts his appetite.

8. But all that thus shall work their wicked will,
And for their pleasure harmless creatures kill,
Upbraided by their conscience pine away,
And see their strength and comeliness decay.

9. So happy beings that no creatures harm
In form gain vigour and in looks a charm,
For beauty surely be it understood
Depends not wholly on the kind of food.” {3.524}

Thus did the ruddy goose in many ways reproach the crow. And the crow having brought this reproach upon himself said: “I want not your beauty.” And with a cry of, “Caw, Caw,” he flew away.

The Teacher, his lesson ended, revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths the greedy monk attained to fruition of the Second Path, “In those days the crow was the greedy monk, the female goose was the mother of Rāhula, the male goose myself.”