Ja 438 Tittirajātaka
The Story about the (Wise) Partridge (9s)
Alternative Title: Daddarajātaka (Cst)
In the present the monks are discussing about how Devadatta goes round trying to kill the Buddha. The latter tells a story of how a partridge listened to a famous teacher and became learned in the Vedas, how a false ascetic killed and ate him, and the vengeance the bird’s friends took on him.
The Bodhisatta = the wise partridge (tittirapaṇḍita),
Mahākassapa = the world-famous teacher (disāpāmokkho ācariyo),
Sāriputta = the lion (sīha),
Moggallāna = the tiger (vyaggha),
Uppalavaṇṇā = the iguana (godhā),
Devadatta = the cheating matted-haired ascetic (kūṭajaṭila).
Keywords: Killing, Deception, Devas, Animals, Birds.
“Your harmless offspring.” This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Vulture Peak, told concerning the going about of Devadatta to slay him. It was at this time that they started a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Alas, sirs, how shameless and base was Devadatta. Joining himself to Ajātasattu, he formed a plot to kill the excellent and supreme Buddha, by the hiring of archers, the hurling of a rock, and the letting loose of Nālāgiri.” The Teacher came and inquired of the monks what they were discussing in their assembly, and on being told what it was said,
In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, a world-renowned teacher at Benares gave instruction in science to five hundred young brahmins. One day he thought: “So long as I dwell here,
Now a lizard along with her two young ones came to dwell in the hut of the teacher, and a lion and a tiger ministered to him. A partridge too constantly resided there, and from hearing their master teach sacred texts to his pupils, the partridge got to know the three Vedas. And the young brahmins became very friendly with the bird. By and by before the youths had attained to proficiency in the sciences, their master died. His pupils had his body burnt, set up a Stūpa of sand over his ashes, and with weeping and lamentation adorned it with all manner of flowers.
So the partridge asked them why they wept. “Our master,” they replied, “has died while our studies are still incomplete.” “If this is so, do not be distressed: I will teach you science.” “How do you know it?” “I used to listen to your master, while he was teaching you, and got the three Vedas by heart.” “Then do you impart to us what you have learned by heart.”
At that time men proclaimed a high festival – it was like a gathering together of the people on a mountain top. The parents of the youths sent a message for their sons to come and see the festival. They told the partridge, and entrusting the learned bird and all the hermitage to the care of the lizard, they left for their several cities. At that moment an ill-conditioned The reading is doubtful. Another reading is nikkāruṇiko, “pitiless”: Morris for niggatiko suggests nigaṇtho, “naked ascetic”. wicked ascetic wandering about here and there came to this spot.
The lizard on seeing him entered into friendly talk with him,
In the evening the lizard came back and missing her young ones went about looking for them. A Tree Devatā observing the lizard all of a tremble because she could not find her young ones, by an exercise of divine power stood in the hollow of the trunk of the tree and said: “Cease trembling, lizard: your young ones and the partridge and the calf and cow have been killed by this wicked fellow. Give him a bite in the neck, and so bring about his death.” And thus talking with the lizard the deity spoke the first verse:
1. “Your harmless offspring he did eat,
Though you did rice in plenty give;
Your teeth make in his flesh to meet,
Nor let the wretch escape alive.”
Then the lizard repeated two verses:
2. “Filth does his greedy soul, like nurse’s garb, besmear,
His person all is proof against my fangs, I fear.
3. Flaws by the base ingrate are everywhere espied,
Not by the gift of worlds can he be satisfied.”
The lizard so saying thought: “This fellow will wake up and eat me,” and to save her own life she fled. Now the lion and the tiger were on very friendly terms with the partridge. Sometimes they used to come and see the partridge, and sometimes the partridge went and taught the Dhamma to them. Today the lion said to the tiger, “It is a long time since we saw the partridge; it must be seven or eight days, go and bring back news of him.” The tiger readily assented, and he arrived at the place the very moment that the lizard had run away, and found the vile wretch sleeping. In his matted locks were to be seen some feathers of the partridge,
King tiger seeing all this and missing the partridge from his golden cage thought: “These creatures must have been killed by this wicked fellow,” and he roused him by a kick. At the sight of the tiger the man was terribly frightened. Then the tiger asked, “Did you kill and eat these creatures?” “I neither killed nor ate them.” “Vile wretch, if you did not kill them, tell me who else would? And if you do not tell me, you are a dead man,” Frightened for his life he said: “Yes, sir, I did kill and eat the young lizards and the cow and the calf, but I did not kill the
4. “Why thus in haste, Subāhu, Subāhu (strong-arm) is the name of the tiger. Compare no. 361 supra, p. 127. are you here,
And why with you does this good youth appear?
What need for urgency is here, I pray?
Quick, tell me truly and without delay.”
On hearing this the tiger spoke the fifth verse:
5. “The partridge, sire, our very worthy friend,
I doubt, today has come to a bad end:
This fellow’s antecedents make me fear
We may ill news of our good partridge hear.”
Then the lion spoke the sixth verse:
6. “What may the fellow’s antecedents be,
And what defilements he confessed to you,
To make you doubt that some misfortune may
Have fallen on the learned bird today?”
Then in answer to him king tiger repeated the remaining verses:
7. “As pedlar through Kāliṅga land
Rough roads he travelled, staff in hand;
With acrobats he has been found,
And harmless beast in toils has bound;
8. With dicers too has often played,
And snares for little birds has laid;
In crowds with cudgel-sticks has fought,
And gain by measuring corn has sought:
False to his vows, in midnight fray
Wounded, he washed the blood away:
His hands he burned through being bold
To snatch at food too hot to hold.
9. Such was the life I heard he led,
Such defilements upon his head,
And since we know the cow is dead,
And feathers midst his locks appear,
I greatly for friend partridge fear.”
The lion asked the man, “Did you kill the learned partridge?” “Yes, my lord, I did.” The lion on hearing him speak the truth, was anxious to
The Teacher ended his lesson saying: “Thus, monks, did Devadatta of old too go about to kill me,” and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the ascetic was Devadatta, the lizard Kisāgotamī, the tiger Moggallāna, the lion Sāriputta, the world-renowned teacher Kassapa, and the learned partridge was myself.”
last updated: November 2021