Ja 451 Cakkavākajātaka
The Story about the Ruddy Geese (10s)

In the present one monk is very greedy, and the monks talk about him. The Buddha tells a story about a crow who tried various kinds of food, in the hope of looking better, and the goose who taught him that virtue, not food, makes one attractive.

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

Past Compare: Ja 434 Cakkavāka, Ja 451 Cakkavāka.

Keywords: Greed, Virtue.

“Fine-coloured are you.” {4.70} This story the Teacher told while dwelling in Jetavana, about a greedy monk. This man, it is said, dissatisfied with his mendicant’s garb and so forth, used to march about asking, “Where is there a meal for the Saṅgha? Where is there an invitation?” and when he heard mention [4.45] of meat, he showed great delight. Then some well-meaning monks, from kindness towards him, told the Teacher about it. The Teacher summoning him, asked, “Is it true, monk, as I hear, that you are greedy?” “Yes, my lord, it is true,” said he. “Monk,” said the Teacher, “why are you greedy, after embracing a dispensation like ours, that leads to safety? The state of greed is sinful; long ago, by reason of greed, you were not satisfied with the dead bodies of elephants and other offal in Benares, and went away into the mighty forest.” So saying, he told a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, a greedy crow was not content with the corpses of elephants in Benares, and all the other offal. “Now I wonder,” he thought, “what the forests may be like?” So to the forest he went; but neither was he satisfied with the wild fruits that he found there, and proceeded to the Ganges. As he passed along the bank of the Ganges, spying a pair of ruddy geese, cakkavāko, Anas Casarca. he thought: “Yonder birds are very beautiful; I suppose they find plenty of meat to eat on this Ganges bank. I will question them, and if I too can eat their food doubtless I shall have a fine colour like them.” So perching not far from the pair, he put his question to the ruddy goose by reciting two verses:

1. “Fine-coloured are you, fair of form, all plump in body, red of hue,
O Goose! I swear you are most fair, your face and senses clear and true!

2. Sitting on the Ganges’ bank you feedest on the pike and bream,
Roach, carp, and all the other fish that swim along the Ganges’ stream!” The fish named are: pāvusa, vālaja, muñja, rohita (Cyprinus Rohita), and pāṭhīna (Silvans Boalis).

The ruddy goose contradicted him by reciting the third verse: {4.71}

3. “No bodies from the tide I eat, nor lying in the wood:
All kinds of weed – on them I feed; that, friend, is all my food.”

Then the crow recited two verses:

4. “I cannot credit what the goose avers about his meat.
Things in the village soused with salt and oil are what I eat,

5. A mess of rice, all clean and nice, which a man makes and pours
Upon his meat; but yet, my colour, goose, is not like yours.”

Thereupon the ruddy goose recited to him the remaining verses showing forth the reason of his ugly colour, and declaring righteousness:

6. “Beholding wrong your heart within, destroying humankind,
In fear and fright your food you eat; therefore this hue you find.

7. Crow, you erred in the world by defilements of former lives,
You have no pleasure in your food; ’tis this your colour gives.

8. But, friend, I eat and do no hurt, not anxious, at my ease,
Having no trouble, fearing nought from any enemies. [4.46]

9. Thus you should do, and mighty grow, renounce your evil ways,
Walk in the world and do no hurt; then all will love and praise.

10. Who to all creatures kindly is, nor wounds nor makes to wound,
Who harries not, none harry him, ’gainst him no hate is found.” {4.72}

“Therefore if you wish to be beloved by the world, abstain from all evil passions,” so said the ruddy goose, declaring righteousness. The crow replied, “Don’t prate to me of your manner of feeding!” and crying, “Caw! Caw!” flew away through the air to the dunghill of Benares.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he declared the Truths; now at the conclusion of the Truths, the greedy monk was established in the fruit of the Third Path), “At that time, the greedy monk was the crow, Rāhula’s mother was the mate of the ruddy goose, and I was the ruddy goose myself.”