Ja 471 Meṇḍakajātaka
The Story about (the Question about) the Goat (12s)

Alternative Title: Meṇḍakapañhajātaka (Cst)

There is no story of the present. The Buddha tells a story of a dog who was caught stealing meat, and a goat was caught stealing grass, so they made a pact to work together as no one would suspect a goat of stealing meat, or a dog of taking grass. Only the wise man Mahosadha could solve the problem of how they became friends.

The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha.

Past Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 471 Meṇḍaka.

Keywords: Cooperation, Theft, Animals.

The Problem of Meṇḍaka will be given under the Ummaggajātaka [Ja 546].

[One] day, the king after breakfast was walking up and down in the long walk when he saw through a doorway a goat and a dog making friends. Now this goat was in the habit of eating the grass thrown to the elephants beside their stable before they touched it; the elephant-keepers beat it and drove it away; and as it ran away bleating, one man ran quickly after and struck it on the back with a stick. The goat with its back humped in pain went and lay down by the great wall of the palace, on a bench.

Now there was a dog which had fed all its days upon the bones, skin, and refuse of the royal kitchen. That same day the cook had finished preparing the food, and had dished it up, and while he was wiping the sweat off his body the dog could no longer bear the smell of the meat and fish, and entered the kitchen, pushed off the cover and began eating the meat. But the cook hearing the noise of the dishes ran in and saw the dog: he clapped to the door and beat it with sticks and stones. The dog dropped the meat from his mouth and ran off yelping; and the cook seeing him run, ran after and struck him full on the back with a stick. The dog humping his back and holding up one leg came to the place where the goat was lying. Then the goat said: “Friend, why do you hump your back? Are you suffering from colic?” The dog replied, “You are humping your back too, have you an attack of colic?” He told his tale. Then the goat added, “Well, can you ever go to the kitchen again?” “No, it is as much as my life’s worth. Can you go to the stable again?” “No more than you, ’tis as much as my life’s worth.” Well, they began to wonder, how they could live?

Then the goat said: “If we could manage to live together I have an idea.” “Pray tell it.” “Well, sir, you must go to the stable; the elephant-keepers will take no notice of you, for (think they) he eats no grass; and you must bring me my grass. I will go to the kitchen, and the cook will take no notice of me, thinking that I eat no meat, so I will bring you your meat.” “That’s a good plan,” said the other, and they made a bargain of it: the dog went to the stable and brought a bundle of grass in his teeth and laid it beside the great wall; the other went to the kitchen and brought away a great lump of meat in his mouth to the same place. The dog ate the meat and the goat ate the grass; and so by this device they lived together in harmony by the great wall.

When the king saw their friendship he thought: “Never have I seen such a thing before. Here are two natural enemies living in friendship together. I will put this in the form of a question to my wise men; those who cannot understand it I will banish from the realm, and if anyone guesses it I will declare him the sage incomparable and show him all honour. There is no time today; but tomorrow when they come to wait upon me I will ask them the question.

So next day when the wise men had come to wait upon him, he put his question in these words:

1. “Two natural enemies, who never before in the world could come within seven paces of each other, have become friends and go around inseparable. What is the reason?”

After this he added another verse:

2. “If this day before noon you cannot solve me this question, I will banish you all. I have no need of ignorant men.”

Now Senaka was seated in the first seat, the sage in the last; and thought the sage to himself, “This king is too slow of wit to have thought out this question by himself, he must have seen something. If I can get one day’s grace I will solve the riddle. Senaka is sure to find some means to postpone it for a day.” And the other four wise men could see nothing, being like men in a dark room: Senaka looked at the Bodhisatta to see what he would do, the Bodhisatta looked at Senaka. By the way Mahosadha looked, Senaka perceived his state of mind; he sees that even this wise man does not understand the question, he cannot answer it today but wants a day’s grace; he would fulfil this wish. So he laughed loudly in a reassuring manner and said: “What, sire, you will banish us all if we cannot answer your question?” “Yes, sir.” “Ah, you know that it is a knotty question, and we cannot solve it; do but wait a little. A knotty question cannot be solved in a crowd. We will think it over, and afterwards explain it to you. So let us have a chance.” So he said relying on the Great Being, and then recited these two verses:

3. “In a great crowd, where is a great din of people assembled, our minds are distracted, our thoughts cannot concentrate, and we cannot solve the question.

4. But alone, calm in thought, apart they will go and ponder on the matter, in solitude grappling with it firmly, then they will solve it for you, O lord of men.”

The king, exasperated though he was at his speech, said, threatening them, “Very well, think it over and tell me; if you do not, I will banish you.” The four wise men left the palace, and Senaka said to the others, “Friends, a delicate question this which the king has put; if we cannot solve it there is great fear for us. So take a good meal and reflect carefully.” After this they went each to his own house.

The sage on his part rose and sought out queen Udumbarā, and to her he said: “O queen, where was the king most of today and yesterday?” “Walking up and down the long walk, good sir, and looking out of the window.” “Ah,” thought the Bodhisatta, “he must have seen something there.” So he went to the place and looked out and saw the doings of the goat and the dog. “The king’s question is solved!” he concluded, and home he went. The three others found out nothing, and came to Senaka, who asked, “Have you found out the question?” “No, master.” “If so, the king will banish you, and what will you do?” “But you have found it out?” “Indeed no, not I.” “If you cannot find it out, how can we? We roared like lions before the king, and said, ‘Let us think and we will solve it;’ and now if we cannot, he will be angry. What are we to do?” “This question is not for us to solve: no doubt the sage has solved it in a hundred ways.” “Then let us go to him.”

So they came all four to the Bodhisatta’s door, and sent to announce their coming, and entering spoke politely to him; then standing on one side they asked the Great Being, “Well, sir, have you thought out the question?” “If I have not, who will? Of course I have.” “Then tell us too.” He thought to himself, “If I do not tell them, the king will banish them, and will honour me with the seven precious things. But let not these fools perish – I will tell them.” So he made them sit down on low seats, and to uplift their hands in salutation, and without telling them what the king had really seen, he composed four verses, and taught them one each in the Pāli language, to recite when the king should ask them, and sent them away. Next day they went to wait on the king, and sat where they were told to sit, and the king asked Senaka, “Have you solved the question, Senaka?” “Sire, if I do not know it who can?” “Tell me, then.” “Listen, my lord,” and he recited a verse as he had been taught:

5. “Young beggars and young princes like and delight in ram’s flesh; dog’s flesh they do not eat. Yet there might be friendship betwixt ram and dog.”

Although Senaka recited the verse he did not know its meaning; but the king did because he had seen the thing. “Senaka has found it out,” he thought; and then turned to Pukkusa and asked him. “What? Am not I a wise man?” asked Pukkusa, and recited his verse as he had been taught:

6. “They take off a goatskin to cover the horse’s back withal, but a dogskin they do not use for covering: yet there might be friendship betwixt ram and dog.”

Neither did he understand the matter, but the king thought he did because he had seen the thing. Then he asked Kāvinda and he also recited his verse:

7. “Twisted horns has a ram, the dog has none at all; one eats grass, one flesh: yet there might be friendship betwixt ram and dog.”

“He has found it out too,” thought the king, and passed on to Devinda; who with the others recited his verse as he had been taught:

8. “Grass and leaves both the ram eat, the dog neither grass nor leaves; the dog would take a hare or a cat: yet there might be friendship betwixt ram and dog.”

Next the king questioned the sage, “My son, do you understand this question?” “Sire, who else can understand it from Avīci to Bhavagga, from lowest hell to highest heaven?” “Tell me, then.” “Listen, sire,” and he made clear his knowledge of the fact by reciting these two verses:

9. “The ram, with eight half-feet on his four feet, and eight hooves, unobserved, brings meat for the other, and he brings grass for him.

10. The chief of Videha, the lord of men, on his terrace beheld with his own eyes the interchange of food given by each to the other, between bow-wow and full-mouth.”

The king, not knowing that the others had their knowledge through the Bodhisatta, was delighted to think that all five had found out the riddle each by his own wisdom, and recited this verse:

11. “No small gain is it that I have men so wise in my house. A matter profound and subtle they have penetrated with noble speech, the clever men!”

So he said to them, “One good turn deserves another,” and made his return in the following verse:

12. “To each I give a chariot and a female mule, to each a rich village, very choice, these I give to all the wise men, delighted at their noble speech.”

All this he gave.