Ja 476 Javanahaṁsajātaka
The Story about the Swift Goose (13s)
In the present the Buddha teaches about the quickness of the decay of life’s elements. Then he tells a story of a goose who was swifter than the sun, and when asked if anything was swifter than he, taught Dhamma to the king, thereby converting him.
The Bodhisatta = the quick goose (javanahaṁsa),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
Sāriputta = the middle (goose) (majjhima),
Moggallāna = the youngest (goose) (kaniṭṭha),
the Buddha’s disciples = the other geese (sesahaṁsagaṇā).
Keywords: Impermanence, Animals, Birds.
“Come, goose.” This story the Teacher told at Jetavana about the Daḷhadhammasuttanta or the Parable of the Strong Men. [This refers to SN 20.6, Dhanuggahasutta.] The Fortunate One said: “Suppose, monks, four archers to stand at the four points of the compass, strong men, well trained and of great skill, perfect in archery and then let a man come and say, “If these four archers, strong, well trained, and of great skill, perfect in archery
Two days after this teaching, they were talking about it in the Dhamma Hall, “Monks, the Teacher in his own peculiar province as Buddha, illustrating the nature of what makes up life, showed it to be transient and weak, and smote with extreme terror monks and unconverted alike. Oh, the might of a Buddha!” The Teacher entered and asked what they talked of. They told him; and he said: “It is no marvel, monks, if I in my omniscience alarm the monks by my teaching, and show how transient are life’s elements. Even I, when without natural cause A mode of coming into existence all of a sudden, without the natural processes. I was conceived by a goose, showed forth the transient nature of the elements of life, and by my teaching alarmed the whole court of a king, together with the king of Benares himself.” So saying, he told a story of the past.
In the past, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Great Being was born as a swift goose, which lived in Mount Cittakūṭa in a
One day after this, when the king was in his park, and went to Lake Anotatta, the bird flew to the king, having water on one wing and powder of sandalwood on the other; with the water he sprinkled the king, and cast the powder upon him, then while the company looked on, away he flew with his flock to Cittakūṭa. From that time the king used to long for the Great Being; he would linger, watching the way by which he came, and thinking: “Today my comrade will come.”
Now the two youngest geese belonging to the flock of the Great Being, made up their minds to fly a race with the sun; so they asked leave of the Great Being, to try a race with the sun. “My lads,” said he, “the sun’s speed is swift, and you will never be able to race with him. You will perish in the course, so do not go.” A second time they asked, and a third time; but the Bodhisatta withstood them up to the third time of asking. But they stood to it, not knowing their own strength, and were resolved without telling the king to fly with the sun. So before sunrise they had taken their places on the peak of the Mount Yugandhara. One of the seven great ranges that surround Mount Meru. The Great Being missed them, and asked whither they had gone. When he heard what had happened, he thought: “They will never be able to fly with the sun, but will perish in the course. I will save their lives.” So he too went to the peak of Yugandhara, and sat beside them.
When the sun’s round showed over the horizon, the young geese rose, and darted forward along with the sun; the Great Being flew forward with them. The youngest flew on into the forenoon, then grew faint; in the joints of his wings he felt as if a fire had been kindled. Then he made a signal to the Great Being, “Brother, I can’t do it!” “Fear not,” said the Great Being, “I will save you,” and taking him on his outspread wings, he soothed him, and conveyed him to Mount Cittakūṭa, and placed him in the midst of the geese. Then he flew off, and catching up the sun, went
At that moment the sun was plumb overhead. The Great Being thought: “Today I will test the sun’s strength,” and darting back with one swoop, he perched on Yugandhara. Then rising with one swoop he overtook the sun, and flying now in front, now behind, thought to himself, “For me to fly with the sun is profitless, born of mere folly: what is he to me? Away I will go to Benares, and there tell my comrade the king a message of righteousness and truth.” Then turning, before yet the sun had moved from the middle of the sky, he traversed the whole world from end to end; then slackening speed, traversed from end to end the whole of Jambudīpa, and came at last to Benares.
The whole city, twelve leagues in compass, was as it were under the bird’s shadow, The meaning is, the bird circled so fast over it as to give the appearance of a canopy. So on p. 133 of the “golden mat.” there was not a crack or crevice; then as by degrees the speed slackened, holes and crevices appeared in the sky. The Great Being went slower, and came down from the air, and alighted in front of a window. “My comrade is come!” cried the king in great joy; and getting a golden seat for the bird to perch on, said: “Come in, friend, and sit here,” and recited the first verse:
1. “Come, noble goose, come sit you here; dear is your sight to me;
Now you are master of the place; choose anything you see.”
The Great Being perched on the golden seat. The king anointed him under the wings with unguents a hundred times refined, nay, a thousand times, gave him sweet rice and sugared water in a golden dish, and talked with him in a voice of honey:
He then perched on the top of the stone pillar, and placing the four archers looking away from the pillar towards the four points, said: “O king, let these four men shoot four arrows at the same moment in four
Then the king asked him, “Well, friend, is there any speed swifter than yours?” “There is, my friend. Swifter than my swiftest a hundredfold, a thousandfold, nay a hundred thousandfold, is the decay of the elements of life in living beings: so they crumble away, so are they destroyed.” Thus he made clear, how the world of form crumbles away, being destroyed moment by moment. The king hearing this was in fear of death, could not keep his senses, but fell in a faint. The multitude were in despair, they sprinkled the king’s face with water, and brought him round. Then the Great Being said to him, “O great king, fear not;
2. “By hearing of the loved one love is fed,
By sight the craving for the lost falls dead:
Since sight and hearing makes men lief and dear,
With sight of you let me be favouréd.
3. Dear is your voice, and dearer far your presence when I see:
Then since I love the sight of you, O Goose, come dwell with me!”
The Bodhisatta said:
4. “Ever would I dwell with you, in the honour thus conferred;
But you might say in wine one day: ‘Broil me that royal bird!’ ”
“No,” said the king, “then I will never touch wine or strong drink,” and he made this promise in the following verse:
5. “Accursed be both food and drink I should love more than you;
And I will taste no drop nor sup while you shall stay with me!”
After this the Bodhisatta recited six verses:
6. “The cry of jackals or of birds is understood with ease;
Yea, but the word of men, O king, is darker far than these!
7. A man may think, this is my friend, my comrade, of my kin,
But friendship goes, and often hate and enmity begin. These two couplets occur again in No. 478 (p. 141).
8. Who has your heart, is near to you, with you, where’er he be;
But who dwells with you, and your heart estranged, afar is he.
9. Who in your house of kindly heart shall be
Is kindly still though far across the sea:
Who in your house shall hostile be of heart,
Hostile he is though ocean-wide apart.
10. Your foes, O lord of chariots! Though near you, are afar:
But, fosterer of your realm! The good in heart closely linked are.
11. Who stay too long, find oftentimes that friend is changed to foe;
Then ere I lose your friendship, I will take my leave, and go.”
Then the king said to him:
12. “Though I with folded hands beseech, you will not give me ear;
You spare no word for us, to whom your service would be dear
I crave one favour: come again and pay a visit here.”
Then the Bodhisatta said:
13. “If nothing comes to snap our life, O king! If you and I
Still live, O fosterer of your folk! Perhaps I’ll hither fly,
And we may see each other yet, as days and nights go by.”
With this address to the king, the Great Being departed to Cittakūṭa.
When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he said: “Thus, monks, long ago, even when I was born as one of the animals, I showed the frailty of all life’s elements, and declared the Dhamma.” So saying, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was the king, Moggallāna was the youngest bird, Sāriputta was the second, the Buddha’s followers were all geese of the flock, and I myself was the swift goose.”
last updated: November 2021