Book XIV. Pakiṇṇakanipāta
The Section with a Miscellaneous Amount of Verses (484-496)
Ja 484 Sālikedārajātaka
The Story about the Rice Field (Pak)
In the present one monk supports his parents who have fallen into poverty and have no one left at home to support them. When the Buddha finds out he tells a story of a parrot who first fed his children and his parents, and then all those in need; and how his captor set him free when he heard of his good deeds.
The Bodhisatta = the king of the parrots (suvarājā),
the Buddha’s disciples = the parrot’s followers (suvagaṇā),
Ānanda = the brahmin (brāhmaṇa),
Channa = the guardian of the fields (khettapāla),
members of the royal family = the mother and father (mātāpitaro).
Present Source: Ja 540 Sāma,
Quoted at: Ja 164 Gijjha, Ja 398 Sutano, Ja 399 Gijjha, Ja 455 Mātiposaka, Ja 484 Sālikedāra, Ja 513 Jayaddisa, Ja 532 Sonananda.
Keywords: Filial piety, Gratitude, Duty, Animals, Birds.
“The crop of rice.”
This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about a certain monk who supported his mother. They say that there was a wealthy merchant at Sāvatthi, who was worth eighteen crores; and he had a son who was very dear and winning to his father and mother. One day the youth went upon the terrace of the house, and opened a window and looked down on the street; and when he saw the great crowd going to Jetavana with perfumes and garlands in their hands to hear the Dhamma preached, he exclaimed that he would go too.
So having ordered perfumes and garlands to be brought, he went to the monastery, and having distributed robes, medicines, drinks, etc. to the assembly and honoured the Fortunate One with perfumes and garlands, he sat down on one side. After hearing the Dhamma, and perceiving the evil consequences of desire and the blessings arising from adopting the ascetic life, when the assembly broke up he asked the Fortunate One for ordination, but he was told that the Tathāgatas do not ordain anyone who has not obtained the permission of his parents; so he went away, and lived a week without food, and having at last obtained his parents’ consent, he returned and begged for ordination. The Teacher sent a monk who ordained him; and after he was ordained he obtained great honour and gain; he won the favour of his teachers and preceptors, and having received full orders he mastered the Dhamma in five years.
Then he thought to himself, “I live here distracted – it is not suitable for me,” and he became anxious to reach the goal of insight; so having obtained instruction in meditation from his teacher, he departed to a frontier village and dwelt in the forest, and there having entered a course of insight, however much he laboured and strove for twelve years, he failed to attain any special insight.
His parents also, as time went on, became poor, for those who hired their land or carried on merchandise for them, finding out that there was no son or brother in the family to enforce the payment, seized what they could lay their hands upon and ran away as they pleased, and the servants and labourers in the house seized the gold and coin and made off therewith, so that at the end the two were reduced to an evil plight and had not even a jug for pouring water; and at last they sold their dwelling, and finding themselves homeless, and in extreme misery, they wandered begging for alms, clothed in rags and carrying potsherds in their hands.
Now at that time a monk came from Jetavana to the son’s place of abode; he performed the duties of hospitality and, as he sat quietly, he first asked whence he was come; and learning that he was come from Jetavana he asked after the health of the Teacher and the principal disciples and then asked for news of his parents, “Tell me, sir, about the welfare of such and such a merchant’s family in Sāvatthi.” “O friend, don’t ask for news of that family.” “Why not, sir?” “They say that there was one son in that family, but he has become an ascetic in this dispensation, and since he left the world that family has gone to ruin; and at the present time the two old people are reduced to a most lamentable state and beg for alms.”
When he heard the other’s words he could not remain unmoved, but began to weep with his eyes full of tears, and when the other asked him why he wept, “O sir,” he replied, “they are my own father and mother, I am their son.” “O friend, your father and mother have come to ruin through you – do you go and take care of them.” “For twelve years,” he thought to himself, “I have laboured and striven but never been able to attain the Path or the Fruit: I must be incompetent; what have I to do with the ascetic life? I will become a householder and will support my parents and give away my wealth, and will thus eventually become destined for heaven.”
So having determined he gave up his abode in the forest to the elder, and the next day departed and by successive stages reached the monastery at the back of Jetavana which is not far from Sāvatthi. There he found two roads, one leading to Jetavana, the other to Sāvatthi. As he stood there, he thought: “Shall I see my parents first or the One with Ten Powers?” Then he said to himself, “In old days I saw my parents for a long time, from henceforth I shall rarely have the chance of seeing the Buddha; I will see the Fully Awakened One today and hear the Dhamma, and then tomorrow morning I will see my parents.” So he left the road to Sāvatthi and in the evening arrived at Jetavana.
Now that very day at daybreak, the Teacher, as he looked upon the world, had seen the potentialities of this young man, and when he came to visit him he praised the virtues of parents in the Mātiposakasutta [SN 7.19]. As he stood at the end of the assembly of elders and listened, he thought: “If I become a householder I can support my parents; but the Teacher also says, ‘A son who has become an ascetic can be helpful,’ I went away before without seeing the Teacher, and I failed in such an imperfect ordination; I will now support my parents while still remaining an ascetic without becoming a householder.” So he took his ticket and his ticket-food and gruel, and felt as if he had committed a wrong deserving expulsion after a solitary abode of twelve years in the forest. In the morning he went to Sāvatthi and he thought to himself, “Shall I first get the gruel or see my parents?” He reflected that it would not be right to visit them in their poverty empty-handed; so he first got the gruel and then went to the door of their old house.
When he saw them sitting by the opposite wall after having gone their round for the alms given in broth, he stood not far from them in a sudden burst of sorrow with his eyes full of tears. They saw him but knew him not; then his mother, thinking that it was someone standing for alms, said to him, “We have nothing fit to be given to you, be pleased to pass on.” When he heard her, he repressed the grief which filled his heart and remained still standing as before with his eyes full of tears, and when he was addressed a second and a third time he still continued standing.
At last the father said to the mother, “Go to him; can this be your son?” She rose and went to him and, recognising him, fell at his feet and lamented, and the father also joined his lamentations, and there was a loud outburst of sorrow. To see his parents he could not control himself, but burst into tears; then, after yielding to his feelings, he said: “Do not grieve, I will support you,” so having comforted them and made them drink some gruel, and sit down on one side, he went again and begged for some food and gave it to them, and then went and asked for alms for himself, and having finished his meal, took up his abode at a short distance off.
From that day forward he watched over his parents in this manner; he gave them all the alms he received for himself, even those at the fortnightly distributions, and he went on separate expeditions for his own alms, and ate them; and whatever food he received as provision for the rainy season he gave to them, while he took their worn-out garments and dyed them with the doors fast closed and used them himself; but the days were few when he gained alms and there were many when he failed to win anything, and his inner and outer clothing became very rough.
As he watched over his parents he gradually grew very pale and thin and his friends and intimates said to him, “Your complexion used to be bright, but now you have become very pale – has some illness come upon you?” He replied, “No illness has come upon me, but a hindrance has befallen me,” and he told them the history. “Sir,” they replied, “the Teacher does not allow us to waste the offerings of the faithful, you do an unlawful act in giving to laymen the offerings of the faithful.” When he heard this he shrank away ashamed.
But not satisfied with this they went and told it to the Teacher, saying: “So and so, sir, has wasted the offerings of the faithful and used them to feed laymen.”
Then the Teacher sent for this monk, and asked him, “Is what I hear true, monk, that you support lay folks?” “It is true, sir.” “Who are they?” “My mother and father, sir.” Said the Teacher, “Well done, monk! Wise men of old, even when embodied as lower animals, having been born as parrots even, when their parents grew old laid them in a nest and fed them with food which they brought in their own beaks.” So saying, he told a story of the past.
In the past, a king named king Magadha reigned in Rājagaha. At that time there stood a brahmin village, named Sālindiya, towards the north-east as you go out of the city. In this north-eastern district was property belonging to Magadha. There was a brahmin who lived in Sālindiya, whose name was Kosiyagotta, One of the “Kausika (owl) or Viśvāmitra clan.” and he held an estate of one thousand acres, karīsa. where he grew rice. When the crop was standing, he made a stout fence, and gave the land in charge to his own men, to one fifty acres, to another sixty, and so he distributed among them some five hundred acres of his estate.
At that time the Bodhisatta was born among this flock of parrots, as the son of the king of the parrots. He grew up handsome and strong, big his body was as the nave of a cart-wheel. His father now grown old said to him, “I am able no longer to go far afield; do you take care of this flock,” and committed the lordship of it to his son. From the next day onwards he refused to permit his parents to go foraging; but with the whole flock away he flew to the Himālayas hills, and after eating his fill of the clumps of rice that grew wild there, on his return brought food sufficient for his mother and father, and fed them with it.
One day the parrots asked him a question. “Formerly,” they said, “the rice was ripe by this time on the Magadha farm; is it grown now or not?” “Go and see,” he replied, and then sent two parrots to find out. The parrots departed, and alighted in the Magadha lands, in that part which was guarded by the hired man; rice they ate, and one head of rice they took back with them to their wood, and dropped it before the Great Being’s feet, saying: “Such is the rice which grows there.” He went next day to the farm, and alighted, with all his flock. The man ran this way and that, trying to drive off the birds, but drive them away he could not. The rest of the parrots ate, and departed with empty beaks; but the parrot king gathered together a quantity of rice, and brought it back to his parents. Next day the parrots ate the rice there again, and so afterwards. Then the man began to think,
1. “The crop of rice is very nice, but I would have you know,
The parrots are devouring it, I cannot make them go.
2. There is one bird, of all the herd the finest, who first feeds,
Then takes a bundle in his beak to meet his future needs.”
When the brahmin heard this, he conceived an affection for the parrot king. “My man,” said he, “do you know how to set a snare?” “Yes, I know.” The master then addressed him in this verse:
3. “Then set a snare of horse’s hair that captured he may be;
And see you take the bird alive and bring him here to me.”
The farm watchman was much pleased that no price had been put upon the rice, and no debt spoken of. He went straight and made a snare of horsehair. Then he found out when they were like to descend that day; and spying out the place where the parrot king alighted, next day very early in the morning he made a cage about the size of a waterpot, and set
4. “They ate, they drank, and now away they hasten every one,
I only caught within a snare: what evil have I done?”
The watchman heard the cry of the parrot king, and the sound of the other parrots flying through the air. “What is that?” thought he. Up he got from his hut, and went to the place of his snare, and there he saw the king of the parrots. “The very bird I set the snare for is caught!” he cried, in high delight. He took the parrot out of the snare, and tied both his feet together, and making his way to Sālindiya village, he delivered the bird to the brahmin. The brahmin in his strong affection for the Great Being, caught hold of him tight in both hands, and seating him on his hip, bespoke him in these two verses:
5. “The bellies of all others are outbellied far by you:
First a full meal, then off you fly with a good beak-full too!
6. Have you a granary there to fill? Or do you hate me sore?
I ask it you, come tell me true – where do you put your store?”
On hearing this, the parrot king answered, repeating in a human voice sweet as honey the seventh verse:
7. “I hate you not, O Kosiya! No granary I own;
Once in my wood I pay a debt, and also grant a loan,
And there I store a treasure up: so be my answer known.”
Then the brahmin asked him:
8. “What is that loan the which you grant? What is the debt you pay?
Tell me the treasure you store up, and then fly free away.”
To this request of the brahmin the parrot king made reply, explaining his intent in four verses:
9. “My callow chicks, my tender brood, whose wings are still ungrown,
Who shall support me by and by: to them I grant the loan.
10. Then my old ancient parents, who far from youth’s bounds are set,
With that within my beak I bring, to them I pay my debt.
11. And other birds of helpless wing, and weak full many more,
To these I give in generosity: this sages call my store.
12. This is that loan the which I grant, this is the debt I pay,
And this the treasure I store up: now I have said my say.”
The brahmin was pleased when he heard this pious discourse from the Great Being; and he repeated two verses:
13. “What noble principles of life! How blessed is this bird!
From many men who live on earth such rules are never heard.
14. Eat, eat your fill whereas you will, with all your kindred too;
And, parrot! Let us meet-again: I love the sight of you.”
With these words, he looked upon the Great Being with a soft heart, as though it were his only son; and loosing the bonds from his feet, he rubbed them with oil a hundred times refined, and seated him on a seat of honour, and gave him to eat sweetened corn upon a golden dish, and gave him sugar-water to drink. After this the king of the parrots warned the brahmin to be careful, reciting this verse:
15. “O Kosiya! Within your dwelling here
I had both food and drink and friendship dear.
Give you to those whose burden is laid down,
Support your parents when they old are grown.”
The brahmin then delighted in heart uttered his exalted utterance in this verse:
16. “Surely Luck’s goddess came herself today
When I set eyes upon this peerless bird!
I will do kindly deeds and never stay,
Now that the parrot’s sweet voice I have heard.”
But the Great Being refused to accept the thousand acres which the brahmin offered him, but took only eight acres. The brahmin set up boundary stones, and made over this property to him; and then, raising his hands to his head in reverence, he said: “Go in peace, my lord, and console your weeping parents,” and then let him go. Much pleased, he took a head of rice, and carried it to his parents, and dropped it before them, saying: “Arise now, my dear parents!” They arose at his word, with weeping faces.
The last verse was repeated by the Teacher explaining this:
17. “This Kosiya with joy and great delight
Common and plentiful made drink and food:
With food and drink he satisfied aright
Brahmins and holy men, himself all good.”
When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he said: “Thus, monks, to support one’s parents is the traditional way of the wise and good.” Then, having declared the Truths, he identified the Jātaka, now at the conclusion of the Truths that monk became established in the fruit of the First Path. “At that time the Buddha’s followers were the flock of parrots, two of the king’s family were the father and mother, Channa was the watchman, Ānanda the brahmin, and I was myself the king of the parrots.”
last updated: November 2021