Ja 503 Sattigumbajātaka
The Story about (the Thieving Parrot) Sattigumba (20s)

In the present Devadatta throws a stone and injures the Buddha, and the monks talk about how those who associate with him also become bad. The Buddha tells a story of two parrots, born of the same mother, one of which was raised by thieves and the other by sages, and the different characters they displayed because of it.

The Bodhisatta = the parrot Pupphaka (Pupphakasuva),
the Buddha’s disciples = the seer’s followers (isigaṇa),
Ānanda = the king (of Pañcāla) (rājā),
Devadatta = (the thieving parrot) Sattigumba,
Devadatta’s followers = the thieves (corā).

Past Compare: Ja 503 Sattigumba, Ja 513 Jayaddisa, Ja 537 Mahāsutasoma, Cp 19 Alīnasattucariyā.

Keywords: Association, Imitation.

“With a great host.” This story the Teacher told while sojourning in the deer-park Maddakucchi, about Devadatta. When Devadatta threw the stone, and a fragment pierced the Fortunate One’s foot, there was great pain because of it. Numbers of the monks gathered to see the Tathāgata. Now when the Fortunate One saw the people gathered together, he said to them, “Monks, this place is crowded: there will be a great gathering. Come now, carry me in [4.268] a litter to Maddakucchi.” So then the monks did. Jīvaka made the Tathāgata’s foot well. The monks sitting before the Teacher talked of it, “Sirs, Devadatta is wicked and wicked are all his people; the wicked keeps company with the wicked.” The Teacher asked, “What do you talk of, monks?” They told him. Said he, “It has been so before, and this is not the first time the wicked Devadatta has kept wicked company.” Then he told them a story.

In the past a king named Pañcāla reigned in the city of Uttarapañcāla. The Great Being was born as the son of the king of the parrots, in a grove of silk-cotton trees which grew on a high table-land in the heart of a forest: there were two brothers. Up wind from this hill was a robber village, where five hundred robbers dwelt: under its lee was a hermitage with five hundred sages.

About the time when the parrots were moulting came a whirlwind that carried off one of the parrots, {4.431} and he fell in the robber village among the robbers’ weapons: and because he fell there, they called him Sattigumba, or Bristling Spears. The other parrot fell in the hermitage, among the flowers which grew on a sandy spot, from which cause he was named Pupphaka, the Flower-bird. Sattigumba grew up amongst the robbers, Pupphaka with the sages.

One day the king in brave array, at the head of a great company, drove out in his splendid chariot to hunt the deer. Not far from the city, he entered a grove beautiful with a rich crop of flowers and fruit. He said: “If any one lets a deer go by him, he shall answer it!” Then he descended from the chariot, and took cover, standing, bow in hand in the hut assigned him. The beaters beat the bushes to put up the game. An antelope rose and looked for a way; he saw a gap by the king, got through it, and away. Everyone asked who had let the deer go past. It was the king! Hearing this they went and made fun of him.

The king in his self-conceit could not stomach the sport. “Now I’ll catch that deer!” cried he, and up into his chariot. “Full speed!” he said to the charioteer, and away he went after the deer. So quick went the king, that the others could not keep up with him: king and charioteer, these two alone, went on till midday, but saw no deer. The king then turned back; and seeing near the robber village a delightful glen, he alighted, bathed and drank, and came up from the water. Then the charioteer brought out a rug from the chariot, and spread it beneath the shade of a tree; the king lay on it, the charioteer sat at his feet massaging them: the king now dozed, now woke. The people of the robber village, all the robbers even, had gone forth into the woods to attend the king: thus in the village no one was left but Sattigumba and the cook, a man named Patikolamba. At that moment Sattigumba coming out of [4.269] the village, and seeing the king, thought: “What if we kill that fellow as he sleeps, and take his ornaments!” So he returned to Patikolamba, and told him all about it. {4.432}

To explain this the Teacher recited five verses:

1. “With a great host Pañcāla’s king went out to hunt the deer;
Deep in the woods the monarch strayed, and not a soul was near.

2. Lo, he beholds within the wood a shelter thieves had made,
Out came a Parrot and forthwith these cruel words he said:

3. ‘A young man riding in a car, with jewels many a one,
And on his brow a golden crown shines ruddy like the sun!

4. Both king and driver lie asleep there in the high midday:
Come, let us spoil them of their wealth and take it quick away!

5. ’Tis quiet as the deep midnight: both king and driver sleep:
Their wealth and jewels let us take and keep,
Kill them, and pile boughs on them in a heap.’ ”

Thus addressed, the man went out and looked, and seeing that it was a king, he was frightened, and recited this verse:

6. “Why, Sattigumba, are you mad? What words are these I hear?
Kings are like blazing bonfires, and most perilous to come near.”

The bird answered in another verse:

7. “Fool’s talk, Patikolamba, this; and you are mad, not I:
My mother’s naked; why condemn the calling we live by?” “He means the robber chief’s wife, who went about clad in a garment of branches. ‘My mother is naked’: why do you despise the robber’s trade?” – Commentator. The Juāngs or Patuas in Orissa, or ‘leaf-wearers,’ wear only a bunch of leaves tied before and behind. {4.433}

Now the king awoke, and hearing them talk together in the language of men, perceiving the danger, he recited the following verse to arouse his charioteer:

8. “Up with you quick, friend charioteer, and yoke the chariot:
Seek we another shelter, since this parrot I like not.”

He rose quickly, and put to the team, then recited a verse:

9. “The car is yoked, O mighty king, is yoked and ready there:
Step in, O king! And let us go and seek shelter elsewhere.”

No sooner was he inside, than away flew the thoroughbreds swift as the wind. When Sattigumba saw the chariot departing, overwhelmed with excitement he repeated two verses:

10. “Now where are all the fellows gone that used to haunt this spot?
Away Pañcāla flies, let go because they saw him not.

11. Shall he get clear away with life? Take javelin, spear, and bow:
Away Pañcāla flies, behold! O do not let him go!” [4.270]

So he raved, fluttering to and fro: meanwhile in due course the king came to the hermitage of the sages. At that time the sages were all gone gathering fruits and roots, {4.434} and only the parrot Puppha Sic. was left in the hermitage. When he saw the king, he went to meet him, and addressed him courteously.

Then the Teacher recited four verses to explain:

12. “The parrot with his ruddy beak right courteously did say,
Welcome, O king! A happy chance directed you this way!
Mighty you are and glorious: what errand brings you, pray?

13. The tindook and the piyal leaves, and kāsumārī sweet, Diospyros embryopteris and Buchanania latifolia are named.
Though few and little, take the best we have, O king, and eat.

14. And this cool water, from a cave high hidden on a hill,
O mighty monarch, take of it, drink if it be your will.

15. All gleaning in the wood are they who here are wont to live:
Arise, O king, thyself and take: I have no hands to give.”

The king pleased at this courteous address, answered with a couple of verses:

16. “No better fowl was ever hatched; a very righteous bird:
But the other parrot over there said many a cruel word.

17. O let him not go hence alive, O come and slay or bind!
He cried: I sought this hermitage, and safety here I find.”

Thus addressed by the king, Pupphaka uttered two verses:

18. “Brothers we are, O mighty king, of one self mother bred,
Reared both together in one tree, in different pastures fed.

19. Sattigumba to the thieves, I to the sages came;
Those bad, these good, and hence it comes our ways are not the same.” {4.435}

He then explained the differences in detail, repeating a pair of verses:

20. “There wounds and bonds and trickery, cheating and shabby turns,
Raiding, and deeds of violence: such is the lore he learns.

21. Here self-control, sobriety, kindness, the right and true,
Shelter and drink for strangers: these were round me as I grew.”

Next he declared the Dhamma to the king in the following verses:

22. “To whomsoever, good or bad, a man shall honour pay,
Vicious or virtuous, that man holds him beneath his sway.

23. Like as the comrade one admires, like as the chosen friend,
Such will become the man who keeps beside him, in the end.

24. Friendship makes like, and touch by touch infects, you’ll find it true:
Poison the arrow, and before long the quiver’s poisoned too. [4.271]

25. The wise eschews bad company, for fear of staining touch:
Wrap rotten fish in grass, you’ll find the grass stinks just as much.
And they who keep fool’s company themselves will soon be such. {4.436}

26. Sweet frankincense wrap in a leaf, the leaf will smell as sweet.
So they themselves will soon grow wise, that sit at wise men’s feet.

27. By this similitude the wise should his own profit know,
Let him eschew bad company and with the righteous go:
Heaven waits the righteous, but the bad are doomed to hell below.”

The king was pleased with this exposition. Then the sages returned also. The king greeted the sages, saying: “Be gracious, sirs, come and take up your abode in my grounds,” and prevailed on them to accept the invitation. When he got home again, he proclaimed immunity for all parrots. The sages came there too and visited him. And the king gave them his park to live in, and took care of them so long as he lived. When he went to swell the hosts of heaven, his son had the royal umbrella raised over him, and he also took care of the sages, and so it went on from father to son through seven generations of kings all bounteous in alms. And the Great Being dwelt in the woods, until he passed away and traveled on according to his deeds.

When this lesson was ended, the Teacher said: “Thus, monks, you see that Devadatta kept bad company before, as he now does.” Then he identified the Jātaka, “At that time, Devadatta was Sattigumba, {4.437} his followers were the robbers, Ānanda was the king, the Buddha’s followers were the sages, and I myself was parrot Pupphaka.”