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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Khuddaka Nikaya >> Jataka >>Aggika-Jātaka

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert ChalmersEdit

JATAKA No. 129


"It was greed."..This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana monastery, about another hypocrite.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was King of the Rats and lived in the forest. Now a fire broke out in the forest, and a jackal who could not run away put his head against a tree and let the flames sweep by him. The fire singed the hair off his body everywhere, and left him perfectly bald, except for a tuft like a scalp-knot where the crown of his head was pressed against the tree. Drinking one day in a rocky pool, he caught sight of this top-knot reflected in the water. "At last I've got money to go to market," thought he. Coming in the course of his wanderings in the forest to the rats' cave, he said to himself, "I'll hoodwink those rats and devour them;" and with this intent he took up his stand hard by, just as in the previously mentioned story.

On his way out in quest of food, the Bodhisattva observed the jackal and, crediting the beast with virtue and goodness, came to him and asked what his name was.

"Bharadvaja (*1), Devotee of the Fire-God."

"Why have you come here?"

"In order to guard you and yours."

"What will you do to guard us?"

"I know how to count on my fingers, and will count your numbers both morning and evening, so as to be sure that as many came home at night, as went out in the morning. That's how I'll guard you."

"Then stay, uncle, and watch over us."

And accordingly, as the rats were starting in the morning he set about counting them "One, two, three;" and so again when they came back at night. And every time he counted them, he seized and ate the last one. Everything came to pass as in the previously mentioned story, except that here the King of the Rats turned and said to the jackal, "It is not sanctity, Bharadvaja, Devotee of the Fire-God, but gluttony that has decorated your crown with that top-knot." So saying, he uttered this stanza:-

It was greed, not virtue, provided you this crest.
Our dwindling numbers fail to work out right;
We've had enough, Fire-devotee, of you.

His lesson ended, the Master identified the Birth by saying, "This Brother(Monk) was the jackal of those days, and I the King of the Rats."


(1)Bharadvaja was the name of a clan of brahmin priests, to whom the sixth book of the Rigveda is ascribed.

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