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

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by W.H.D. RouseEdit

JATAKA No. 168


"A Quail was in his .feeding-ground," etc.--This story the Master told at Jetavana monastery, about his meaning in the Bird Teaching (*1).

One day the Master called the Monks, saying, "When you seek alms, Monks, keep each to your own district." And repeating that sutta from the Mahavagga which suited the occasion, he added, "But wait a moment: formerly others even in the form of animals refused to keep to their own districts, and by poaching on other people's areas, they fell into the way of their enemies, and then by their own intelligence and resource got free from the hands of their enemies." With these words he told an old story.

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisattva came into the world as a young Quail. He got his food in hopping about over the clods left after ploughing.

One day he thought he would leave his feeding ground and try another; so off he flew to the edge of a forest. As he picked up his food there, a Falcon watched him, and attacking him fiercely, he caught him fast.

Held prisoner by this Falcon, our Quail made his moan: "Ah! how very unlucky I am! how little sense I have! I'm poaching on some one else's area! O that I had kept to my own place, where my fathers were before me! then this Falcon would have been no match for me, I mean if he had come to fight!"

"Why, Quail, says the Falcon, "what's your own ground, where your fathers fed before you?"

"A ploughed field all covered with mounds!"

At this the Falcon, relaxing his strength, let go. "Off with you, go I leave you, Quail! But you won't escape me, even there!"

The Quail flew back and perched on an immense mound, and there he stood, calling--"Come along now, Falcon!"

Straining every nerve, and his both wings, down swooped the Falcon fiercely upon our Quail, "Here he comes with a vengeance!" thought the Quail; and as soon as he saw him in full speed, just moved over and let him strike full against the mound of earth. The Falcon could not stop himself, and struck his breast against the earth; this broke his heart, and he fell dead with his eyes starting out of his head.

When this tale had been told, the Master added, "Thus you see, Monks, how even animals fall into their enemies' hands by leaving their own place; but when they keep to it, they conquer their enemies. Therefore you do take care not to leave your own place and intrude upon another's.(then he explains the hidden meaning) O Monks, those who leave their blissful inner self-awareness (rapturous ecstasy in trance), Mara (deathlord, who makes all creatures go round & round in birth-death-rebirth cycles) (*2) finds a door, Mara gets a foothold. What is foreign ground, Monks, and what is the wrong dwelling for a Monk? I mean the dwelling in pleasures of senses of body. What are these? the lusts of the eye, the lusts of the ear, the lusts of the nose, the lusts of tongue , the lusts of the touch & the lusts of the Mind(thoughts/ideas). This, Monks, is the wrong dwelling for a Monk." Then being perfectly enlightened he repeated the first stanza:-

  "A Quail was in his feeding ground, when, swooping from on high.
   A Falcon came; but so it fell he came to death by that."

When he had thus perished, out came the Quail, exclaiming, "I have seen the back of my enemy!" and perching upon his enemy's breast, he gave voice to his happiness in the words of the second stanza:-

  "Now I rejoice at my success: a clever plan I found
   To rid me of my enemy by keeping my own ground."

This discourse came at an end, the Master explained the truths and identified the Birth:-At the conclusion of the Truths many Monks were established in the Paths or their Fruition:-"Devadatta was the Falcon of those days, and the Quail was I myself."


(1)Sakunaggi Sutra , Samyutta Nikaya 47.6 in Tipitaka

(2)Mara is Deathlord, and the word is used by Buddha for the Evil One (the devil/satan).

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