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

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert ChalmersEdit


JATAKA No. 136

SUVANNAHAMSA-JATAKA

"Contented be."--This story was told by the Master about a Sister(Nun) named Fat Nanda.

A lay-brother(disciple) at Shravasti city had offered the Sisterhood(Nuns) a supply of garlic, and, sending for his helper; had given orders that, if they should come, each Sister(Nun) was to receive two or three handfuls. After that they made a practice of coming to his house or field for their garlic. Now one holiday the supply of garlic in the house ran out, and the Sister(Nun) Fat Nanda, coming with others to the house, was told, when she said she wanted some garlic, that there was none left in the house, it had all been used up out of hand, and that she must go to the field for it. So away to the field she went and carried off an excessive amount of garlic. The helper grew angry and remarked what a greedy lot these Sisters(Nuns) were! This annoyed the more modest Sisters; and the Brethren(Monks) too were annoyed at the taunt when the Sisters repeated it to them, and they told the Lord Buddha. Rebuking the greed of Fat Nanda, the Master said, "Brethren(Monks), a greedy person is harsh and unkind even to the mother who had him; a greedy person cannot convert the unconverted, or make the converted grow in grace, or cause alms to come in, or save them when come in; whereas the modest person can do all these things." In such way did the Master point the moral, ending by saying, "Brethren, as Fat Nanda is greedy now, so she was greedy in times gone by." And upon that he told the following story of the past.


Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was born a Brahmin, and growing up was married to a bride of his own rank, who had three daughters named Nanda, Nanda-vati and Sundari-nanda. The Bodhisattva dying, they were taken in by neighbours and friends, while he was born again into the world as a golden duck gifted with consciousness of its former existences. Growing up, the bird viewed its own magnificent size and golden plumage, and remembered that previously it had been a human being. Discovering that his wife and daughters were living on the charity of others, the duck thought of his plumage like hammered and beaten gold and how by giving them a golden feather at a time he could enable his wife and daughters to live in comfort. So away he flew to where they lived and descended on the top of the central beam of the roof. Seeing the Bodhisattva, the wife and girls asked where he had come from; and he told them that he was their father who had died and been born a golden duck, and that he had come to visit them and put an end to their miserable necessity of working for hire. "You shall have my feathers," said he, "one by one, and they will sell for enough to keep you all in ease and comfort." So saying, he gave them one of his feathers and departed. And from time to time he returned to give them another feather, and with the proceeds of their sale these brahmin-women grew prosperous and quite well-to-do. But one day the mother said to her daughters, "There's no trusting animals, my children. Who's to say your father might not go away one of these days and never come back again? Let us use our time and pick him clean next time he comes, so as to make sure of all his feathers." Thinking this would pain him, the daughters refused. The mother in her greed called the golden duck to her one day when he came, and then took him with both hands and plucked all of him. Now the Bodhisattva's feathers had this property that if they were plucked out against his wish, they ceased to be golden and became like a crane's feathers. And now the poor bird, though he stretched his wings, could not fly, and the woman throw him into a barrel and gave him food there. As time went on his feathers grew again (though they were plain white ones now), and he flew away to his own dwelling and never came back again.


At the close of this story the Master said, "Thus you see, Brethren(Monks), how Fat Nanda was as greedy in times past as she is now. And her greed then lost her the gold in the same way as her greed now will lose her the garlic. Observe, moreover, how her greed has deprived the whole Sisterhood(Nunnery) of their supply of garlic, and learn from that to be moderate in your desires and to be content with what is given you, however small that may be." So saying, he uttered this stanza:-

Contented be, nor itch for further store.
They seized the swan--but had its gold no more.

So saying, the Master soundly rebuked the erring Sister(Nun) and laid down the rule that any Sister who should eat garlic would have to do penance. Then, making the relation, he said, "Fat Nanda was the brahmin's wife of the story, her three sisters were the brahmin's three daughters, and I myself the golden duck."

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