Jataka Story No. 214


"That which can drink," etc.--This story the Master told while staying at Jetavana, about perfect wisdom.

On one occasion, the Brethren were gathered in the Hall of Truth, talking of the Buddha's wisdom. "Friend, the Supreme Buddha's wisdom is great, and wide, cutting, and quick, sharp, penetrating, and full of resource." The Master came in, and asked what they talked of as they sat there together. They told him. "Not now only," said he, "is the Buddha wise and resourceful; he was so in days of yore." And then he told them a story.

Once on a time, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came into the world as the son of the court chaplain. When he grew up, he studied at Takkasilā; and at his father's death he received the office of chaplain, and he was the king's counsellor in things human and divine.

Afterwards the king opened his ear to breedbates, and in anger bade the Bodhisatta dwell before his face no more, and sent him away from Benares. So he took his wife and family with him, and abode in a certain village of Kāsi. Afterward the king remembered his goodness, and said to himself: "It is not meet that I should send a messenger to fetch my teacher. I will compose a verse of poetry, and write it upon a leaf; I will cause crow's flesh to be cooked; and after I have tied up letter and meat in a white cloth, I will seal it with the king's seal, and send it to him. If he is wise, when he has read the letter and seen that it is crow's-meat, he will come; if not, then he will not come." And so he wrote on the leaf this stanza:

"That which can drink when rivers are in flood;
    That which the corn will cover out of sight;
That which forebodes a traveller on the road--
    O wise one, eat! my riddle read aright 1."

This verse did the king write upon a leaf, and sent it to the Bodhisatta. He read the letter, and thinking--"The king wishes to see me"--he repeated the second verse:--

"The king does not forget to send me crow:
    Geese, herons, peacocks,--other birds there are:
If he gives one, he'll give the rest, I know;
    If he sent none at all ’twere worser far 2."

Then he caused his vehicle to be made ready, and went, and looked upon the king. And the king, being pleased, set him again in the place of the king's chaplain.

This discourse ended, the Master identified the Birth:--"Ānanda was the king in those days, and I was his chaplain."


1 Kākapeyya, both in Skr. and in Pali, is proverbial for rivers at the flood. For Skr. see Pāṇini, 2. 1. 33, where some comm. say 'deep,' some 'shallow.' The scholiast here says: "They call rivers K. when a crow standing on the bank can stretch out its neck and drink." Buddhaghosha, quoted by Rh. D. in note to Buddhist Suttas, S. B. E., p. 178, says the same.--Kākaguyha is corn tall enough to hide a crow; see Pāṇ. 3. 2. 5 and the Kāçikā's comment, with the scholiast's note here.--In the dictionary of Vacaspati, vol. 2, p. 1846, col. 1, it is said "When the crow cries Khare Khare, a traveller is coming." The schol. here says: "If people wish to know whether an absent friend is coming back, they say--Caw, crow, if so-and-so is coming! and if the crows caw, they know that he will come."--This verse riddles on these three proverbs and beliefs. [For part of this note I am indebted to Prof. Cowell.]

2 I am not sure of the meaning of these obscure lines, but this is the best I can make of it. The schol. says "When he gets crow's flesh he remembers to send me some; surely he will remember when he gets geese, etc." The phrase--"Geese, herons, peacocks," is a reminiscence of the verse quoted in No. 202, above.