The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Discourse on Vattaka Jataka (or Sammodamana Jataka) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as founding of Vesali. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Discourse on Vattaka Jātaka (or Sammodamāna Jātaka)

The Buddha then made further exhortation.... “O Royal Highnesses, it is not at all proper to quarrel amongst own relatives. There was an instance in the past where even animals could conquer their enemies and live together harmoniously through unity, and they perished due to internal strife.” At the request of the kinsmen, the Buddha then gave an exposition of the Vattaka Jātaka.

“Excellencies....Long time ago, a Bodhisatta was born as a quail and lived in a forest with thousands of companions during the reign of King Brahmadatta in Bārāṇasī.

A bird-hunter used to go to the place of the quails and enticed them by imitating their cry. Once the quails arrived and formed a gathering at a spot, he spread out his net over them. He then walked around the edge of the net to drive the quails to the centre of the net. The quails were then seized and put in a basket and taken away for sale. The hunter earned his living by catching and selling the quails.

One day, the Bodhisatta addressed all the quails in the group under his care:

“My dear quails, the bird-hunter has caused serious damage to our kind for several times now. I have now devised a plan to avert danger of being caught by the bird-hunter, and this is what each and every one of us should do. Once we are caught under the net thrown over us by the hunter, every one should shoot his head out of the holes in the netting and then simultaneously lifting the net and fly away. You should all perch on a cluster of bushes, in a safe place, where the net will remain entangled with them, We can make our escape from beneath the net and fly away.”

All the quails in his group accepted his advice saying: “Very well.” On the following day, all the quails lifted up the net simultaneously at the moment they were caught in the net of the hunter, and flew away. They threw the net on a bush and flew away in different directions.

The hunter could free his net from the bush only after dusk and went back home empty handed. The next day the quails acted in the same manner too. The hunter took a long time to retrieve his net and went home empty handed again. This event continued in this way for some time. The hunter’s wife became cross with her husband and asked him: “You come home late and empty handed day after day. It is as if you have someone to be maintained like myself.”

“O my woman.... I have no one to maintain except you. The thing is that the quails are still there flying about the places. They are closely knit as before. As soon as I spread the net over them, they lift it up and carry it away and drop it into the thorny bushes. But, my dear, they cannot remain united for ever; so don't you trouble yourselves with suspicion on me. There will surely come a time when the quails will start quarrelling with one another, then I will catch them all and bring them to you to make you smile,” consoled the hunter, who recited the following verse:

jālamādaya pakkhino
yadā te vivadissanti
tadā ehiṅti me vasaṃ

My good lady, with harmonious unity and co-operation, the quails carry away the net I have thrown over them, drop it on the thorny bushes and make their escape. There will be a time when they start quarrelling amongst themselves. At that time, they will have to yield to my wishes.

Quails’ Destruction through Dissension

A few days later, a quail accidentally treaded on the head of another quail as it came down into the pasture. The sufferer asked, in a threatening tone, and showing its anger: “Who is that that tread on my head?” The other quail replied meekly: “Please pardon me, my dear friend, I have done it through carelessness. Please don't be angry with me.” But the angry quail could not be pacified. The two began to make scurrilous attack upon each other very often, beginning from that day.

When the two quails were found to be in quarrelsome mood, arguing as to who could lift the hunter’s net, the Bodhisatta foresaw a trail of consequences:

“Where there are heated arguments, there can be no peace and happiness. As of now, the quails will fail to take part in the lifting and carrying away of the net. The lives of numerous quails are at stake, the hunter will undoubtedly take advantage of the situation. It will not be proper for me to stay at this place any longer.”

He therefore departed from this place, taking along with him all the quails which are the associates forming his group. Only the group of quails, headed by the future Devadatta, remained in that forest.

The bird-hunter went to the same spot a few days later and made the sound in imitation of the quail, and threw his net over the quails headed by Devadatta. (Instead of working unitedly for their freedom), the quails started finding faults among themselves, quarrelling and challenging one another as to their superiority in strength and ability in lifting the net. The bird-hunter lost no time in capturing and taking them to his house as handsome presents for his wife.”

The Buddha, in winding up the discourse said: “Excellencies, strifes amongst relatives are, on no account, justifiable, it is the causal condition of destruction,” and finally revealed that: “Devadatta was the leading ignorant quail and I was the wise leader of quails of the other group at that time.”

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