Anta Jataka (#295)

temple painting of Anta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy living in a castor-oil tree. One day a crow perched in his tree saw a jackal eating an ox carcass down below and hoped that with a bit of flattery the jackal would share some of the flesh. “You look like a bull and act like a lion, may I share some of the flesh?” he said. The jackal answered, “Your neck is as beautiful as a peacock’s. Come have a bite.” When the Bodhisatta saw this, he commented that the lowest of animals, the lowest of birds, and the lowest of trees were gathered together.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The jackal and the crow were earlier births of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis, and Kokalika, a disciple of the Buddha who became one of Devadatta’s most devoted followers. After Devadatta began to get a bad reputation, he and Kokalika began praising each other’s lineage and religious knowledge as they went out on alms rounds.

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing this, the Buddha told them this story so they knew that the pair had also lied about each other’s virtue in the past.

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