Cakkavaka Jataka (#434)

temple painting of Cakkavaka Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a golden goose. A greedy crow grew tired of eating dead elephants, so he went to have fish on the bank of the Ganges River and then to feed on wild fruit in the Himalayas. There he saw the Bodhisatta and his mate in a lotus pond. Because they were so beautiful and so beloved by humans, he figured they must eat the best food (like rice, salt, oil, fruit, and meat) and he wanted to eat it too so he could also become golden hued like them. The crow greeted and complimented them and asked where to find the fruits and flesh that they ate, but they explained that they only ate moss. It was their virtuous behavior, never harming other creatures, that gave them their beauty; it had nothing to do with food. The crow decided this was not the life for him and flew away.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The crow was an earlier birth of a disciple of the Buddha who was greedy. He went out for alms early each morning so he could eat excellent food at the houses of some of the Buddha’s top supporters, including Visakha, the top female lay supporter; Anathapindika, a wealthy patron known for his extreme generosity; and King Pasenadi, a righteous ruler. One day the Buddha summoned the greedy disciple and told him this story to help him overcome his craving.

The Bodhisatta’s mate was the Buddha’s wife.

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