Suka Jataka (#255)

temple painting of Suka Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a parrot. He was the leader of many other parrots and had only one son. When the Bodhisatta got old his eyesight faded, a common problem for parrots because they fly so fast, and he and his wife could no longer leave their nest. They relied entirely on their son to care for them.

One day while perched on a mountaintop, the son saw a distant island with a mango grove full of ripe fruit. The next day he flew there and brought a mango home for his parents. As the Bodhisatta ate it he recognized the flavor and knew where it had come from. He told his son that parrots who go to that island die young and so he must stay away. But the son didn’t listen and he soon returned. Flying home over the ocean with another mango in his beak, the young parrot grew tired and fell asleep. He crashed into the water and a big fish devoured him. The Bodhisatta and his wife, with nobody to feed them, soon grew feeble and died.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The young parrot was an earlier birth of a disciple who died from overeating. When the Buddha heard some disciples discussing the death, he told them this story so they knew it was not the first time this disciple’s indulgence had killed him.

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