Tittira Jataka (#117)

temple painting of Tittira Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had many followers studying with him in the Himalayas. One of them, a jaundiced man, was cutting wood, and another came and sat by him, telling him repeatedly how to chop better. The jaundiced ascetic lost his temper and struck the meddling ascetic with his axe, killing him.

After the Bodhisatta had the body buried, a hunter heard a partridge singing at the monastery and shot it. The Bodhisatta was fond of this birdsong and noticed it was gone. When he learned what happened, he told those around him that both the bird and the ascetic died because they talked too much.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The meddling ascetic was an earlier birth of Cula Kokalika, a greedy disciple of the Buddha. Two of the Buddha’s top disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, spent one rainy season at Cula Kokalika’s home, with the instruction not to tell the locals they were there. After the three months had passed, they set off back to the Buddha’s monastery. Right after they departed, Cula Kokalika boasted to people about who had been staying with him. They quickly gathered food and robes to donate and rushed after the departed disciples to pay respect. Knowing that Sariputta and Moggallana were very frugal and would not accept the gifts, Cula Kokalika followed, expecting that the things would be given to him. But the elder disciples just told the people to keep everything, and this angered Cula Kokalika.

A short time later, Sariputta and Moggallana led a thousand disciples on an alms pilgrimage. When they passed through Cula Kokalika’s town, the laypeople greeted them enthusiastically and donated many robes and other things. Again, Sariputta and Moggallana gave nothing to Cula Kokalika, and this time he was so furious he began insulting them for being greedy and selfish. So the disciples left the town. People begged them to stay, but could not change their minds. The angry people told Cula Kokalika to fix the problem he had created; and if he could not convince Sariputta and Moggallana to return, he would have to go live elsewhere. Fearful of losing his home, he tried to persuade them. But he failed.

Forced to leave, Cula Kokalika went to the Buddha’s monastery. When he got there, he immediately began to tell the Buddha how wicked Sariputta and Moggallana were, not stopping even after being rebuked by the Buddha for his inappropriate words. Moments later, bloody boils erupted on his body and he fell over in pain. One of his former teachers heard his cries and came down from heaven, encouraging him to make peace with the elders. But Cula Kokalika would not let go of his anger, and he died and went to hell.

When the Buddha later heard some of his disciples (who had been the Bodhisatta’s followers in that lifetime) discussing Cula Kokalika’s downfall, he told them this story so they knew that this was not the first time Cula Kokalika’s own words had caused his destruction.

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