Uluka Jataka (#270)

temple painting of Uluka Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a goose. Humans, four-footed animals, and fish all had kings, so the birds of the Himalayas decided that they should choose one of their own. After discussion, they selected an owl. But before a final vote could be held, a crow spoke up to object—his reason being, “If his face looks like this now when he’s happy, imagine what sort of face he’ll make when he’s angry. With a face like that, the rest of us will be scattered like sesame seeds thrown on a hot plate.” Then the crow flew up in the air cawing, “I don’t like it! I don’t like it!” and the owl chased after him, beginning their feud. The birds chose the Bodhisatta as their king instead.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

From the first cycle of the world up until the time of the Buddha, crows and owls were mortal enemies. Crows ate owls during the day, and owls bit off the heads of sleeping crows at night. One of the Buddha’s disciples lived on the edge of the monastery, and each morning he had to pick up crow heads (enough to fill seven or eight bowls) that had fallen out of a tree near his room.

One time when the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing the many crow heads around the monastery, he told them this story so they knew the origin of the feud between crows and owls.

The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.

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