"Let the Nestlings in the wood."--This the Master told while at Jetavana, about a monk who drank water without straining it.
Two young monks who were friends, it is said, went into the country from Savatthi; and after stopping as long as it suited them in a certain pleasant spot, set out again towards Jetavana, with the intention of joining the Supreme Buddha.
One of them had a strainer, the other had not; so they used to strain water enough at one time for both to drink.
One day they had a dispute; and the owner of the strainer would not lend it to the other, but strained water himself, and drank it. When the other could not get the strainer, and was unable to bear up any longer against his thirst, he drank without straining. And in due course they both arrived at Jetavana; and after saluting the Teacher, took their seats.
The Teacher bade them welcome, saying, "Where are you come from?"
"Lord! we have been staying in a village in the land of Kosala; and we left it to come here and visit you."
"I hope, then, you are come in concord."
The one without a strainer replied, "Lord! this monk quarreled with me on the way, and wouldn't lend me his strainer!"
But the other one said, "Lord! this monk knowingly drank water with living things in it without straining it!"
"Is it true, O monk, as he says, that you knowingly drank water with living creatures in it?"
"Yes, Lord! I drank the water as it was."
Then the Teacher said, "There were wise men once, monk, ruling in heaven, who, when defeated and in full flight along the mighty deep, stopped their car, saying, 'Let us not, for the sake of supremacy, put living things to pain;' and made sacrifice of all their glory, and even of their life, for the sake of the young of the Supannas."
And he told a tale.
"Long ago a king of Magadha was reigning in Rajagaha, in the land of Magadha.
"At that time the Bodhisattva (just as he who is now Sakka was once born in the village of Macala in Magadha) was born in that very village as a nobleman's son. On the naming-day they gave him the name of Prince Magha, and when he grew up he was known as 'Magha the young Brahman.'
"His parents procured him a wife from a family of equal rank; and increasing in sons and daughters, he became a great giver of gifts, and kept the Five Commandments.
"In that village there were as many as thirty families; and one day the men of those families stopped in the middle of the village to transact some village business. The Bodhisattva removed with his feet the lumps of soil on the place where he stood, and made the spot convenient to stand on; but another came up and stood there. Then he smoothed out another spot, and took his stand there; but another man came and stood upon it. Still the Bodhisattva tried again and again with the same result, until he had made convenient standing-room for all the thirty.
"The next time he had an open-roofed shed put up there; and then pulled that down, and built a hall, and had benches spread in it, and a water-pot placed there. On another occasion those thirty men were reconciled by the Bodhisattva, who confirmed them in the Five Commandments; and thenceforward he continued with them in works of piety.
"Whilst they were so living they used to rise up early, go out with bill-hooks and crowbars in their hands, tear up with the crowbars the stones in the four high roads and village paths, and roll them away, take away the trees which would be in the way of vehicles, make the rough places plain, form causeways, dig ponds, build public halls, give gifts, and keep the Commandments--thus, in many ways, all the dwellers in the village listened to the exhortations of the Bodhisattva, and kept the Commandments.
"Now the village headman said to himself, 'I used to have great gain from fines, and taxes, and pot-money, when these fellows drank strong drink, or took life, or broke the other Commandments. But now Magha the young Brahman has determined to have the Commandments kept, and permits none to take life or to do anything else that is wrong. I'll make them keep the Commandments with a vengeance!'
"And he went in a rage to the king, and said, 'O king! there are a number of robbers going about sacking the villages!'
"'Go, and bring them up!' said the king in reply.
"And he went, and brought back all those men as prisoners, and had it announced to the king that the robbers were brought up. And the king, without inquiring what they had done, gave orders to have them all trampled to death by elephants!
"Then they made them all lie down in the court-yard, and fetched the elephant. And the Bodhisattva exhorted them, saying, 'Keep the Commandments in mind. Regard them all--the slanderer, and the king, and the elephant--with feelings as kind as you harbor towards yourselves!'
"And they did so.
"Then men led up the elephant; but though they brought him to the spot, he would not begin his work, but trumpeted forth a mighty cry, and took to flight. And they brought up another and another, but they all ran away.
"'There must be some drug in their possession,' said the king; and gave orders to have them searched. So they searched, but found nothing, and told the king so.
"'Then they must be repeating some spell. Ask them if they have any spell to utter.'
"The officials asked them, and the Bodhisattva said there was. And they told the king, and he had them all called before him, and said, 'Tell me that spell you know!'
"Then the Bodhisattva spoke, and said, 'O king! we have no other spell but this--that we destroy no life, not even of grass; that we take nothing which is not given to us; that we are never guilty of unchastity, nor speak falsehood, nor drink intoxicants; that we exercise ourselves in love, and give gifts; that we make rough places plain, dig ponds, and put up rest-houses--this is our spell, this is our defense, this is our strength!'
"Then the king had confidence in them, and gave them all the property in the house of the slanderer, and made him their slave; and bestowed too the elephant upon them, and made them a grant of the village.
"Thenceforward they were left in peace to carry on their works of charity; and they sent for a builder and had a large rest-house put up at the place where the four roads met. But as they no longer took delight in womankind, they allowed no woman to share in the good work.
"Now at that time there were four women in the Bodhisattva's household, named Piety, Thoughtful, Pleasing, and Well-born. Piety took an opportunity of meeting the builder alone, and gave him a bribe, and said to him, 'Brother! manage somehow to give me a share in this rest-house.'
"This he promised to do, and before doing the other work he had a piece of timber dried and planed; and bored it through ready for the pinnacle. And when it was finished he wrapped it up in a cloth and laid it aside. Then when the hall was finished, and the time had come for putting up the pinnacle, he said,--
"'Dear me! there's one thing we haven't provided for!'
"'What's that?' said they.
"'We ought to have got a pinnacle.'
"'Very well! let's have one brought.'
"'But it can't be made out of timber just cut; we ought to have had a pinnacle cut and planed, and bored some time ago, and laid aside for use.'
"'What's to be done now then?' said they.
"'You must look about and see if there be such a thing as a finished pinnacle for sale put aside in any one's house.'
"And when they began to search, they found one on Piety's premises; but it could not be bought for money.
"'If you let me be partaker in the building of the hall, I will give it you?' said she.
"'No!' replied they, 'it was settled that women should have no share in it.'
"Then the builder said, 'Sirs! what is this you are saying? Save the heavenly world of the Brahma-angels, there is no place where womankind is not. Accept the pinnacle; and so will our work be accomplished!'
"Then they agreed; and took the pinnacle and completed their hall with it. They fixed benches in the hall, and set up pots of water in it, and provided for it a constant supply of boiled rice. They surrounded the hall with a wall, furnished it with a gate, spread it over with sand inside the wall, and planted a row of palmyra-trees outside it.
"And Thoughtful made a pleasure ground there; and so perfect was it that it could never be said of any particular fruit-bearing or flowering tree that it was not there!
"And Pleasing made a pond there, covered with the five kinds of water-lilies, and beautiful to see!
"Well-born did nothing at all.
"And the Bodhisattva fulfilled the seven religious duties-- that is, to support one's mother, to support one's father, to pay honor to age, to speak truth, not to speak harshly, not to abuse others, and to avoid a selfish, envious, niggardly disposition.
"'That person who his parents doth support.
"Such praise did he receive; and at the end of his life he was born again in the heaven of the Great Thirty Three, as Sakka, the king of the Gods, and there, too, his friends were born again.
"At that time there were Titans dwelling in the heaven of the Great Thirty Three.
"And Sakka said, 'What is the good to us of a kingdom shared by others?'
"And he had ambrosia given to the Titans to drink, and when they became like drunken men, he had them seized by the feet and thrown headlong upon the precipices of Mount Sineru.
"They fell just upon 'The abode of the Titans;' a place so called, upon the lowest level of Sineru, equal in size to the Tavatinsa heaven. In it there is a tree, like the coral-tree in Sakka's heaven, which stands during a kalpa, and is called 'The variegated Trumpet-Flower Tree.'
"When they saw the Trumpet-Flower Tree in bloom, they knew, 'This is not our heaven, for in heaven the Coral-Tree blossoms.'
"Then they said, 'That old Sakka has made us drunk, and thrown us into the great deep, and taken our heavenly city!'
"Then they made resolve, 'We'll war against him, and win our heavenly city back again!'
"And they swarmed up the perpendicular sides of Sineru like so many ants!
"When Sakka heard the cry, 'The Titans are up!' he went down the great deep to meet them, and fought with them from the sky. But he was worsted in the fight, and began to flee away along the summit of the southern vault of heaven in his famous Chariot of Glory a hundred and fifty leagues in length.
"Now as his chariot went rapidly down the great deep, it passed along the Silk Cotton Tree Forest, and along its route the silk cotton trees were cut down one after another like mere palmyra palms, and fell into the great deep. And as the young ones of the Winged Creatures tumbled over and over into the great deep, they burst forth into mighty cries. And Sakka asked his charioteer, Matali--
"'What noise is this, friend Matali? How pathetic is that cry!'
"'O Lord! as the Silk Cotton Tree Forest falls, torn up by the swiftness of your car, the young of the Winged Creatures, quaking with the fear of death, are shrieking all at once together!'
"Then answered the Great Being, 'O my good Matali! let not these creatures suffer on our account. Let us not, for the sake of supremacy, put the living to pain. Rather will I, for their sake, give my life as a sacrifice to the Titans. Stop the car!'
"And so saying, he uttered the stanza--
"'Let the Nestlings in the Silk Cotton Wood
"Then Matali, the charioteer, on hearing what he said, stopped the car, and returned towards heaven by another away. But as soon as they saw him stopping, the Titans thought, 'Assuredly the Archangels of other world-systems must be coming; he must have stopped his car because he has received reinforcements!' And terrified with the fear of death, they took to flight, and returned to the Abode of the Titans.
"And Sakka re-entered his heavenly city, and stood in the midst thereof, surrounded by the hosts of angels from both the heavens. And that moment the Palace of Glory burst through the earth and rose up a thousand leagues in height. And it was because it arose at the end of this glorious victory that it received the name of the Palace of Glory.
"Then Sakka placed guards in five places, to prevent the Titans coming up again,--in respect of which it has been said--
"'Between the two unconquerable cities
"When Sakka had thus placed the guards, and was enjoying the happiness of heaven as king of the angels. Piety changed her form of existence, and was re-born as one of his attendants. And in consequence of her gift of the pinnacle there arose for her a jeweled hall of state under the name of 'Piety,' where Sakka sat as king of the angels, on a throne of gold under a white canopy of state, and performed his duties towards the angels and towards men.
"And Thoughtful also changed her form of existence, and was re-born as one of his attendants. And in consequence of her gift of the pleasure-ground, there arose for her a pleasure-ground under the name of 'Thoughtful's Creeper Grove.'
"And Pleasing also changed her form of existence, and was re-born as one of his attendants. And in consequence of her gift of the pond, there arose for her a pond under the name of 'Pleasing.'
"But since Well-born had done no act of virtue, she was re-born as a female crane in a pool in a certain forest. And Sakka said to himself, 'There's no sign of Well-born. I wonder where she can have got to!' And he considered the matter till he discovered her.
"Then he went to the place, and brought her back with him to heaven, and showed her the delightful city with the Hall of Piety, and Thoughtful's Creeper Grove, and the Pond of Pleasing. And he then exhorted her, and said--
"'These did works of charity, and have been born again as my attendants; but you, having done no such works, have been re-born as an animal. Henceforward live a life of righteousness!'
"And thus confirming her in the Five Commandments, he took her back, and then dismissed her. And from that time forth she lived in righteousness.
"A few days afterwards, Sakka went to see whether she was able to keep good, and he lay on his back before her in the form of a fish. Thinking it was dead, the crane seized it by the head. The fish wagged its tail.
"'It's alive, I think!' exclaimed she, and let it go.
"'Good! Good!' said Sakka, 'You are well able to keep the Commandments.' And he went away.
"When she again changed her form of existence, she was born in a potter's household in Benares. Sakka, as before, found out where she was, and filled a cart with golden cucumbers, and seated himself in the middle of the village in the form of an old woman, calling out,
"'Buy my cucumbers! Buy my cucumbers!'
"The people came up and asked for them.
"'I sell,' said she, 'only to those who live a life of righteousness. Do you live such a life?'
"'We don't know anything about righteousness. Hand them over for money!' said they.
"'I want no money; I will only give to the righteous,' was her reply.
"'This must be some mad woman!' said they, and left her.
"But when Well-born heard what had happened, she thought, 'This must be meant for me!' and went and asked for some cucumbers.
"'Do you live a righteous life, lady?' was the question.
"'Certainly, I do,' said she.
"'It's for your sake that I brought these here,' replied the old woman; and leaving all the golden cucumbers, and the cart too, at the door of the house, she departed.
"And Well-born still continued in righteousness to the end of that life; and when she changed her existence, she became the daughter of a Titan named 'The Son of Misunderstanding;' but in consequence of her virtue she became exceeding beautiful.
"When she was grown up, her father assembled the Titans together that his daughter might choose for a husband the one she liked best. Sakka was looking about as before to find out where she was; and when he discovered it, he took the form of a Titan, and went to the place,--thinking that when choosing a husband, she might take him.
"Then they led Well-born in fine array to the meeting place, and told her to choose whomsoever she liked as her husband. And when she began to look at them, she saw Sakka, and by reason of her love to him in the former birth, she was moved to say, 'This one is my husband,' and so chose him.
"And he led her away to the heavenly city, and gave her the post of honor among great multitudes of houris; and at the end of his allotted time, he passed away according: to his deeds."
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, he reproved the monk, saying, "Thus, O monk, formerly wise men, though they held rule in heaven, offered up their lives rather than destroy life; but you, though you have taken the vows according to so saving a faith, have drunk unstrained water with living creatures in it!" And he make the connection, and summed up the Jataka, by saying, "He who at that time was Matali the charioteer was Ananda, but Sakka was I myself."