"So long as the birds but agree."--This the Master told while at the Banyan Grove, near Kapilavatthu, concerning a quarrel about a chumbat (a circular roll of cloth placed on the head when carrying a vessel or other weight).
This will be explained in the Kunala Jataka. At that time, namely, the Master admonishing his relations, said, "My lords! for relatives to quarrel one against another is verily most unbecoming! Even animals once, who had conquered their enemies so long as they agreed, came to great destruction when they fell out with one another." And at the request of his relatives he told the tale.
"Long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva came to life as a quail; and lived in a forest at the head of a flock many thousands in number.
"At that time there was a quail-catcher who used to go to the place where they dwelt, and imitate the cry of a quail; and when he saw that they had assembled together, he would throw his net over them, get them all into a heap by crushing them together in the sides of the net, and stuff them into his basket; and then going home, he used to sell them, and make a living out of the proceeds.
"Now one day the Bodhisattva said to the quails, 'This fowler is bringing our kith and kin to destruction! Now I know a stratagem to prevent his catching us. In future, as soon as he has thrown the net over you, let each one put his head through a mesh of the net, then all lift it up together, so as to carry it off to any place we like, and then let it down on to a thorn bush. When that is done, we shall each be able to escape from his place under the net!'
"To this they all agreed; and the next day, as soon as the net was thrown, they lifted it up just in the way the Bodhisattva had told them, threw it on a thorn bush, and got away themselves from underneath. And whilst the fowler was disentangling his net from the bush, darkness had come on. And he had to go empty-handed away.
"From the next day the quails always acted in the same manner: and he used to be disentangling his net till sundown, catching nothing, and going home empty-handed.
"At last his wife said to him in a rage, 'Day after day you come here empty-handed! I suppose you've got another establishment to keep up somewhere else!'
"'My dear!' said the fowler, 'I have no other establishment to keep up. But I'll tell you what it is. Those quails are living in harmony together; and as soon as I cast my net, they carry it away, and throw it on a thorn-bush. But they can't be of one mind for ever! Don't you be troubled about it. As soon as they fall out, I'll come back with every single one of them, and that'll bring a smile into your face!' And so saying, he uttered this stanza to his wife:
"'So long as the birds but agree,
"And when only a few days had gone by, one of the quails, in alighting on the ground where they fed, trod unawares on another one's head.
"'Who trod on my head?' asked the other in a passion.
"'I didn't mean to tread upon you; don't be angry,' said the other; but he was angry still. And as they went on vociferating, they got to disputing with one another in such words as these: 'Ah! it was you then, I suppose, who did the lifting up of the net!'
"When they were so quarreling, the Bodhisattva thought, 'There is no depending for safety upon a quarrelsome man! No longer will these fellows lift up the net; so they will come to great destruction, and the fowler will get his chance again. I dare not stay here any more!' And he went off with his more immediate followers to some other place.
"And the fowler came a few days after, and imitated the cry of a quail, and cast his net over those who came together. Then the one quail cried out:
"'The talk was that the very hairs of your head fell off when you heaved up the net. Lift away, then, now!'
"The other cried out, 'The talk was that the very feathers of your wings fell out when you heaved up the net. Lift away, then, now!'
"But as they were each calling on the other to lift away, the hunter himself lifted up the net, bundled them all in in a heap together, crammed them into his basket, and went home, and made his wife to smile."
When the Master had finished this lesson in virtue, in illustration of what he had said ("Thus, O king, there ought to be no such thing as quarreling among relatives; for quarrels are the root of misfortune"), he made the connection, and summed up the Jataka, "He who at that time was the foolish quail was Devadatta, but the wise quail was I myself."