"Wings I have that I will not fly."--This the Master told when journeying through Magadha about the going out of a Jungle Fire.
For once, when the Master was journeying through Magadha, he begged his food in a certain village in that land; and after he had returned from his rounds and had finished his meal, he started forth again, attended by the disciples. Just then a great fire arose in the jungle. Many of the monks were in front, many of them behind. And the fire came spreading on towards them, one mass of smoke and flame. Some of the monks being unconverted were terrified with the fear of death; and called out--
"Let's make a counter-fire, so that the conflagration shall not spread beyond the space burnt out by that."
And taking out their fire-sticks they began to get a light.
But the others said, "Brethren, what is this you are doing? 'Tis like failing to see the moon when it has reached the topmost sky, or the sun as it rises with its thousand rays from the eastern quarter of the world; 'tis like people standing on the beachy shore and perceiving not the ocean, or standing close to Sineru and seeing not that mighty mountain, for you--when journeying along in company with the greatest Being in earth or heaven-- to call out, 'Let us make a counter fire,' and to take no notice of the supreme, the Buddha! You know not the power of the Buddhas! Come, let us go to the Master!"
And they all crowded together from in front, and from behind, and went up in a body near to the Mighty by Wisdom.
There the Master stopped, surrounded by the whole body of disciples.
The jungle fire came on roaring as if to overwhelm them. It came right up to the place where the Great Mortal stood, and then--as it came within about sixteen rods of that spot--it went out, like a torch thrust down into water, leaving a space of about thirty-two rods in breadth over which it could not pass!
Then the monks began to magnify the Teacher, saying;
"Oh! how marvelous are the qualities of the Buddhas! The very fire, unconscious though it be, cannot pass over the place where the Buddhas stand. Oh! how great is the might of the Buddhas!"
On hearing this the Teacher said--
"It is not, monks, through any power I have now that the fire goes out on reaching this plot of ground. It is through the power of a former act of mine. And in all this spot no fire will burn through the whole kalpa, for that was a miracle enduring through a kalpa."
Then the venerable Ananda folded a robe in four, and spread it as a seat for the Teacher. The Teacher seated himself; and when he had settled himself cross-legged, the body of disciples seated themselves reverently round him, and requested him, saying--
"What has now occurred, Lord, is known to us. The past is hidden from us. Make it known to us."
And the Teacher told the tale.
"Long ago the Bodhisattva entered upon a new existence as a quail in this very spot, in the land of Magadha; and after having been born in the egg, and having got out of the shell, he became a young quail, in size like a big partridge. And his parents made him lie still in the nest, and fed him with food they brought in their beaks. And he had no power either to stretch out his wings and fly through the air, nor to put out his legs and walk on the earth.
"Now that place was consumed year after year by a jungle fire. And just at that time the jungle fire came on with a mighty roar and seized upon it. The flocks of birds rose up, each from his nest, and flew away shrieking. And the Bodhisattva's parents too, terrified with the fear of death, forsook the Bodhisattva, and fled.
"When the Bodhisattva, lying there as he was, stretched forth his neck, and saw the conflagration spreading towards him, he thought: 'If I had the power of stretching my wings and flying in the air, or of putting out my legs, and walking on the ground, I could get away to some other place. But I can't! And my parents too, terrified with the fear of death, have left me all alone, and flown away to save themselves. No other help can I expect from others, and in myself I find no help. What in the world shall I do now!'
"But then it occurred to him, 'In this world there is such a thing as the efficacy of virtue; there is such a thing as the efficacy of truth. There are men known as omniscient Buddhas, who become Buddhas when seated under the Bo-tree through having fulfilled the Great Virtues in the long ages of the past; who have gained salvation by the wisdom arising from good deeds and earnest thought, and have gained too the power of showing to others the knowledge of that salvation; who are full of truth, and compassion, and mercy, and long-suffering; and whose hearts reach out in equal love to all beings that have life. To me, too, the Truth is one, there seems to be but one eternal and true Faith. It behoves me, therefore--meditating on the Buddhas of the past and on the attributes that they have gained, and relying on the one true faith there is in me--to perform an Act of Truth; and thus to drive back the fire, and procure safety both for myself, and for the other birds.'
"Therefore it is said (in the Scriptures)--
"'There's power in virtue in the world--
"'Then thinking on the power of the Faith,
"Then the Bodhisattva called to mind the attributes of the Buddhas who had long since passed away; and, making a solemn asseveration of the true faith existing in himself, he performed the Act of Truth, uttering the verse--
"'Wings I have that will not fly,
"Then before him and his Act of Truth the Element went back a space of sixteen rods; but in receding it did not return to consume the forest; it went out immediately it came to the spot, like a torch plunged into water.
"Therefore it is said--
"'For me and for my Act of Truth
"And as that spot has escaped being overwhelmed by fire through all this kalpa, this is said to be 'a kalpa-enduring miracle.' The Bodhisattva having thus performed the Act of Truth, passed away, at the end of his life, according to his deeds."
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, in illustration of what he had said ("That this wood is not passed over by the fire is not a result, O monks, of my present power; but of the power of the Act of Truth I exercised as a new-born quail"), he proclaimed the Truths. At the conclusion of the Truths some were Converted, some reached the Second Path, some the Third, some the Fourth. And the Teacher made the connection, and summed up the Jataka, "My parents at that time were my present parents, but the King of the Quails was I myself."