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Kāka Jātaka (No.140, 146)

1. Kāka Jātaka (No.140).– The Bodhisatta was once born as a crow. One day a crow dropped filth on the king’s chaplain as he was returning from the bath arrayed in all his splendour. He thereupon conceived hatred against all crows. Soon after that a woman slave, watching some rice spread out in the sun to dry, was angered by a goat who, as soon as she fell asleep, started to eat the rice. In exasperation she fetched a torch and struck the goat’s shaggy back, which caught fire. To ease its pain, the goat ran into the hay-shed near the king’s elephant-stalls and rolled in the hay. In the conflagration that ensued many of the elephants were badly burnt, and when the chaplain was consulted, remembering his anger against crows, he said that the cure for burns was crows’ fat. Crows were accordingly being mercilessly slaughtered; the Bodhisatta, hearing of this sought the king and explained to him the chaplain’s motive. Crows had no fat, he said, because their life is passed in ceaseless dread. The king, being greatly pleased with the Bodhisatta’s act, granted immunity to all living beings, showing particular favour towards crows.

The circumstances that led to the recital of the story are described in the Bhaddasāla Jātaka (q.v.) The king in the story was Ānanda.

2. Samuddakāka Jātaka (No.146).– Once a crow came with his mate to the seashore and ate freely of the remnants of a sacrifice which had been offered by men to the Nāgā and drank freely of the strong drink which he found. Both crows became drunk, and, while trying to swim in the surf, the hen-crow was washed into the sea and eaten by a fish. Hearing the husband’s lamentations, many crows gathered together and started to empty the ocean, working away until ready to drop from weariness. Seeing their plight, the Bodhisatta, who was then a sea-sprite, caused a bogey to appear from the sea, frightening them away.

The story was told in reference to a number of monks who had joined the Order in their old age. They went for alms to their former wives’ and children’s houses, and gathering together at the house of the wife of one of them (she being particularly beautiful), placed together what each had received and ate it with sauces and curries prepared by the beautiful wife. The woman died, and the aged monks, returning to the monastery, wept aloud for their benefactress, the giver of sauces. The matter was reported to the Buddha, who identified the crows of the past with the foolish monks (J.i.497‑9).

According to the Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.iii.422), the name of the woman was Madhurapācikā.