Week 2: Jataka Tales (Birth Stories of the Buddha)

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Image Gallery

Sihacamma-Jataka. "Nor lion nor tiger I see..."

Reading time: 2 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

As you will see, the "story of the present" is so similar to the other story about Kokalika you just read that there is barely any information given in the story of the present. Kokalika is basically making the same mistake here as he did in the last story: this time, instead of wanting to recite Scripture, he wants to "intone," or chant prayers.

This story, like the last, was about Kokalika, told by the Master in Jetavana. This time he wanted to intone.

The Master on hearing of it told the following story.

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a farmer's family, and when he grew up he got a livelihood by tillage.

At the same time there was a Merchant who used to go about hawking goods, which a donkey carried for him. Wherever he went, he used to take his bundle off the donkey, and threw a lionskin over him, and then turn him loose in the rice and barley fields. When the watchmen saw this creature, they imagined him to be a lion, and so durst not come near him.

One day this hawker stopped at a certain village, and while he was getting his own breakfast cooked, he turned the donkey loose in a barley field with the lionskin on. The watchmen thought it was a lion, and durst not come near, but fled home and gave the alarm.

All the villagers armed themselves, and hurried to the field, shouting and blowing on conches and beating drums. The donkey was frightened out of his wits, and gave a hee haw!

Then the Bodhisatta, seeing that it was a donkey, repeated the first stanza:

Nor lion nor tiger I see
Not even a leopard is he:
But a donkey - the wretched old hack!
With a lionskin over his back!

As soon as the villagers learnt that it was only a donkey, they cudgeled him till they broke his bones, and then went off with the lionskin.

When the Merchant appeared, and found that his donkey had come to grief, he repeated the second stanza:

The donkey, if he had been wise,
Might long the green barley have eaten;
A lionskin was his disguise:
But he gave a hee haw, and got beaten!

As he was in the act of uttering these words, the donkey expired. The Merchant left him, and went his way.

After this discourse was ended, the Master identified the Birth: "At that time Kokalika was the donkey, and the wise farmer was I myself."

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why did the merchant put a lionskin on the donkey?
  • why did the villagers run away at first? how did they find out the truth?
  • what finally happened to the donkey?

Source: Jataka #189. The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births (in six volumes). Editor: E.B. Cowell. 1895.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM