Jataka 145

Rādha Jātaka

Rādha’s Story

as told by Eric Van Horn

originally translated by Robert Chalmers, B.A., of Oriel College, Oxford University

originally edited by Professor Edward Byles Cowell, Cambridge University

This story is about the futility of trying to keep someone from misbehaving when they are determined to do so. Anyone who has dealt with an addict or someone with a compulsive behavior will understand this. In this case the misbehaving person is an unfaithful wife, but it could be anyone.

It is also interesting that in this story the wisest and most ethical being is a parrot!

How many more?” This story was told by the Master while he was at Jetavana. It is about the infidelity of a man’s wife. The incidents of the introductory story will be told in the Indriya Jātaka (Jātaka 423).

The Master spoke thus to the monk, “It is impossible to always keep guard over someone. No guard can keep them on the right path. In former days you found that all your safeguards were ineffective. How can you now expect to have more success?”

And so saying, he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a parrot. A certain brahmin in the Kāsi country was like a father to him and his younger brother. He treated them like they were his own children. The Bodhisatta’s name was Poṭṭhapāda, and his brother’s name was Rādha.

Nov the brahmin had an unfaithful wife. And as he was leaving home on business, he said to the two brothers, “If your mother decides to behave badly, stop her.”

“We will, papa,” the Bodhisatta said, “if we can. But if we can't, we will hold our peace.”

Having thus entrusted his wife to the parrots’ charge, the brahmin set out on his business. Every day afterward his wife misbehaved. There was no end to the stream of her lovers in and out of the house. Moved by the sight, Rādha said to the Bodhisatta, “Brother, our father told us to stop his wife’s misconduct, and now she does nothing but behave badly. Let us stop her.”

“Brother,” the Bodhisatta said, “what you suggest is impossible. You might carry her around in your arms and yet you could not prevent her from misbehaving. So do not suggest the impossible.” And so saying he uttered this stanza:

How many more shall midnight bring? Your plan

Is idle. Nothing but good faith could curb

Her lust, and good faith is quite lacking.

And so the Bodhisatta did not allow his brother to speak to the brahmin’s wife, who continued to gad about to her heart’s content during her husband’s absence. On his return, the brahmin asked Poṭṭhapāda about his wife’s conduct, and the Bodhisatta faithfully related all that had taken place.

Figure: The Disgusted Parrot

Figure: The Disgusted Parrot

“Why, father,” he said, “why should you have anything to do with such a wicked a woman?” And he added these words, “My father, now that I have told you about my mother’s wickedness, we cannot live here any longer.” So saying, he bowed at the brahmin’s feet and flew away with Rādha to the forest.

His lesson ended, the Master taught the Four Noble Truths at the close of which the monk was established in the fruition of the first Path (stream-entry).

“This husband and wife,” said the Master, “were the brahmin and his wife of those days. Ānanda was Rādha, and I was Poṭṭhapāda.”