Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

017 – The Monkey Brothers

Once, the Bodhisatta was born in the Himalayan region as a monkey and was called Nandaka. His younger brother was called Chullanandaka. They headed a band of eighty-four thousand monkeys. They also had a blind old mother to look after.

Once, enjoying the forest fruits they went far away from their abode. So they kept sending food to their mother through their friends, who, however, seldom delivered them to her. Tormented with hunger the mother virtually starved and became emaciated and sickly. Upon return, the two monkeys were shocked to see their mother so sickly. Further, when they learnt that the fruits, which they had sent had seldom reached her, they left all their companions and retired on a banyan tree with their mother.

One day, a wicked brahmin, who was a drop out of the famous Taxila school, and had deserted the most reputed teacher Parasariya of his time to take to the profession of hunting and killing, entered the forest. Seeing the hunter approaching, the two monkeys quickly hid behind the leaves. But the mother monkey was exposed. So, to kill her when he lifted his bow, Nandaka, the elder brother, jumped before him and requested him to spare the life of the mother and kill him. The hunter agreed and killed him.

But the hunter did not keep his promise and again aimed at the mother monkey. This time Chullanandiya, the younger brother jumped before the hunter and prayed him to spare the life of his mother and kill him in her place. The hunter again agreed to do accordingly. So, he killed the younger brother. But then he did not spare the mother monkey and broke his promise again. He took out the third arrow and shot the blind old monkey, and picked up all the three dead bodies and happily carried them home. All through, on his way he mused to please his family by his valour for having killed three monkeys in one day.

When he was about to reach home, he heard the news that his house was hit by a thunderbolt and all his family members had perished there. The loss of his family made him delirious and lunatic. He in frenzy threw out his garments and ran towards his house with his outstretched hands to hold his children and wife. When he reached the house and looked for his family members in the debris, the burnt bamboos of the house crumbled and fell on his head. It is said that, as is witnessed by the people, he was lost in the smoke and a fire sprang from the hell with the yawning of the earth and swallowed him. The eye-witnesses, however, also heard the dying man recalling the lessons of his good old Taxila guru when he had made the following utterances:

Now I remember the lessons of my teacher,
And now I understand what he meant
When he taught me to be careful;
And do nothing to repent.

[Nandiya is identified with Bodhisatta; Parasariya with Sariputta; mother-monkey with Gotami; Chullanandiya with Ananda; and Devadatta with the hunter.]

See Chullanandiya Jataka Jataka Pali No.222.