Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

023 – The Heart of the Monkey

Vanarendra-Jataka, Mathura The crocodile

Once, there lived a big and strong monkey on the bank of a river. In the middle of the river, there was an island, which bore seasonal fruits like mangoes and jack-fruits. The island was at a distance of one-leap from a large piece of rock, which lay in between the island and the bank. The monkey often used the rock as a spring-board to jump at the island to enjoy its fruits.

A crocodile also lived in the river with his wife. She was very dear to him. One day, the female crocodile expressed the desire to eat the heart of the monkey. So, she asked the crocodile to catch the monkey and bring her his heart, if he loved her. The crocodile readily agreed and dipped into the river to catch the monkey.

That day, when the monkey was enjoying the fruits in the island, the crocodile went to the lone rock, which the monkey used as a jumping pad to reach the island, and cuddled about it. Upon his return the monkey noticed that the rock looked bigger than its usual size. He instantly suspected that something was amiss. He thought, “Perhaps, some crocodile was hiding behind it!”. To verify the reality, he then spoke to the rock, “Dear Rock ! Why are you silent, today? Why don’t you say hello to me, today?” The crocodile thought that the rock, indeed, was a talking rock. So he responded on behalf of the rock by saying, “Dear monkey, how do you do?” Now, the monkey knew that his suspicion was not unfounded. To further confirm the presence of the enemy, he shouted, “The rocks are not supposed to speak. Now, I know somebody is behind it. Would you come out and reveal your identity?”

The crocodile then came out behind the rock and proudly declared his identity; and also his intention to eat his heart. The monkey was caught into the devil and the deep sea! Staying back in the island was not desirable because the place could hardly provide him enough food to survive there much longer. So, he decided to return to his abode on the bank. So, to devise his escape he bluffed, “Sir! As I cannot escape now; I would like to offer my body to you. Should you open your mouth, I would straight way jump into it”. The monkey was wise, he knew that once a crocodile opened up its jaw, its eyes would be closed. The crocodile agreed and no sooner than he opened up his jaws his eyes were shut. Taking advantage of the situation the clever monkey jumped upon the crocodile’s head and darted on the bank safely.

When the crocodile opened up his eyes and saw the monkey safe on the bank he praised the latter’s wisdom by saying:

O Monkey ! With the combination of the truth, foresight,
Strong determination and fearlessness one always routs the enemy.

See Vanarinda Jataka Jataka Pali No. 56 (Some editions enlist it as No. 57)