Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

032 – Jackal –The Arbitrator

Dabbhapuppha Jataka, Bharhut

Once the Bodhisatta was born as a tree spirit on the bank of a river. Also, there lived a jackal with his wife. As his wife, the female jackal, was very dear to him he was always intent to gratify her wishes.

One day, the female jackal expressed her desire to eat the rohit fish, and requested the jackal to bring her the same. The jackal readily agreed to bring the fish. So, he wandered on the bank of the river to grab an opportunity to find the fish for his dear wife.

Soon, he saw two otters Gambhirachari and Anutirachari standing on the bank in search of a rohita fish. Seeing a big fish in the river Gambhirachari jumped into the river with a lightning speed and caught hold the tail of the fish. But the fish was too big for him. So it dragged him deeper into the river. Gambhirachari then called upon his friend to help him. Anutirachari then joined his friend to bring the fish on the shore. After some struggle they both finally succeeded in bringing the fish on the shore. There, they killed the fish. But then the dispute began on the question of the division of the fish.

The jackal, who was so far watching the otters, now decided to intervene. He came near them and said that he had been the arbiter for many such cases; and could help them by his experience. The otters agreed to his proposed arbitration. The jackal then said:

Tail to Anutirachari and to Gambhirachari the head;

The middle to the arbiter, who must thus be paid.

Next, he advised them not to quarrel and enjoy their shares. Delightfully, he then seized the large portion of the fish and went away. The two otters were left sitting there with their eyes downcast to repent:

Had we not quarrelled we would have enjoyed the fish without fail

Because we quarrelled the jackal grabs the fish and leaves us head and tail.

The jackal arbitrating for the two cats The jackal walking away with the large portion of the fish, leaving the head and tail for the otters

The tree spirit, who witnessed the episode then sang,

When a strife begins; the men seek arbiter

Who in turn becomes their leader.

The wealth of others’ erodes then;

And the leaders’ coffers gain.

See Dabbhapuppha Jataka Jataka Pali No. 400.