There are many adaptations of a story about a brave little parrot (or other type of bird) who tries to put out a forest fire by dipping her feathers in a lake and shaking the drops over a raging forest fire. Does anyone know which number Jataka tale this originates from?

Here is an example of the adapted tale. http://healingstory.org/the-brave-little-parrot/

Thank you.

  • 1
    I guess it'll be somewhere here: tales.siththan.com/archives/2483 – Gokul NC Dec 16 '15 at 17:42
  • Hi Robin. Nice to see you on Buddhism SE again. Take care. – user2424 Dec 16 '15 at 19:41
  • 2
    There's a story of a squirrel, bodhisattva was a squirrel in a previous life and Rahula was his baby. He tried to save the baby when it fell into the ocean by trying to dry the ocean. In that story he dipped his tail in water, ran to the beach and shook out his tail. I could only locate it here page 48 verse 78, bhikkhuni.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/… – dmsp Dec 17 '15 at 16:23
  • @Robin111 I couldn't find it either. Every version I came across had the fire being put out by tears. If Bhante's memory wasn't so good, I'd swear he was mistaken :p – Ryan Dec 17 '15 at 22:39
  • @Ryan The version which Robin referenced also has the fire being put out by (the Eagle's) tears: so that's probably what Robin's looking for. Can you cite the number[s] of the version[s] you found? – ChrisW Dec 18 '15 at 21:19

The closest I have found is about a quail who put out a fire though determination. This is VAṬṬAKA-JĀTAKA (35). Perhaps there might be another Jataka about the parrot but I am not sure if it fits the description. You can perhaps read more about other Jataka tales from The Jataka tr. by Robert Chalmers.

What the author of this had to say:

This is part of Rafe Martin, Sensei's teisho on "The Brave Little Parrot" jataka. It is from his forthcoming book on Zen Buddhist practice and the jatakas, to be published by Wisdom Publications 2016.

The text for the Brave Little Parrot Jataka remains elusive. It exists as a few stirring lines of verse in the brief Jatakastava “Verses in Praise of the Buddha’s Former Lives,” a short Sythian-Khotanese work composed just prior to 1,000 AD, discovered in the cache of texts found in the Buddhist cave grottoes of Dun-Huang, China, in 1907. It does not appear in either the Pali Jataka or the Sanskrit Jatakamala, though Jataka No. 35 in the Pali collection of 547, about a quail who stops a forest fire with an act of truth, is seen as a variant. An original may exist as a carving at the great Buddhist monument of Borobodur, as well as a painting at the Ajanta caves. Whether as text or visual art, the ending of the story is different than that of our version. In the original the god, moved by the parrot’s heroism, squeezes a cloud causing rain to fall. I created the god’s tears more than forty years ago when I began telling the tale. The colors of the parrot’s feathers aren’t mentioned either. Are they gray? Multi-colored? Never mind. The point is that deeds make us who we are. Beautiful, which means selfless deeds, make us beautiful. There is truth greater than fact. Myth reveals what never was, but always is. While fact recounts what happens in one time, in one place, myth (ideally) reveals the archetype, i.e., what happens in all times, all places. Literalists adhering to the facts can still create a truncated story.

It was my decision to make the Parrot female. Is she so in the original? No, he is not. Does that make our version untrue? Stories must find their relevance to every generation or they wither and fade. The feminine is reawakening. The jatakas are often though not exclusively, patriarchal. There are wise women, enlightened nuns, and true wives and queens throughout the tales. But rarely (if ever), does the Buddha appear in as female. Maybe this is true. Maybe this is how karma works. A man is a man is a man. Or maybe monastic forms led to suppression of a greater truth. In the jatakas, the Buddha could be a crow in a graveyard, a mongrel dog, or a monkey but never a woman? Really? I felt it was time to give our grand old tradition a nudge. Hence, the emergence peck peck peck, from its overly literal shell of the brave lady parrot. Dogen writes, in “Receiving the Marrow by Bowing,” in Shobogenzo, section no. 9:

Why are men special? Emptiness is emptiness. Four great elements are four great elements. Five skhandas are five skhandas. Women are just like that. Both men and women attain the way. You should honor attainment of the way. Do not discriminate between men and women. (Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, ed. by Kazuaki Tanahashi)


You may find a collection of the Jatakas given as a Dhamma-Gift by PTS in English a and by Beyerlein & Steinschulte Verlag in German in accesstoinsight format here: Jataka also a nice tool the "ramdom jataka" programmed and given by a devoted Upasaka.

There are certain "Mahayana" Versoins, which have obviously less founding in the teachings in meaning and also less connections to a serious source of origin.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.