A Naughty Jataka

The Kacchapa Jataka is one of several rude stories in the Jataka and has, I think, never been translated into English before. Like several other risqué stories in the collection, Professor E. B. Cowell who edited the first complete English translation of the Jataka, thought it best to render it into Latin so that only scholars could read it. The purpose of the story is to highlight the Bodhisattva’s equanimity and non-retaliation. But the author or authors also uses the opportunity to poke fun at greedy brahmans who carry away more food than they can eat from various festivals and rituals, the tortoise’s shell looking something like a begging bowl. A ribald element is included to add to the fun and the tone of the story is generally light-hearted. In keeping with this ribald light-heartedness I have translated angajata as ‘dick’. The Kacchapa (Tortoise) and the Kondannas were the totems of two clans or tribes that usually did not intermarry. The monkey (makkata) in this story is a Rhesus Macaque, the most aggressive and mischievous of the several species of primates found in northern India. Interestingly, while the Bodhisattva is often depicted in Jataka stories as being reborn as one of these other types of monkeys, he is never reborn as a Macaque. One can well imagine village people roaring with laughter as a monk or learned lay person related this story to them at a religious festival or on a full-moon night. I would like to thank Anandajoti Bhikkhu for helping me with this translation.



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