The Baby Quail Who Could Not Fly Away – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[The Power of Truth, Wholesomeness and Compassion]
Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Be-
ing was born as a tiny quail. Although he had little
feet and wings, he could not yet walk or fly. His
parents worked hard bringing food to the nest,
feeding him from their beaks.
In that part of the world, there were usually
forest fires every year. So it happened that a fire
began in that particular year. All the birds who
were able, flew away at the first sign of smoke. As
the fire spread, and got closer and closer to the
nest of the baby quail, his parents remained with
him. Finally the fire got so close, that they too had
to fly away to save their lives.
All the trees, big and small, were burning
and crackling with a loud noise. The little one saw
that everything was being destroyed by the fire
that raged out of control. He could do nothing to
save himself. At that moment, his mind was over-
whelmed by a feeling of helplessness.
Then it occurred to him, “My parents loved
me very much. Unselfishly they built a nest for
me, and then fed me without greed. When the fire
came, they remained with me until the last mo-
ment. All the other birds who could, had flown
away a long time before.
So great was the loving-kindness of my
parents, that they stayed and risked their lives, but
still they were helpless to save me. Since they
could not carry me, they were forced to fly away
alone. I thank them, wherever they are, for loving
me so. I hope with all my heart they will be safe
and well and happy.
“Now I am all alone. There is no one I can
go to for help. I have wings, but I cannot fly away.
I have feet, but I cannot run away. But I can still
think. All I have left to use is my mind – a mind
that remains pure. The only beings I have known
in my short life were my parents, and my mind
has been filled with loving-kindness towards
them. I have done nothing unwholesome to any-
one. I am filled with new-born innocent truth-
fulness.”
Then an amazing miracle took place. This
innocent truthfulness grew and grew until it be-
came larger than the little baby bird. The knowl-
edge of truth spread beyond that one lifetime, and
many previous births became known. One such
previous birth had led to knowing a Buddha, a
fully enlightened knower of Truth – one who had
the power of Truth, the purity of wholesomeness,
and the purpose of compassion.
Then the Great Being within the tiny baby
quail thought, “May this very young innocent
truthfulness be united with that ancient purity of
wholesomeness and power of Truth. May all birds
and other beings, who are still trapped by the fire,
be saved. And may this spot be safe from fire for a
million years!”
And so it was.
The moral is: Truth, wholesomeness and
compassion can save the world.