The Fortunate Fish – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Desire]
Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta had a
very wise adviser who understood the speech of
animals. He understood what they said, and he
could speak to them in their languages.
One day the adviser was wandering along
the river bank with his followers. They came upon
some fishermen who had cast a big net into the
river. While peering into the water, they noticed a
big handsome fish who was following his pretty
wife.
Her shining scales reflected the morning
sunlight in all the colours of the rainbow. Her
feather-like fins fluttered like the delicate wings of
a fairy, as they sent her gliding through the water.
It was clear that her husband was so entranced by
the way she looked and the way she moved, that
he was not paying attention to anything else!
As they came near the net, the wife fish
smelled it. Then she saw it and alertly avoided it
at the very last moment. But her husband was so
blinded by his desire for her, that he could not
turn away fast enough. Instead, he swam right into
the net and was trapped!
The fishermen pulled in their net and threw
the big fish onto the shore. They built a fire, and
carved a spit to roast him on.
Lying on the ground, the fish was flopping
around and groaning in agony. Since the wise ad-
viser understood fish talk, he translated for the
others. He said, “This poor fish is madly repeating
over and over again:
‘My wife! My wife! I must be with my
wife! I care for her much more than
for my life!
‘My wife! My wife! I must be with my
wife! I care for her much more than
for my life!’”
The adviser thought, “Truly this fish has
gone crazy. He is in this terrible state because he
became a slave to his own desire. And it is clear
that he has learned nothing from the results of his
actions. If he dies keeping such agony, and the de-
sire that caused it, in his mind, he will surely con-
tinue to suffer by being reborn in some hell world.
Therefore, I must save him!”
So this kind man went over to the fisher-
men and said, “Oh my friends, loyal subjects of
our king, you have never given me and my fol-
lowers a fish for our curry. Won’t you give us one
today?”
They replied, “Oh royal minister, please
accept from us any fish you wish!” “This big one
on the river bank looks delicious,” said the ad-
viser. “Please take him, sir,” they said.
Then he sat down on the bank. He took the
fish, who was still groaning, into his hands. He
spoke to him in the language only fish can under-
stand, saying, “You foolish fish! If I had not seen
you today, you would have gotten yourself killed.
Your blind desire was leading you to continued
suffering. From now on, do not let yourself be
trapped by your own desires!”
Then the fish realized how fortunate he was
to have found such a friend. He thanked him for
his wise advice. The minister released the lucky
fish back into the river, and went on his way.
The moral is: Fools are trapped by their own
desires.