The Pigeon And The Crow – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[The Danger of Greed]
Once upon a time, the people of Benares
were fond of setting up bird houses. This was an
act of generosity and kindness, done for the com-
fort of birds. It also made the people happy to hear
the friendly birds singing.
The richest man in the city had a cook. He
kept such a bird house near the kitchen. In it lived
a gentle and careful pigeon. He was so gentle that
he did not care to eat meat. And he was careful to
keep his distance from the cook. For he knew the
cook was in the habit of roasting and boiling dead
animals, even including birds!
So the pigeon always left the bird house
early in the morning. After spending the day find-
ing and eating his food, he returned each night to
sleep in the bird house. He was quite contented
with his calm and harmless life.
Nearby there was a crow who was quite a
different sort of character. For one thing, he would
eat anything! And he was not known for being
gentle and careful. Instead, he often became
overly excited, and acted without considering the
danger. And far from being contented, he often
got himself into trouble.
One day the crow smelled the delicious
food being cooked in the rich man’s kitchen. He
was so attracted by the odour that he could not
take his mind off it. He decided that he must have
the rich man’s meat at any cost. So he began spy-
ing on the kitchen, trying to figure out a way to
get some of the meat and fish.
As usual, that evening the pigeon returned
with his little belly satisfied, and contentedly en-
tered his little home for the night. Seeing this, the
hungry crow thought, “Ah, wonderful! I can make
use of this dull pigeon to grab a delicious feast
from the kitchen.”
The next morning, the crow followed the
pigeon when he left for the day. The pigeon asked
him, “Oh my friend, why are you following me?”
The crow replied, “Sir, I like you very much, and I
admire your calm and regular way of life. From
now on, I would like to assist you and learn from
The pigeon said, “Friend crow, your life
style is much more exciting than mine. You would
get bored following me around. And you don’t
even eat the same food I do. So how can you
assist me?”
The crow said. “When you go each day to
find your food, we will separate and I will find my
food. In the evening, we will come back together.
Being together, we will be able to help and protect
each other.” The pigeon said. “That sounds all
right to me. Now go your own way and work hard
finding food.”
The pigeon spent his usual day eating grass
seeds. It took some time patiently searching for a
few little grass seeds, but he was satisfied and
The crow spent the day turning over cow
dung patties, so he could gobble up the worms
and insects he found there. This was fairly easy
work, but he kept thinking it would be even easier
to steal from the rich man’s kitchen. And no doubt
the food would be better too!
When he was full, he went to the pigeon
and said, “Sir pigeon, you spend too much time
searching for and eating food. It is no good wast-
ing the whole day that way. Let us go home.” But
the pigeon kept on steadily eating grass seeds, one
by one. He was quite happy that way.
At the end of the day, the impatient crow
followed the pigeon back to his bird house. They
slept in it together peacefully. They spent several
days and nights in this way.
Then one day there was a delivery of many
kinds of fresh meat and fish. The cook hung them
on hooks in the kitchen for storage.
The crow saw this and was overwhelmed
by the sight of so much food. His desire became
greed, and he began plotting a way to get it all for
himself. He decided to pretend to be sick. So he
spent the entire night groaning and moaning.
The next morning, the pigeon was ready to
go look for food as usual. The crow said, “Go
without me, sir pigeon, I have been sick to my
stomach all night long.”
The pigeon replied, “My dear crow, that
sounds so strange. I’ve never heard of a crow get-
ting an upset stomach. But I have heard they
sometimes faint from hunger. I suspect you want
to gobble up as much as you can of the meat and
fish in the kitchen. But it’s for people, not crows.
People don’t eat pigeon food. Pigeons don’t eat
crow food. And it would not be wise for you to eat
people food. It might even be dangerous! So come
with me as usual, and be satisfied with crow food,
sir crow!”
The crow said, “I’m too sick, friend pigeon,
I’m too sick. Go ahead without me.”
“Very well,” said the pigeon, “but your ac-
tions will speak louder than your words. I warn
you, don’t risk safety for the sake of greed. Be pa-
tient until I return.” Then the pigeon left for the
But the crow paid no attention. He thought
only about grabbing a big piece of fish, and was
glad to be rid of the pigeon. “Let him eat grass
seeds!” he thought.
Meanwhile, the cook prepared the meat and
fish in a big stew pot. While it was cooking, he
kept the lid slightly off, to allow the steam to es-
cape. The crow smelled the delicious fragrance in
the rising steam. Watching from the bird house, he
saw the cook go outside to rest from the heat.
The crow saw that this was the chance he’d
been waiting for. So he flew into the kitchen and
sat on the edge of the stew pot. First he looked for
the biggest piece of fish he could find. Then he
stuck his head inside and reached for it. But in so
doing, he knocked the lid off! The clattering
sound brought the cook into the kitchen at once.
He saw the crow standing on the edge of
the pot with a fish bigger than he was, hanging
from his beak! Immediately, he closed the door
and window of the kitchen. He thought, “This
food is for the rich man. I work for him, not for
some mangy crow! I will teach him a lesson he’ll
never forget!”
The poor crow could not have picked a
worse enemy. This cook just happened to be
rather ignorant, so he did not mind being cruel
when he had the upper hand. He took no pity at all
on the clever crow.
He grabbed him, and plucked out all his
feathers. The poor crow looked ridiculous without
his shining black feathers. Then the vengeful cook
made a spicy paste from ginger, salt and chilli
peppers. He rubbed it all over the crow’s pink sore
skin. Then he put him on the floor of the bird
house, and laughed.
The crow sweated and suffered from the
terrible burning pain. He cried in agony all day
In the evening, the pigeon returned from a
quiet day searching for and eating grass seeds. He
was shocked to see the terrible state of his friend
the crow. He said, “Obviously, you didn’t listen to
me at all. Your greed has done you in. I’m so sad
there’s nothing I can do to save you. And I’m
afraid to stay in this bird house so close to that
cruel cook. I must leave at once!”
So the careful pigeon flew away in search
of a safer bird house. And the plucked and pasted
crow died a painful death.
The moral is: Greed makes one deaf to sound

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