The Story about the Biting Turtle
Kacchapajātaka, Ja 273

An English translation of this Jātaka story, including the word commentary, which has never been translated before.

translated by
Ānandajoti Bhikkhu




In the original translation by W.H.D. Rouse in 1895 the Story of the Past was considered so risque, he only translated it into Latin, presumably thinking the educated should have access to it, but not the commoner. I reproduce the original translation in a separate document.

By the standards of our bad-mouthing and pornography-saturated culture it seems very mild these days, and I trust that the student can handle the story for themselves, so I give the translation in full.

The stories are somewhat of a mismatch. In the present the Buddha manages to reconcile two ministers who previously had always been quarreling, and he then tells a story supposedly showing how he did the same in the past.

Unfortunately, the story does no such thing. There a monkey puts his penis into the mouth of a sleeping turtle on the river bank, and the turtle in turn bites down on him, and will not let go.

After the monkey goes to the Bodhisatta (an ascetic living in the wilderness), the latter persuades the tortoise to let go, and the monkey runs away into the forest. There is no hint, though, of the two being reconciled.


In the present two ministers are always arguing with each other, and not even the king can prevent them. The Buddha tells a story of how a monkey attacked a turtle and was bitten in return, and how the Bodhisatta persuaded the turtle to let the monkey go.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
the two ministers = the turtle and the monkey (kacchapavānarā).

Present Source: Ja 154 Uraga,
Quoted at: Ja 165 Nakula, Ja 273 Kacchapa.

Keywords: Quarrels, Determination.

The Story of the Present

What is that pile of food. {2.359} The Teacher taught this, while living at Jeta’s Wood, concerning the settling of a quarrel between two ministers of the king of Kosala. The Story of the Present has been told in the Section with Two Verses. Specifically in Ja 154 Uragajātaka, which I include here.

It seems the king of Kosala had two ministers, who were attendants and leaders of a guild, who, whenever one saw the other, quarrelled. They naturally became enemies in the whole city. Neither the king, nor relatives, were able to reconcile them.

Then one day in the morning the Teacher, while looking round to see who was capable of being released from bondage, saw these two had the supporting conditions for the Path of Stream-Entry.

And on another day he entered Sāvatthī alone for alms, and stood at the door of one of their houses. After coming out, taking the bowl, leading the Teacher inside the residence, he had him sit down on the prepared seat.

While sitting there the Teacher taught about the advantages ofdeveloping loving-kindness, and when he knew his mind was ready, he explained the truths, and at the end of the truths he was established in the Fruit of Stream-Entry.

The Teacher, knowing he had the state of Stream-Entry, after making him take the bowl, rose and went to the door of the other’s house.

After he had come out, he paid respects to the Teacher, saying: “Enter, venerable sir,” and after entering he made him sit down. The other minister also took the bowl, and entered together with the Teacher. The Teacher praised the eleven advantages of loving-kindness, and when he knew his mind was ready, he explained the truths, and at the end of the truths he was also established in the Fruit of Stream-Entry.

These two both having Stream-Entry, confessed their offences to each other, and after asking forgiveness, and being reconciled and on good terms, their intentions were one and the same.

That very day face to face with the Fortunate One they ate together.

The Teacher, after he had finshed the meal duties, returned to the monastery.

Carrying a lot of garlands, incense, creams, and ghee, honey and molasses, they entered together with the Teacher.

The Teacher, having explained the duties to the monastic Saṅgha, {2.13} and given advice, entered into the Perfumed Hut.

The next morning, amongst the monastics in the Dhamma Hall, this talk about the Teacher’s virtues arose: “Friends, the Teacher tames the untamed, these two ministers were striving for a long time, but neither was the king able to bring about reconciliation, and nor were their relatives, friends and so on able, but in just one day the Realised One tamed them.”

After the Teacher came, he asked: “And what, monastics, are you discussing while sitting here?”

“Namely, this,” they said.

“Now, monastics, I have reconciled whese two people, and before I also reconclied them,” and after saying that, he delivered a story about the past.

The Story of the Past

In the past, when King Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares, the Bodhisatta, after being reborn in a brahmin family in the Kāsi country, maturing, and learning all the crafts at Taxila, abandoned sensual pleasures, and went forth in the seer’s going forth. He built an ashram on the bank of the Gaṅges in the foothills of the Himālayas, and there, after the Super Knowledges and Attainments had arisen, he dwelt enjoying the joy of the Absorptions.

It seems in this Birth the Bodhisatta had supreme impartiality, and fulfilled the Perfection of Equanimity.

As he was sitting at the door to his leaf hut one cheeky, immoral, monkey came, and tried to insert his male organ into his ears.

The Bodhisatta, without resisting, being impartial, sat right there.

Then one day one turtle, after rising out of the water, after opening its mouth on the river bank, slept there warming himself in the sunshine.

Having seen that, the agitated monkey inserted his penis into his mouth.

After the turtle woke up, he bit his male organ like someone closing a casket, and strong pain arise.

Unable to bear the pain, the monkey said: “I will go into the presence of anyone who can free me from this suffering,” and he thought: “Another cannot free me from this suffering, none have the skill, except this ascetic. It is suitable for me to go into his presence.”

Holding the turtle with both hands, he went into the presence of the Bodhisatta.

The Bodhisatta joking with the immoral monkey spoke the first verse:

1. “Ko {2.360} nu uddhitabhatto va, pūrahattho va brāhmaṇo?
1. “What is that pile of food, like a brahmin with a handful?

Kahaṁ nu bhikkhaṁ acari? Kaṁ saddhaṁ upasaṅkamī.” ti
Where did you go for alms? What funeral did you attend?”

Herein, what is that pile of food, what is this, like a mass of food, like one who grabbed with the hand a bowlful of food, who is this coming, is the meaning.

Like a brahmin with a handful, like a brahmin who received an invitation to a recital This would be a recital of the Vedas, after which the brahmins would receive gifts. in the month of Kattika, what is this is said in regard to the monkey.

Where did you go for alms? Dear monkey, in what place today did you go for alms?

What funeral did you attend? Which of the many funeral feasts offered for the departed, which of the many funerals for a person, did you attend? Where was this gift given to you, is the explanation.

Having heard that, the immoral monkey spoke the second verse:

2. “Ahaṁ kapismi dummedho, anāmāsāni āmasiṁ,
2. “I am a foolish monkey, having touched the untouchable,

Tvaṁ maṁ mocaya, bhaddaṁ te, mutto gaccheyya pabbatan-ti.
If you release me, bless you, free, I will go to the mountain.”

Herein, I am a foolish monkey, means bless you, I am a foolish, fickle-minded, monkey.

Having touched the untouchable means having touched that thing which should not be touched.

If you release me, bless you, means if you, having sympathy and compassion, release me from this suffering, bless you.

Free, I will go to the mountain means I, through your power, freed from this disaster, will go to the mountain, and will never again show myself within range of sight.

Having compassion the Bodhisatta, conversing with the turtle, spoke the third verse:

3. “Kacchapā Kassapā honti, Koṇḍaññā honti makkaṭā,
3. “The Kassapas are turtles, and the Koṇḍaññas are monkeys,

Muñca Kassapa Koṇḍaññaṁ, kataṁ methunakaṁ tayā.” ti
Kassapa, free up Koṇḍañña, from having intercourse with you.”

This is the meaning: {2.361} turtles is a name for the Kassapa clan, monkeys are the Koṇḍañña clan, the Kassapas and the Koṇḍaññas are connected through give and take in marraige.

Surely, it is not proper that you have intercourse with someone reckoned as from an equal clan, having intercourse is reckoned as an immoral deed, therefore, Kassapa, free up Koṇḍañña.

The turtle, having heard the Bodhisatta’s word, pleased with his reasoning, released the monkey’s male organ.

The monkey, the moment he was free, paid respects to the Bodhisatta and ran away without turning back to that place, nor did he even look back.

The turtle paid respects to the Bodhisatta and went to his own place.

The Bodhisatta, without falling away from his meditation, crossed over to the Brahmā Realm.

The Conclusion

The Teacher after delivering the Dhamma teaching, and revealing the truths, made the connection of the Jātaka: “At that time the two ministers were the turtle and the monkey, and I was the ascetic.”

The Story about (the Biting) Turtle, the Third