Talking Animals in Mula Texts

I do not really believe in animals who can vocally speak and I believe that the “quotes of animals speaking” are actually messages or signs the animals give that we intuitively know similar to Lassie, Flipper, or Free Willie. When the story is retold, it includes that as dialog… but who knows… maybe it is possible like Babe or Mr. Ed. .

It could also be like koko the sign language ape, or talking parrots who have been able to be trained to count items and speak based on knowledge (although very rudimentary).

The Jātaka is filled with such examples, but this is one of the major factors that dvi-pitakans call “Foul Play” on the sidelines.

Recently, I wrote an editorial type of article on “How Do Monks Live Without Money?”. I quoted a source where the Buddha instructs the monk to ask the birds if they would give him one feather each. TIt would be good to quote more mula sources in this thread.

‘Do you want that flock of birds to stay away?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Well then, go back to that forest grove. In the first part of the night, call out three times and say,
“Listen to me, good birds. I want a feather from anyone roosting in this forest grove. Each one of you must give me a feather.”
And in the middle and last part of the night do the same thing.’

The monk returned to that forest grove and did as instructed.
That flock of birds thought,
‘The monk is asking for a feather; he wants a feather,’
and they left that grove and never returned.



This classic story is from the

Vinayapiṭake, Mahāvaggapāḷi

It is a classic story for monks to know and it is also mentioned in the BMC for monks. “The Long Search” video on Buddhism has a little Sri Lankan boy quoting this story. Sometimes when I talk about Pa-Auk I mention the size of the trees, the missing library, hospital, eating hall, staircase to the sima and even a paved road, but Sayadawgyi planted all of the seeds.

3. Aggāsanādianujānana

2.3 The instruction on the best seat, etc.

Atha kho, bhikkhave, tittiro ca makkaṭo ca hatthināgaṃ pucchiṃsu—
The partridge and the monkey then asked the elephant,

‘tvaṃ, samma, kiṃ porāṇaṃ sarasī’ti?
‘What’s your first memory?’

‘Yadāhaṃ, sammā, poto homi, imaṃ nigrodhaṃ antarā satthīnaṃ karitvā atikkamāmi, aggaṅkurakaṃ me udaraṃ chupati.
‘When I was a young, I stepped over this banyan tree, keeping it between my thighs, and the top shoots touched my belly.

Imāhaṃ, sammā, porāṇaṃ sarāmī’ti.
That’s my first memory.’

Atha kho, bhikkhave, tittiro ca hatthināgo ca makkaṭaṃ pucchiṃsu—
The partridge and the elephant asked the monkey,

‘tvaṃ, samma, kiṃ porāṇaṃ sarasī’ti?
‘What’s your first memory?’

‘Yadāhaṃ, sammā, chāpo homi, chamāyaṃ nisīditvā imassa nigrodhassa aggaṅkurakaṃ khādāmi.
‘When I was a young, I sat on the ground and ate the top shoots of the banyan tree.

Imāhaṃ, sammā, porāṇaṃ sarāmī’ti.
That’s my first memory.’

Atha kho, bhikkhave, makkaṭo ca hatthināgo ca tittiraṃ pucchiṃsu—
The monkey and the elephant asked the partridge,

‘tvaṃ, samma, kiṃ porāṇaṃ sarasī’ti?
‘What’s your first memory?’

‘Amukasmiṃ, sammā, okāse mahānigrodho ahosi.
‘In such and such a spot there was a great banyan tree.

Tato ahaṃ phalaṃ bhakkhitvā imasmiṃ okāse vaccaṃ akāsiṃ;
I ate one of its fruits and defecated here.

tassāyaṃ nigrodho jāto.
This banyan tree has grown from that.

Tadāhaṃ, sammā, jātiyā mahantataro’ti.
Well then, I must be the oldest one.’

Atha kho, bhikkhave, makkaṭo ca hatthināgo ca tittiraṃ etadavocuṃ—
The monkey and the elephant said to the partridge,

‘tvaṃ, samma, amhākaṃ jātiyā mahantataro.
‘You’re the oldest of us.

Taṃ mayaṃ sakkarissāma garuṃ karissāma mānessāma pūjessāma, tuyhañca mayaṃ ovāde patiṭṭhissāmā’ti.
We will honor, respect, and esteem you, and we’ll wait for your instructions.’

Atha kho, bhikkhave, tittiro makkaṭañca hatthināgañca pañcasu sīlesu samādapesi, attanā ca pañcasu sīlesu samādāya vattati.
The partridge had the monkey and the elephant take the five precepts, and he also undertook them himself.


There are few things to mention.

First that, most of these stories, except the monks who were told to ask birds in the forest, happened in the past. We should not forget, At sometimes the human lifespan may be 20 000, 100 000 years or more than that because at these times people are more virtuous, better rain by devas, and the ojā in the food is better. At this time we can guess that animals also have longer lives, less kilesā, more in adequation with Dhamma, and probably more able to communicate on complex subjects.

Also, most of the times it is about animals who have more puññā in their past lives or pāramī, like the Bodhisatta , his high and great disciples past lives or the Venerable Devadatta who despite his hatred for the Buddha had the pāramī to obtain iddhī and become Paccekabuddha in future, or any disciples who attained Arahantship at the Buddha ’ s time… We can guess that their births as animals are naturally gifted with higher abilities than normal animals.

Most of the time it is about clever kind of animals, such as elephants, monkeys, parrots, who are intelligent and certainly quite capable of communication.


Its perfectly possible that monk had abhinna powers and was able to literally communicate with them them.

As for the jatakas, those were in a different time, as Matthias pointed out, its possible animals at that time/kappa could communicate with humans as a norm.


We all share citta and cetasika. Just the same things. Intelligence, consciousness, emotions, memory and etc are the same throughout the existence. But we must express them physically to communicate. Animals speak their respective languages. Probably, animals speak the same language humans do not understand. It seems we have a universal language that is natural to them as their inbuilt memory or instinct, but mankind has forgotten it.
Another language is telepathy that seems to be natural to animals, particularly the animals they have no vocal.

Nama Rupa Sankhara

The story of two parrot siblings is also interesting. When they were still young, a storm took them to separate parts of a forest. The older one was saved by an ascetic and taught it to be good. The younger one was adopted by thieves so he was hearing all the foul languages throughout his life.

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Magadhi, the languages of Magadha, including Pali is said animals could understand it. I think the animals in Magadha understood some of the region’s languages. I wonder the animals in our regions also understand some of the words.
That’s my two cents.

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Another video

Joke: “There is no classical theravada forum yet to be found on the Internet.” :wink:

The incident found in Mahavaggapali (giving 5 precepts and making other animals observed them) is not of that sort.

Furthermore, Mahavaggapali and Jatakas are not modifiable texts. (Suttam, geyyam, veyyakaranam, jatakam …)

They are EBTs. :face_holding_back_tears: