Beware Of Fatal Words

Illness enters through the mouth;
Disaster exits through the mouth.

– Chinese Saying

“The Kokalika Jataka tells that many years ago in Benares, the king had a bad habit of talking too much. A wise and valued minister decided to teach the king a lesson. A cuckoo, rather than rearing her own young, had laid an egg in a crow’s nest. The mother crow, thinking the egg to be one of her own, watched over the egg until it hatched and then fed the young infant bird.

Unfortunately, one day, while not yet grown, the small intruder uttered the distinct call of the cuckoo. The mother crow grew alarmed, pecked the young cuckoo with her beak, and tossed it from her nest. It landed at the feet of the king, who turned to his minister. ‘What is the meaning of this?’ he asked. The wise minister (the future Buddha) replied that:

‘They that with speech inopportune offend
Like the young cuckoo meet untimely end.
No deadly poison, nor sharp-whetted sword
Is half so fatal as ill-spoken word.’

The king, having learned his lesson, tempered his speech, and avoided a possible overthrow of his rule. In his commentary, the Buddha notes that he was the wise minister and the talkative king one of his garrulous monks, Kokalika.”

Thus Have I Heard: Buddhist Parables & Stories

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