The Blue Sky Bird–Story

Another open ended story. It is an invitation to see your own situation from a fresh perspective. In this sense, it is not an intellectual exercise, rather just an opportunity to see if any ideas resonate. It can be interpreted in an individual way. Further, as time and conditions change, an individual may see a different aspect from one reading to the next. And if nothing resonates, just pass on by.

Jataka tales are Buddhist teaching stories that illustrate different truths. They are often used as teaching stories for children. Many are found in folklore and found different sources and traditions. This is a more obscure one. Some references are listed below.

The Blue Sky Bird

Some quail were feeding at the edge of a clearing. A man crawled up behind them and captured four birds with his net. He put them in a cage. The quail were trapped, scared, and hungry. The man came and fed the birds. Three of them eagerly ate all that given. The fourth bird just looked at the blue sky through the cage. Each day was like this– three birds eating and the other just looking at the sky.

One day, the man saw that the birds were almost ready for market. But then he stared at the Blue Sky Bird, who was by this time quite skinny. He reached in to pull out and inspect the skinny bird. However, the Blue Sky Bird, having waited for this moment, sprung into activity and flew immediately to a branch out of the man’s reach.

The three caged birds looked up. “How can we do this too”? The Blue Sky Bird replied: “You ate the man’s food and you will be captive until you die. I refused his food and now I am free.” And off she went into the expanse of the blue.


What is valued most?
Is the direction worth the effort, even when there is a small chance of attaining it?
How are short term perspectives and distractions kept in perspective?

References: There are many books and web sites with these stories. Different adaptations of this one on the web and in the book The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha’ former Births, (3 volumes) E.B. Cowell (2001).

Additional Stories

This is a link to a Collection of Zen Stories     (


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