Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jataka: The Elephant that Spared Life

This story makes reference to the Five Commandments (Five Precepts) of Buddhism; you can read more about these precepts at Wikipedia. For the illustration, I have included a "Dharma Wheel," an important Buddhist symbol; you can learn more about this symbol at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Jataka Tales unit. Story source: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock (1920).


The Elephant that Spared Life

AT that time the Bodisat was born as a nobleman's son. On the naming-day they gave him the name of Prince Magha, and when he grew up he was known as "Magha the Young Brahmin."

His parents procured him a wife from a family of equal rank, and, increasing in sons and daughters, he became a great giver of gifts, and kept the Five Commandments.

In that village there were as many as thirty families, and one day the men of those families stopped in the middle of the village to transact some village business. The Bodisat removed with his feet the lumps of soil on the place where he stood, and made the spot convenient to stand on; but another came up and stood there. Then he smoothed out another spot, and took his stand there, but another man came and stood upon it. Still the Bodisat tried again and again, with the same result, until he had made convenient standing-room for all the thirty.

The next time he had an open-roofed shed put up there, and then pulled that down, and built a hall, and had benches spread in it, and a water-pot placed there. On another occasion those thirty men were reconciled by the Bodisat, who confirmed them in the Five Commandments, and thenceforward he continued with them in works of piety.

Whilst they were so living they used to rise up early, go out with bill-hooks and crow-bars in their hands, tear up with the crowbars the stones in the four high roads and village paths, and roll them away, take away the trees which would be in the way of vehicles, make the rough places plain, form causeways, dig ponds, build public halls, give gifts, and keep the Commandments—thus, in many ways, all the dwellers in the village listened to the exhortations of the Bodisat, and kept the Commandments.

Now the village headman said to himself: "I used to have great gain from fines, and taxes, and pot-money, when these fellows drank strong drink, or took life, or broke the other Commandments. But now Magha the Young Brahmin has determined to have the Commandments kept, and permits none to take life, or to do anything else that is wrong. I'll make them keep the Commandments with a vengeance!"

And he went in a rage to the King, and said: "O King! There are a number of robbers going about sacking the villages!"

"Go and bring them up!" said the King in reply.

And he went, and brought back all those men as prisoners, and had it announced to the King that the robbers were brought up. And the King, without inquiring what they had done, gave orders to have them all trampled to death by elephants!

Then they made them all lie down in the courtyard, and fetched the elephant. And the Bodisat exhorted them, saving: "Keep the Commandments in mind. Regard them all—the slanderer, and the King, and the elephant —with feelings as kind as you harbor towards yourselves!"

And they did so.

Then men led up the elephant, but though they brought him to the spot, he would not begin his work, but trumpeted forth a mighty cry, and took to flight. And they brought up another and another, but they all ran away.

"There must be some drug in their possession," said the King and gave orders to have them searched. So they searched, but found nothing, and told the King so.

"Then they must be repeating some spell. Ask them if they have any spell to utter."

The officials asked them, and the Bodisat said there was. And they told the King, and he had them all called before him, and said: "Tell me that spell you know!"

Then the Bodisat spoke, and said: "O King! we have no other spell but this—that we destroy no life, not even of grass; that we take nothing which is not given to us; that we are never guilty of unfaithfulness, nor speak falsehood, nor drink intoxicants; that we exercise ourselves in love, and give gifts; that we make rough places plain, dig ponds, and put up rest-houses—this is our spell, this is our defense, this is our strength!"

Then the King had confidence in them, and gave them all the property in the house of the slanderer, and made him their slave; and bestowed, too, the elephant upon them, and made them a grant of the village.





(800 words)









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