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The Gospel of Buddha:Chapter 87: The Patient Elephant

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While the Blessed One was residing in the Jetavana,
there was a householder living in Savatthi
known to all his neighbours as patient and kind,
but his relatives were wicked and contrived a plot to rob him.
One day they came to the householder
and often worrying him with all kinds of threats
took away a goodly portion of his property.
He did not go to court, nor did he complain,
but tolerated with great forbearance the wrongs he suffered. [1]

The neighbours wondered and began to talk about it,
and rumours of the affair reached the ears of the brethren in Jetavana.
While the brethren discussed the occurence in the assembly hall,
the Blessed One entered and asked
"What was the topic of your conversation?"
And they told him. [2]

Said the Blessed One:
"The time will come when the wicked relatives will find their punishment.
O brethren, this is not the first time that this occurrence took place;
it has happened before,"
and he told them a world-old tale. [3]

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares,
the Bodhisatta was born in the Himalaya region as an elephant.
He grew up strong and big, and ranged the hills and mountains,
the peaks and caves of the tortuous woods in the valleys.
Once as he went he saw a pleasant tree, and took his food, standing under it. [4]

Then some impertinent monkeys came down out of the tree,
and jumping on the elephant's back, insulted and tormented him greatly;
they took hold of his tusks, pulled his tail and disported themselves,
thereby causing him much annoyance.
The Bodhisatta, being full of patience, kindliness and mercy,
took no notice at all of their misconduct
which the monkeys repeated again and again. [5]

One day the spirit that lived in the tree,
standing upon the tree-trunk, addressed the elephant saying,
"My lord elephant, why dost thou put up with the impudence of these bad monkeys?"
And he asked the question in a couplet as follows: [6]

"Why dost thou patiently endure each freak
These mischievous and selfish monkeys wreak?" [7]

The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, replied,
"If, Tree-sprite, I cannot endure these monkeys' ill treatment
without abusing their birth, lineage, and persons,
how can I walk in the eightfold noble path?
But these monkeys will do the same to others thinking them to be like me.
If they do it to any rogue elephant, he will punish them indeed,
and I shall be delivered both from their annoyance
and the guilt of having done harm to others." [8]

Saying this he repeated another stanza: [9]

"If they will treat another one like me,
He will destroy them; and I shall be free." [10]

A few days later, the Bodhisatta went elsewhither,
and another elephant, a savage beast, came and stood in his place.
The wicked monkeys thinking him to be like the old one,
climbed upon his back and did as before.
The rogue elephant siezed the monkeys with his trunk,
threw them upon the ground, gored them with his trunk
and trampled them to mincemeat under his feet. [11]

When the Master had ended his teaching,
he declared the truths, and identified the births, saying:
"At that time the mischievous monkeys
were the wicked relatives of the good man,
the rogue elephant was the one who will punish them,
but the virtuous noble elephant
was the Tathagata himself in a former incarnation." [12]

After this discourse one of the brethren rose
and asked leave to propose a question
and when permission was granted he said:
"I have heard the doctrine that wrong should be met with wrong
and the evil doer should be checked by being made to suffer,
for if this were not done
evil would increase and good would disappear.
What shall we do?" [13]

Said the Blessed One: "Nay, I will tell you:
Ye who have left the world
and have adopted this glorious faith of putting aside selfishness,
ye shall not do evil nor return hate for hate.
Nor do ye think that ye can destroy wrong
by retaliating evil for evil and thus increasing wrong.
Leave the wicked to their fate
and their evil deeds will sooner or later
in one way or another bring on their own punishment."
And the Tathagata repeated these stanzas: [14]

"Who harmeth him that doth no harm
And stiketh him that striketh not,
Shall gravest punishment incur
The which his wickedness begot, - [15]

"Some of the greatest ills in life
Either a loathsome dread disease,
Or dread old age, or loss of mind,
Or wretched pain without surcease, [16]

"Or conflagration, loss of wealth;
Or his nearest kin he shall
See some one die that's dear to him,
And then he'll be reborn in hell." [17]

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