Buddhist Stories (1 to 7)

1. Learning to Listen

Once, the Bodhisattva was born as an ascetic. He had five hundred followers, who lived with him in his mountain abode. Once day, half of his followers, including their chief had gone away looking for food. Suddenly, the Bodhisattva fell sick and took to bed.

The followers who had remained with him at the abode reached his bedside to tent to him. They asked him what his life’s achievement was. The Bodhisattva replied, “Nothing.” The followers failed to understand the true meaning of the wise man’s words.

They considered him to be a failure because he had achieved nothing. Soon after, the Bodhisattva died. The foolish followers gave him a simple burial, without any ceremony. When the chief of the other half of the followers returned, he explained to the others that their master had achieved such divinity that he could see beyond the ordinary appearance of things. But they did not understand him either.

One night, the Bodhisattva appeared before his followers and said, “The one who hears the Truth and understands it immediately is far better off than a hundred fools who spend a hundred years thinking.” The followers then realized that one should listen when the wise speak.

2. The Story of a Sacrifice

Once upon a time, the Bodhisattva was born as a scholar and mastered all the scriptures. He became an ascetic and had a number of disciples. One day, while the Bodhisattva was walking through the forest with his disciple Ajita, he saw a hungry tigress about to eat her own cubs. Deeply moved, the Bodhisattva decided to offer himself as food for the tigress. He feared that his disciple would stop him from sacrificing his life and so the Bodhisattva sent Ajita away on an errand and placed himself in front of the tigress. “Grr…” growled the tigress and ripped the Bodhisattva apart. She and her cubs fed on him ravenously.

When Ajita returned and saw his master’s blood-stained clothes, he shouted out in terror, “God Lord! These are the Master’s clothes. That means these creatures must have fed on him!” With a heavy heart Ajita returned to narrate how his master had sacrificed his own life out of charity and compassion.

3. The Reward of Honesty

The spirit dwelling in a holy castor tree once was actually the Bodhisattva. One day a poor man came to pray to the tree. Since he was poor, he had nothing to give the tree as an offering, except a piece of bread. So, when he saw others offering many expensive gifts to the tree, he thought that the tree would not receive a humble gift like his. He was about to go back when suddenly the Bodhisattva appeared before him and said, “My friend, I am hungry. Won’t you give me the bread to eat?” The man was too astonished to speak and gave the bread to him. After eating it, the Bodhisattva said, “Dig the ground near the tree and you will find a pitcher of gold coins.” But the man did not take the money and instead informed the king about it. The king was pleased with the poor man’s honesty and made him the royal treasurer.

4. The Wild Elephant

One of the many lives of the Bodhisattva was spent as an ascetic. This one time, he came back as the most superior ascetic in the whole order and everyone used to follow him. There was another ascetic in the same order who was jealous of the Bodhisattva. So, to remove the Bodhisattva from his path, he asked some elephant keepers to intoxicate a ferocious elephant by giving it liquor and then letting it loose on the Bodhisattva’s path. The ferocious and drunk elephant was let loose on the street and people ran in every direction to save their lives. The Bodhisattva continued walking down the path and looked calm. Suddenly, a woman, who was very frightened, accidentally dropped her child at the feet of the Bodhisattva. The wild elephant walked up to them and as it was about to trample them, the Bodhisattva placed his hand on its forehead and gently stroked it. Suddenly, the wild elephant became calm and bowed in front of him. Everyone was amazed to see this miracle.

5. The Hare in the Moon

The Bodhisattva was once born as a pious hare. One evening he was about to meditate when his eye caught the almost complete orb of the moon in the distant sky. He remembered that the coming day was the holy fifteenth day of the brighter half of the month – the day on which one should not eat a single morsel before offering food to the guest first. The Bodhisattva felt worried as he had no food that was good enough for a guest. After much thought, he decided to offer his body as food to anyone who may come to visit him. Now, Sakka, the King of Gods, learning about the Bodhisattva’s resolve, appeared in the forest the next day to test his strength of character. He took the guise of a Brahmin and pretended to be in dire need of food. Seeing the Brahmin, the Bodhisattva lit a fire by striking two stones and jumped into the raging flames. Sakka was stunned by this act of sacrifice. The hare’s soul went up to heaven and Sakka, in his honour, adorned the moon with the hare’s image.

6. The Wise King

Once upon a time, the Bodhisattva was born to King Buddhirama of Mithila and was named Fruitful. Prince Fruitful grew up to become a handsome young man. By the time he was sixteen, he had mastered religion and literature and was a skilled warrior. He decided to sail to Burma to make his fortune. There was a fierce storm at sea and the ship began to sink. Fruitful soaked his clothes in oil, so that it would help him float on water, then jumped into the sea and swam with all his might in the direction of Mithila. The Sea Goddess, pleased with his undying spirit and courage, flew to Mithila and lay him down on a sacred stone in a mango garden.

Now, King Buddhirama had died before his son was born and his kingdom had been usurped by his brother, Suddhirama. And now, King Suddhirama had died. The royal priest set a white horse free and declared that the first person the horse would stop by, would be crowned the new king of Mithila. The royal horse roamed for many days, reached the mango garden and stopped by Prince Fruitful! The priest anointed the prince with holy water and took him to the palace to Princess Sivali, King Suddhirama’s daughter. She said, “My father’s final wish was that the future king would have to pass two tests. He will have to string a bow that can only be strung by a thousand men and he will have to find sixteen hidden treasures, the first of which is the treasure of the Rising Sun. Only then can he become king.”

Fruitful strung the bow effortlessly. For the second test, he remembered that the Silent Buddhas – the holy men who never preached – were often compared to the glory of the sun. So, he went to the place there where King Suddhirama used to go to give alms to the Silent Buddhas, dug the ground and just as he had thought, found the first treasures. Reasoning similarly, he found all the hidden treasures and passed both tests. Thus, Prince Fruitful became the king of Mithila.

7. Being Patient Pays

A King’s Minister was once passing with his caravan through a narrow muddy road to his village estate. On the way he came across a bullock cart, which was stuck in the mud and was blocking the way. The cart driver was trying in vain to pull it out of the mud. “Get out of my way,” shouted the proud minister. “Sir, my cart is stuck here. You will have to wait till I can get it out,” said the cart driver politely. Furious, the minister picked up a huge stone and threw it at the bullock cart. But alas, instead of hitting the cart, the stone hit the chain of his own caravan and bouncing back, hit the minister’s forehead. Writing in pain, the minster went and complained about the cart driver to the king, who without any enquiry ordered the poor man to be punished. But the Bodhisattva, who was the chief judge, came to know the truth and changed the order. The cart driver was saved.