To depend on what one knows is largely true, can save from much unwelcome.
Tales have been seminal in forming cultures and civilizations. Their delicate wit and other propensies still give aesthetic pleasures to young and old. Lessons contained in some of the stories may help younger ones to steer out of certain problems and find better outlets than foolhardiness.
There are stories from the ancient jataka tales ["birth tales"] below, and some others. They have been transposed in some respects, and the aim in so doing has been to serve the nobilty of much happiness. More Buddhist tales are found here: [Link]
"Suppose there is a man who learns this teaching for the first time and wishes to seek the correct faith but lacks courage and strength. Because he lives in this world of suffering, he fears that he will not always be able to meet the Buddhas and honour them personally, and that faith being difficult to perfect, he will be inclined to fall back.
He should know that the Tathagathas have an excellent expedient means by which they can protect his faith: that is, through the strength of wholehearted meditation-recitation on the Buddha [Amitabha], he will in fulfillment of his wishes be able to be born in the Buddha-land beyond, to see the Buddha always, and to be forever separated from the evil states of existence."
It is as the sutra says:
"If a man meditates wholly on Amitabha Buddha in the world of the Western Paradise and wishes to be born in that world, directing all the goodness he has cultivated toward that goal, then he will be born there." Because he will see the Buddha at all times, he will never fall back ... [If a cultivator follows this path], he will be able to be born there in the end because he abides in the correct samadhi."
Source: The Awakening of the Faith by Asvaghosha [Aoa 102]
Once a baby boy was born into a family of vegetable gardeners. When he grew up he cleared a patch of land with his shovel and grew herbs, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers and other vegetables. These he sold to earn a living, and the shovel was the only thing he owned.
One day he thought, "What good does it do me to live as a gardener? I will go and sit down in the forest. There I will be peaceful and happy." So the gardener hid his shovel and sat down in the forest to get calmer and calmer, for he liked the thought of that.
Before long he started to think about his shovel. When sitting among trees, bushes and flowers he couldn't get it out of his mind, no matter how he tried. Therefore he gave up just sitting in the forest to get calmer and calmer, and went back to his shovel and his life as a vegetable gardener.
But in a little while he hid his shovel and went to the forest to enjoy the calm again. But he could not get his shovel out of his mind this time either, and returned to vegetable gardening. This happened six times.
The seventh time he gave up enjoying peace and quiet in the forest, he understood he had to do something differently. He decided to throw away the shovel into a deep river and went down to the riverbank with it, thinking to himself,
"Let me not see where this shovel enters the water. Otherwise it may tempt me again to give up sitting in peace and quiet in the forest."
The man closed his eyes, swung the shovel in a circle over his head times, and let it fly into the large river. He would not be able to find the shovel again, he thought, and shouted that he had won over it.
Just then the king of the country was riding by after bathing in the river, and had just seated himself on a good horse among his noblemen. When he heard the shouts of the gardener who had dispensed with his shovel, he said to his ministers, "Listen. Someone shouts he has conquered. He has got me curious, so bring him to me at once."
When they brought the shovel-less gardener to him, the king said, "I am a conqueror, for I have won a battle. You say that you have conquered too. Who?"
The man answered, "To me, conquering even a thousand armies is meaningless if there are unhealthy thoughts and wishes in the mind! I for my part won a battle against besieging, unhealthy thoughts today, sir."
The man added: "Defeating an enemy who returns to fight you again is not good enough. But perhaps no one can take a really good victory and its blessings from you!"
The king listened to these words and went on to ask, "So where are you going now?"
The former gardener answered, "To the Himalayas to enjoy the blessed calm of the forests there."
The king said, "I would like to enjoy peace and calm too. Please take me with you."
He and his family and all his people followed the former gardener to the Himalayas. The capital remained behind, completely deserted!
❋ When all people leave an OK city and settle in the country, the country may soon become another city. Very much is hardly gained that way
❋ Don't get desperate and whimmish if you can't contemplate all right. Learn instead a technique and train yourself in the use of it.
A rich man had a very large hut. The hut had only one entrance, and the timber it was made of had dried out thoroughly over the years.
One day the hut caught fire, and the rich man's many children, heedless of the fire, went on playing in the hut. Their father called to them from outside that the hut was afire and that they would perish in the flames if they did not come out. The children didn't know what "fire" and "perish" meant, though, and went on playing as before. The man called out once more,
"Come out children, and I'll give you presents!"
Eager for new playthings the children left the burning hut, to find ox-drawn carriages awaiting all of them. - [Cf. Lotus Sutra Ch. 3]
KeysThe burning house: mundane existence;
Fire: the passions;
The rich man: Gautama Buddha;
The children: sentient beings;
Games the children play: sensual pleasures and the like.
The ox-drawn carriage: the vehicle of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.
ONCE IN Martydom there was a couple so poor that they had but one robe between them. When the husband would leave their shack to seek work, his wife had to shut the door and stay home in the nude, and the other way round.
One day the couple heard from wandering monks that charity would quell the sufferings of poverty and want. The couple decided to give their only piece of cloth by passing it through the window, and so they did. They were determined to stay in the shack every day, all nude. But in the night when the moon was bright and no one else to be expected out-of-doors, they tackled certain abashments better.
The bizarre-looking actions of the night-roving couple came to the awareness of the local ruler. He then showered them with clothes and riches. From that time on they were never in want of what they needed, and in the end were wholly freed from night-roving living habits.
❋ Bland and fit charity in poverty may be another hardship to endure.
ONCE ON a time a ruthless monkey king ruled in the Himalayas over all his wives and children. But he was afraid that one of his sons might grow up and take over as king; and therefore he used to bite each son just after he was born. This made the new-born too weak to challenge his father ever after.
Then one more of his wives got pregnant. To protect her coming child she ran away to a forest at the foot of a distant mountain. There she gave birth to a bright little baby boy monkey. Before long the baby grew up to be big and strong.
One day he asked his mother, "Who is my father?"
She told him, "He is the king of a band of monkeys at the foot of a giant mountain. That makes you a prince!"
The monkey prince said, "Mother, will you take me to him?"
First she refused, saying, "No my son, I am afraid to do so. Your father bites all his sons in order to weaken them for life. He is afraid that one of his sons will take his place as king."
The prince, "Don't be afraid for me, mother. I can take care of myself."
This gave her confidence, so she agreed and took him to his father.
When the cruel old king saw his strong young son, he thought, "I have no doubt that when this son of mine grows stronger he will take my kingdom from me. So I must kill him while I can! I will hug him, pretending it is out of love, but really I will squeeze him to death!"
The king welcomed his son, saying, "Ah, my son! Where have you been all this time? I have missed you." Then he took him in his arms and hugged him. He kept squeezing harder and harder, trying to squeeze the life out of him, but the prince of monkeys was much stronger and hugged his father right back. He squeezed him tighter and tighter, till he could feel the old king's rib-bones starting to crack.
After this greeting, the monkey king was even more terrified. He thought, "Nearby there is a pond owned by a water nix. It would be easy to make him take my son and drown him. Then my problems would be over!"
Then he said, "Son, I am old and would like to hand over my band of monkeys to a son that is as great as you. We need flowers for the crowning ceremony, however. So go to the pond nearby and bring back two white water lilies, three blue water lilies and five lotuses."
The prince of monkeys said, "Yes, I will go and get them."
When he came to the pond, he saw that there were many kinds of water lilies and lotuses growing all over it. But instead of jumping right in and picking them, he investigated carefully. He walked slowly along the bank. He noticed there were footprints going into the pond, but none coming out.
After considering, he realised this was a sure sign that his father must have sent him to drown as many others.
He investigated further till he found a narrow part of the pond. There, with great effort, he was able to jump from one side clear across to the other. In the middle of a leap he reached down and picked flowers without actually getting into the water. Then he jumped back again, picking more flowers. He continued jumping back and forth, collecting lots of flowers.
Suddenly the nix stuck his head up above the water. He exclaimed, "In all the time I've lived here I have never seen anyone as wise as you. You have picked all the flowers you wanted without ever coming within my reach."
Then the nix made a path for himself through the water, came up to the bank and said, "I see there are three qualities that make a person better against enemies, after «forewarned is forearmed». It seems that you have all three of them. They are skill, courage and wisdom. Thus, you must be hard to fool. Tell me now, why have you collected all those flowers?"
The monkey prince answered, "My father wants to make me king instead of himself. He sent me to gather these flowers for the crowning ceremony."
The nix said, "You are too noble to be burdened by carrying these flowers. Let me carry them for you." He picked up all the flowers and followed him.
From a distance the monkey king saw the nix carrying the flowers and following the prince. He thought, "I sent him to get flowers, thinking he would be grabbed by the nix. But instead he has made the nix serve him. I am lost!"
The monkey king was so afraid all his unwholesome deeds had caught up with him, that he panicked. It made him get a heart attack, and that was the end of him.
The monkey band voted to make the young, unbeaten and unbitten prince their new king.
❋ (1) Forewarned is forearmed (Proverb).
ONCE ON a time there lived a drummer in a small country village. He heard there was going to be a fair in the town nearby, so he decided to go there and earn some money by playing his drums. He took his son along to accompany him when playing music for two sets of drums, too. And at the fair everyone liked their drum playing and rewarded them very generously.
When the fair was over they began the trip home to their home village. On the way they had to go through a dark forest. where muggers robbed travellers. The drummer boy wanted to protect his father and himself from the muggers, so he started to beat his drums as loudly as he could, without stopping.
"The more noise, the better!" he thought.
Then the drummer man took his son aside and explained to him that when large groups passed by, especially royal ones, they used to beat drums, but only at regular intervals and in a dignified manner, as if they feared nobody and nothing. They would beat a drum roll, remain silent, then beat again with a flourish, and so on. He told his son to do likewise, to fool the muggers into thinking there was a powerful group passing by.
But the boy ignored his father's advice. He thought he knew best. "The more noise, the better!" he thought.
A gang of muggers heard the boy's drumming. At first they thought it must be from the group of a powerful, rich man with heavy security. But then they heard the drumming continue in a wild fashion without stopping. They started to think it sounded frantic, like a barking, scared dog. So they went to investigate and found only the father and son. They beat them up, robbed all their hard-earned money, and disappeared into the forest they had come from.
❋ (1) If you drum annoyingly much, you may get a hard time.
ONCE ON a time there was a wonderfully white stallion somewhere in the mountains of Western Norway. His hooves were smooth and firm, his mouth crimson, and his deep, mellow eyes were like sparkling jewels. But this was only a pale reflection of his inner beauty: energy, determination, truthfulness, wholesomeness, wanting to live far from city smoke and dust, evenmindedness, wisdom, patience, generosity, and gentle horse-kindness.
When the horse had grown up, many other horses in the Jotunheimen tracts came to follow him. Before long he lorded it over some thirty other horses, mainly mares. Such a large gathering is demanding, so in order to live more quietly he often retired to the secluded valley he liked best, with a couple of mares. They were wholesome and pure as himself.
One day a forest man from Voss travelled into the Jotunheim foothills. He was searching for things of value. One day he lost his sense of direction and soon became scared of dying in the wilderness. He began crying out loud from fear.
The good-natured horse heard his frightened weeping. Wishing to help him in a nice way, he started to walk through the forest towards him. But the man was so afraid that day that when he saw the horse coming towards him, he started running away. When the horse saw this, he stopped moving. Then the forester from Voss stopped too. They went on like this for some time. Then the man from Voss thought,
"This horse - er - when I run, he stops. And when I stop, he walks towards me!"
A bout later the horse had come so near that he neighed, "Hello there, why so scared?"
The man from Voss said, "I got lost, I can't find my way, and fear I have to die in the wilderness."
Then the horse took the man to his own secret valley. He comforted and soothed him by treating him to the finest berries and nuts in all the Jotunheim area. After several days he said, "Don't be afraid. I will take you to people too. Sit on my back." Then he rode him toward a village below the glacier and valleys. While riding the man from Voss made notes of all the landmarks while being carried to safety by the kind horse.
When the horse at last got to down to a road that led to Voss, he said, "Take this road, but please don't tell anyone where I live, whether they ask you or not." With these parting words the kind horse turned around.
The man had no trouble walking along the road to Voss. Then one day he saw some carved figures made of horse hooves. They were beautiful. The forester from Voss asked, "Would you buy horse hooves from living horses?"
One of the carvers exclaimed, "What a question!"
Caring mainly for money, ignoring the safety of horses and without gratitude to the horse who had saved his life, the man from Voss put a sharp saw in his pack, and set out towards Jotunheimen again.
When he arrived the horse asked him, "Oh dear, what brings you back so soon?"
The man made up a story, "You see, times are difficult for me, I have come to beg from you just a little piece of hoof, to take it home and sell it. Then I will survive longer."
Understanding the man, the horse said, "You want a piece of me? Of course, I will give you a piece of hoof!" Then he kicked. And as they say, "Perfect generosity holds nothing back."
It was the horse's wish that his wise reaction would eventually lead the other to greater wisdom, but the man sullenly left without a word of thanks while rubbing his tender flesh. Thus it showed up that the wonderful horse meant less to him than his own tender buttocks.
It is said that in the highland valleys of Western Norway there are many horses as good and able as this one. They are also capable to bearing the worst filth and stench of stables.
❋ (1) Perhaps the ungrateful stops at nothing. (2) It may pay to think twice in the face of sulky begging.
ONCE ON a time an earl had a son who was always trying to prove he was tough. He bullied people around and picked fights. Whenever he spoke it was with a stream of obscenities, ad he was always quick to anger. He was not a good man and could not be dealt with, so there was something the matter with him.
People ran from him and avoided him as best they could, and behind his back everyone called him Growl, as he was not a nice man!
One day the Growl went for a swim in the Old River nearby, taking with him some serving-men. Suddenly it became very dark. A huge storm came up, but Growl yelled, "Take me to the middle of the Old River and bathe me. Then bring me back to shore."
They took him out to midstream and said, "Now is our chance! Let us kill Prince Growl before he turns into a tyrant." Into the flooding, raging river-current they threw him. When they came back to the bank, the others asked where Growl was. They replied, "As a matter of fact, we don't know." When they returned to the palace, the earl asked, "Where is my son?" They said the same thing to him. The earl gathered a search party and went looking for the prince, but could not find him.
What had happened was this:
In the darkness Growl had been swept down the flooding river. He was able to grab onto a floating dead tree trunk. As he was being swept along, he cried like a baby!
It just so happened that right before this happened, a very rich man - a lowly snake - had buried a treasure hoard in the riverbank along the same wild stretch of river. His fortune amounted to 40 million gold coins. He was slithering on his belly in the storm while still guarding his treasure.
At a nearby spot on the riverbank another rich miser - a rat - had buried a treasure of 30 million gold coins. That rat too remained to guard his buried treasure.
But when the storm came up, both the snake and the rat were flooded out of their holes and washed into the raging river. They both grabbed onto the same dead log as the frightened Growl. The snake climbed up on one end and the water rat on the other.
There also happened to be a tall larch tree growing nearby. A young magpie roosted in it till the tree roots were washed away and it fell into the water during the storm. When he tried to fly away, the wind and rain swept the magpie onto the same dead log with the snake, the water rat and Prince Growl.
Now there were four on the log, floating towards a river bend. A carver was living in a little hut nearby. He had many well off relatives, but preferred to live by himself by the river to enjoy the peace and quiet there.
In the middle of the night the carver heard the cries of Prince Growl and thought, "That sounds like someone in danger, crying "Help!" I must run to the river and see if I can save them."
He ran down to the river and grabbed the log as it drifted by, and pulled it to shore. Noticing the snake, water rat and magpie, he took them and the man to his little home. There he gently warmed the animals by the fire. Then he let the earl's son warm himself. Again he fed the more helpless animals first, followed by the waiting Growl. Growl became furious, and thought, "This carver disrespects me, the heir of the earldom, for he gives higher priority to these animals!" He built up a great hatred against the man.
Next day the man dried the deadwood log, chopped it up and burned it to cook their food and keep them warm. In a few days the four who had been rescued by that log were strong and healthy.
The snake came to the man to say good-bye. He coiled his body on the ground, arched himself up, bowed his head admiringly and said, "You have done a great thing for me, and I am not a poor snake. I have a buried treasure of 40 million gold coins and will gladly give it to you. Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out, "Snake! Snake!"
The rat, too, came to the man to say good-bye. He stood up on his hind legs, bowed his head distinctly and said, "You have done a great thing, and I am not a poor rat, for I have a buried treasure of 30 million gold coins a certain place. And I will gladly give it to you. Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out, "Rat! Rat!"
Then came the magpie to say good-bye. He bowed his head too and said, "You have done a great thing. I am grateful too, even though I own no silver or gold. But I am not poor: if you are ever in need of the finest wheat, just come down to the riverbank and call out 'Magpie! Magpie!' Then I will gather together my relatives from all the trees and forests around and we will bring you many cart loads of the most precious golden wheat."
Finally Growl came to the man. He thought only of killing him if he ever saw him again, but what he said was, "When I become earl, do come to me and I will supply what you need of these four necessities: food, clothing, shelter, and medicine."
He returned to his father and became the new earl not long after that.
Then one day the carver decided to see if the four were really grateful. First he went down to the riverbank and called out, "Snake! Snake!" At the sound of the first word, the snake came out of his home under the ground. He bowed respectfully and said, "Under this spot are buried 40 million gold coins. Dig them up and take them with you!"
"Thank you," said the man. "When I am in need I will come again."
Taking leave of the snake, he walked along the riverbank and called out,' "Rat! Rat!" The water rat appeared and all went just as it had with the snake.
Next, he called out, "Magpie! Magpie!" The magpie flew down from his tree-top home and said, "Do you need wheat? I will summon my relatives and we will bring you the best wheat in all the countryside." The man replied, "Just testing . . . but when I am in need I will come again."
Finally he set out to see the earl. He walked to a forest near his castle and camped there overnight. In the morning, in a very straightforward and dignified manner, he went to have a look at the lay of the land. And on the same morning the brutal earl, sitting on a wonderful horse, led a vast procession around. When he saw his helper coming from a distance, he thought, "Aha! This homeless bum comes to sponge off me. I must have him beheaded before others get to know all he did for me!"
Then he said to his servants, "That good-for-nothing beggar . . . don't let him get near me. Seize him and whip him at every street corner. Then take him to the gallows and hang him well. So much for beggars!"
The earl's men saw no other alternatives than carrying out his cruel orders. They tied up the helper like a criminal and whipped him mercilessly on the way to the execution block. But he remained dignified. After each whipping he simply said for all to hear: "This proves the old saying is still true - 'There is more reward in pulling deadwood from a river, than in helping an ungrateful man!'"
Some of the bystanders began to wonder why he said only this. They said to each other, "This poor man's plight must be caused by an ungrateful man." They asked him, "Have you done some service to an ungrateful man?"
"Indeed I have," he said, and told them the whole story. In conclusion he said, "Not long ago I rescued your present earl from a terrible flood, and thus brought this pain on myself. Yes, I did not live up to that saying of the wise which I just told you."
Hearing his story, the people became red-hot angry and said to each other, "This man saved the earl's life. But the earl is so cruel that he has no gratitude at all. He can only be dangerous to us. Let us kill him!"
In their rage they pelted the earl with arrows, knives, clubs and stones. He died while sitting on his horse. Then they threw his dead body into a ditch.
Afterwards they made the helper their new earl, and he ruled very well.
Then one day he decided to go see his old friends. So he rode in a large procession down to the riverbank. He called out, "Snake! Snake!" The snake came out and said, "Hello, if you wish it. You are welcome to my treasure." The earl ordered his servants to dig up the 40 million gold coins.
He went to the water rat's home and called out, "Rat! Rat!" He too appeared and said, "Hello, if you wish it, you are welcome to my treasure." This time the earl's servants dug up 30 million gold coins.
Then the new earl called out "Magpie! Magpie!" The magpie came flying and said, "Hello, I will collect the most excellent golden wheat for you."
But the man said, "Not now, friend. When wheat is needed I will ask it of you. Now let us all return to the castle."
After they came there, the carver earl had the 70 million gold coins put under guard in a safe place. He had a golden bowl made for the snake's new home. He had a maze made of the finest crystals for the rat to live in. And the wonderful magpie moved into a golden cage, with a gate he could latch and unlatch himself as he pleased.
Every day the earl gave cakes and honey on golden plates to the snake and the magpie. And on another golden plate he gave the best sorts of wheat and barley to the water rat. The earl became famous for his generosity to the poor. He and his three animal friends lived together in perfect harmony for many years.
❋ (1) To be perfectly true to one's word is good. (2) It happens that gratitude is rewarded.