Picnic

A monk keeps promising his student that he will take him on a picnic but is always too busy to do so. One day they see a procession carrying a corpse.

“Where is he going?” the monk asks his student.

“On a picnic.”

– The 14th Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayāna.

Because I’m here

An old monk was sweeping the yard in a monastery under the scorching sun. Another monk passed by and asked him, “How old are you?”

The old monk replied, “I’m seventy-seven.”

“You are so old! Why are you still working so hard here?”

“Well, because I’m here.”

“But why are you working under the scorching sun?”

“Because the sun is there.”

– Unknown

The proud beetle

There once was a beetle which came upon a lump of cow dung. He worked himself into it and liking what he saw, he invited his friends to join him in building a city in it. After working feverishly for a few days they built a magnificent city in the dung and feeling very proud of their achievement they decided to elect the first beetle as their king.

Now to honour their new king they organised a grand parade through their city. While these impressive proceedings were taking place, an elephant happened to pass by and seeing the lump of cow dung he lifted his foot to avoid stepping on it.

The king beetle saw the elephant and angrily shouted at the huge beast. “Hey you! Don’t you have any respect for royalty? Don’t you know it is rude to lift your leg over my majestic head? Apologies at once or I’ll have you punished.” The elephant looked down and said, “Your most gracious majesty, I humbly crave your pardon.” Thus saying he knelt down on the lump of cow dung and crushed king, city, citizens and pride in one act of obeisance.

– K. Sri Dhammananda, Theravada.

The Worm and the Heavenly Being

There were once two monks who lived together in a monastery for many years; they were great friends. Then they died within a few months of one another.

One of them got reborn in the heaven realms, the other monk got reborn as a worm in a dung pile.

The one up in the heaven realms was having a wonderful time, enjoying all the heavenly pleasures. But he started thinking about his friend, “I wonder where my old mate has gone?” So he scanned all of the heaven realms, but could not find a trace of his friend. Then he scanned the realm of human beings, but he could not see any trace of his friend there, so he looked in the realm of animals and then of insects. Finally he found him, reborn as a worm in a dung pile…

“Wow!”, he thought, “I am going to help my friend. I am going to go down there to that dung pile and take him up to the heavenly realm so he too can enjoy the heavenly pleasures and bliss of living in these wonderful realms.”

So he went down to the dung pile and called his mate. And the little worm wriggled out and said, “Who are you?”.

“I am your friend. We used to be monks together in a past life, and I have come up to take you to the heaven realms where life is wonderful and blissful.” But the worm said, “Go away, get lost!”

“But I am your friend, and I live in the heaven realms,” and he described the heaven realms to him. But the worm said, “No thank you, I am quite happy here in my dung pile. Please go away.”

Then the heavenly being thought, “Well if I could only just grab hold of him and take him up to the heaven realms, he could see for himself.” So he grabbed hold of the worm and started tugging at him; and the harder he tugged, the harder that worm clung to his pile of dung.

– Unknown origin, told by Ajahn Brahm, Theravada.

Simile of the Lute

“Suppose there were a king or king’s minister who had never heard the sound of a lute before. He might hear the sound of a lute and say, ‘What, my good men, is that sound β€” so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling?’ They would say, ‘That, sire, is called a lute, whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.’

Then he would say, ‘Go & fetch me that lute.’ They would fetch the lute and say, ‘Here, sire, is the lute whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.’

He would say, ‘Enough of your lute. Fetch me just the sound.’ Then they would say, ‘This lute, sire, is made of numerous components, a great many components. It’s through the activity of numerous components that it sounds: that is, in dependence on the body, the skin, the neck, the frame, the strings, the bridge, and the appropriate human effort. Thus it is that this lute β€” made of numerous components, a great many components β€” sounds through the activity of numerous components.’

“Then the king would split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces. Having split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces, he would shave it to splinters. Having shaved it to splinters, he would burn it in a fire. Having burned it in a fire, he would reduce it to ashes. Having reduced it to ashes, he would winnow it before a high wind or let it be washed away by a swift-flowing stream. He would then say, ‘A sorry thing, this lute β€” whatever a lute may be β€” by which people have been so thoroughly tricked & deceived.’

– Gautama Buddha

A leaky basin

If we do evil and then try to plug the leak by doing good, it’s like plugging a leak in the bottom of a pot and pouring water in. Or like plugging a leak in the bottom of a basin and pouring water in. The bottom of the pot, the bottom of the basin, isn’t in good shape. Our abandoning of evil isn’t yet in good shape. If you pour water in, it all still seeps out and the basin goes dry. Even if you pour water in all day, it still seeps out bit by bit, and eventually there’s no water left. You don’t gain the benefits from it that you wanted.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Two monks and a woman

Two monks, going to a neighbouring monastery, walked side by side in silence. They arrived at a river they had to cross. That season, waters were higher than usual. On the bank, a young woman was hesitating and asked the younger of the two monks for help. He exclaimed, ‘Don’t you see that I am a monk, that I took a vow of chastity?’

‘I require nothing from you that could impede your vow, but simply to help me to cross the river,’ replied the young woman with a little smile.

‘I…not…I can…do nothing for you,’ said the embarrassed young monk.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ said the elderly monk. ‘Climb on my back and we will cross together.’

Having reached the other bank, the old monk put down the young woman who, in return, thanked him with a broad smile. She left her side and both monks continued their route in silence. Close to the monastery, the young monk could not stand it anymore and said, ‘You shouldn’t have carried that person on your back. It’s against our rules.’

‘This young woman needed help and I put her down on the other bank. You didn’t carry her at all, but she is still on your back,’ replied the older monk.

– Unknown