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The Sick Bhikkhu

An old bhikkhu of a surly disposition was afflicted with a
loathsome disease the sight and smell of which was so nauseating
that no one would come near him or help him in his distress. And
it happened that the World-honored One came to the vihara in
which the unfortunate man lay; hearing of the case he ordered
warm water to be prepared and went to the sick-room to
administer unto the sores of the patient with his own hand,
saying to his disciples:

"The Tathagata has come into the world to befriend the poor, to
succor the unprotected, to nourish those in bodily affliction,
both the followers of the Dharma and unbelievers, to give sight
to the blind and enlighten the minds of the deluded, to stand up
for the rights of orphans as well as the aged, and in so doing to
set an example to others. This is the consummation of his work,
and thus he attains the great goal of life as the rivers that
lose themselves in the ocean."

The World-honored One administered unto the sick bhikkhu daily so
long as he stayed in that place. And the governor of the city
came to the Buddha to do him reverence, and having heard of the
service which the Lord did in the vihara asked the Blessed One
about the previous existence of the sick monk, and the Buddha

"In days gone by there was a wicked lung who used to extort from
his subjects all he could get; and he ordered one of his officers
to lay the lash on a man of eminence. The officer little thinking
of the pain he inflicted upon others, obeyed; but when the victim
of the lung's wrath begged for mercy, he felt compassion and laid
the whip lightly upon him. Now the king was reborn as Devadatta,
who was abandoned by all his followers, because they were no
longer willing to stand his severity and he died miserable and
full of penitence. The officer is the sick bhikkhu, who having
often given offence to his brethren in the vihara was left
without assistance in his distress. The eminent man, however, who
was unjustly beaten and begged for mercy was the Bodhisatta; he
has been reborn as the Tathagata. It is now the lot of the
Tathagata to help the wretched officer as he had mercy on him."

And the World-honored One repeated these lines: "He who inflicts
pain on the gentle, or falsely accuses the innocent, will
inherit one of the ten great calamities. But he who has learned
to suffer with patience will be purified and will be the chosen
instrument for the alleviation of suffering."

The diseased bhikkhu on hearing these words turned to the Buddha,
confessed his ill-natured temper and repented, and with a heart
cleansed from error did reverence unto the Lord.

Next: The Patient Elephant

Previous: Following The Master Over The Stream

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