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

said:



"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.





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