Rescue In The Desert
There was a disciple of the Blessed One, full of energy and zeal
for the truth, who, living under a vow to complete a meditation
in solitude, flagged in a moment of weakness. He said to himself:
"The Teacher said there are several kinds of men; I must belong
to the lowest class and fear that in this birth there will be
neither path nor fruit for me. What is the use of a forest life
if I cannot by my constant endeavor a
tain the insight of
meditation to which I have devoted myself?" And he left the
solitude and returned to the Jetavana.
When the brethren saw him they said to him: "Thou hast done
wrong, O brother, after taking a vow, to give up the attempt of
carrying it out;" and they took him to the Master.
When the Blessed One saw them he said: "I see, O mendicants, that
you have brought this brother here against his will. What has he
"Lord, this brother, having taken the vows of so sanctifying a
faith, has abandoned the endeavor to accomplish the aim of a
member of the order, and has come back to us."
Then the Teacher said to him: "Is it true that thou hast given up
"It is true, O Blessed One!" was the reply.
The Master said: "This present life of thine is a time of grace.
If thou fail now to reach the happy state thou wilt have to
suffer remorse in future existences. How is it, brother, that
thou hast proved so irresolute? Why, in former states of
existence thou wert full of determination. By thy energy alone
the men and bullocks of five hundred wagons obtained water in the
sandy desert, and were saved. How is it that thou now givest up?"
By these few words that brother was re-established in his
resolution. But the others besought the Blessed One, saying:
"Lord! Tell us how this was."
"Listen, then, O mendicants!" said the Blessed One; and having
thus excited their attention, he made manifest a thing concealed
by change of birth.
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Kasi, the
Bodhisatta was born in a merchant's family; and when he grew up,
he went about trafficking with five hundred carts.
One day he arrived at a sandy desert many leagues across. The
sand in that desert was so fine that when taken in the closed
fist it could not be kept in the hand. After the sun had risen it
became as hot as a mass of burning embers, so that no man could
walk on it. Those, therefore, who had to travel over it took
wood, and water, and oil, and rice in their carts, and traveled
during the night. And at daybreak they formed an encampment and
spread an awning over it, and, taking their meals early, they
passed the day lying in the shade. At sunset they supped, and
when the ground had become cool they yoked their oxen and went
on. The traveling was like a voyage over the sea: a desert-pilot
had to be chosen, and he brought the caravan safe to the other
side by his knowledge of the stars.
Thus the merchant of our story traversed the desert. And when he
had passed over fifty-nine leagues he thought, "Now, in one more
night we shall get out of the sand," and after supper he directed
the wagons to be yoked, and so set out. The pilot had cushions
arranged on the foremost cart and lay down, looking at the stars
and directing the men where to drive. But worn out by want of
rest during the long march, he fell asleep, and did not perceive
that the oxen had turned round and taken the same road by which
they had come.
The oxen went on the whole night through. Towards dawn the pilot
woke up, and, observing the stars, called out: "Stop the wagons,
stop the wagons!" The day broke just as they stopped and were
drawing up the carts in a line. Then the men cried out: "Why this
is the very encampment we left yesterday! We have but little wood
left and our water is all gone! We are lost!" And unyoking the
oxen and spreading the canopy over their heads, they lay down in
despondency, each one under his wagon. But the Bodhisatta said to
himself, "If I lose heart, all these will perish," and walked
about while the morning was yet cool. On seeing a tuft of
kusa-grass, he thought: "This could have grown only by soaking up
some water which must be beneath it."
And he made them bring a spade and dig in that spot. And they dug
sixty cubits deep. And when they had got thus far, the spade of
the diggers struck on a rock; and as soon as it struck, they all
gave up in despair. But the Bodhisatta thought, "There must be
water under that rock," and descending into the well he got upon
the stone, and stooping down applied his ear to it and tested the
sound of it. He heard the sound of water gurgling beneath, and
when he got out he called his page. "My lad, if thou givest up
now, we shall all be lost. Do not lose heart. Take this iron
hammer, and go down into the pit, and give the rock a good blow."
The lad obeyed, and though they all stood by in despair, he went
down full of determination and struck at the stone. The rock
split in two and fell below, so that it no longer blocked the
stream, and water rose till its depth from the bottom to the brim
of the well was equal to the height of a palm-tree. And they all
drank of the water, and bathed in it. Then they cooked rice and
ate it, and fed their oxen with it. And when the sun set, they
put a flag in the well, and went to the place appointed. There
they sold their merchandise at a good profit and returned to
their home, and when they died they passed away according to
their deeds. And the Bodhisatta gave gifts and did other virtuous
acts, and he also passed away according to his deeds.
After the Teacher had told the story he formed the connection by
saying in conclusion, "The caravanleader was the Bodhisatta, the
future Buddha; the page who at that time despaired not, but broke
the stone, and gave water to the multitude, was this brother
without perseverance; and the other men were attendants on the