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The Patient Elephant

While the Blessed One was residing in the Jetavana, there was a

householder living in Savatthi known to all his neighbors as

patient and kind, but his relatives were wicked and contrived a

plot to rob him. One day they came to the householder and often

worrying him with all kinds of threats took away a goodly portion

of his property. He did not go to court, nor did he complain, but

tolerated with great forbearance the
rongs he suffered.

The neighbors wondered and began to talk about it, and rumors of

the affair reached the ears of the brethren in Jetavana. While

the brethren discussed the occurrence in the assembly hall, the

Blessed One entered and asked "What was the topic of your

conversation?" And they told him.

Said the Blessed One: "The time will come when the wicked

relatives will find their punishment. O brethren, this is not the

first time that this occurrence took place; it has happened

before", and he told them a world-old tale.

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the

Bodhisatta was born in the Himalaya region as an elephant. He

grew up strong and big, and ranged the hills and mountains, the

peaks and caves of the tortuous woods in the valleys. Once as he

went he saw a pleasant tree, and took his food, standing under


Then some impertinent monkeys came down out of the tree, and

jumping on the elephant's back, insulted and tormented him

greatly; they took hold of his tusks, pulled his tail and

disported themselves, thereby causing him much annoyance. The

Bodhisatta, being full of patience, kindliness and mercy, took no

notice at all of their misconduct which the monkeys repeated

again and again.

One day the spirit that lived in the tree, standing upon the

tree-trunk, addressed the elephant saying, "My lord elephant, why

dost thou put up with the impudence of these bad monkeys?" And he

asked the question in a couplet as follows:

"Why dost thou patiently endure each freak

These mischievous and selfish monkeys wreak?"

The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, replied, "If, Tree-sprite, I

cannot endure these monkeys' ill treatment without abusing their

birth, lineage and persons, how can I walk in the eightfold noble

path? But these monkeys will do the same to others thinking them

to be like me. If they do it to any rogue elephant, he will

punish them indeed, and I shall be delivered both from their

annoyance and the guilt of having done harm to others."

Saying this he repeated another stanza:

"If they will treat another one like me,

He will destroy them; and I shall be free."

A few days after, the Bodhisatta went elsewhither, and another

elephant, a savage beast, came and stood in his place. The wicked

monkeys thinking him to be like the old one, climbed upon bis

back and did as before. The rogue elephant seized the monkeys

with his trunk, threw them upon the ground, gored them with his

tusk and trampled them to mincemeat under his feet.

When the Master had ended this teaching, he declared the truths,

and identified the births, saying: "At that time the mischievous

monkeys were the wicked relatives of the good man, the rogue

elephant was the one who will punish them, but the virtuous noble

elephant was the Tathagata himself in a former incarnation."

After this discourse one of the brethren rose and asked leave to

propose a question and when permission was granted he said: "I

have heard the doctrine that wrong should be met with wrong and

the evil doer should be checked by being made to suffer, for if

this were not done evil would increase and good would disappear.

What shall we do?"

Said the Blessed One: "Nay, I will tell you: Ye who have left the

world and have adopted this glorious faith of putting aside

selfishness, ye shall not do evil for evil nor return hate for

hate. Nor do ye think that ye can destroy wrong by retaliating

evil for evil and thus increasing wrong. Leave the wicked to

their fate and their evil deeds will sooner or later in one way

or another bring on their own punishment." And the Tathagata

repeated these stanzas:

"Who harmeth him that doth no harm

And striketh him that striketh not,

Shall gravest punishment incur

The which his wickedness begot,--

"Some of the greatest ills in life

Either a loathsome dread disease,

Or dread old age, or loss of mind,

Or wretched pain without surcease,

"Or conflagration, loss of wealth;

Or of his nearest kin he shall

See some one die that's dear to him,

And then he'll be reborn in hell."