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Philosophical Parables

1. Quail and Elephant (Strength of mind more powerful than

physical strength) [BP 16]

2. Quails and Fowler (United We Stand, Divided We Fall) [BP 18] 3. The Two Caravan-leaders (Adhere to the True Path) [BP 30] 4. Vedabbha and the Thieves (Cupidity is the Root of Ruin) [BP
5. Poisoned Dice (Sooner or later, the cheater meets his match)
   [BP 44] 6. Gem, hatchet, drum and bowl (Perils of material benedictions;

having mystic power does not mean one is wise or good) [BP 49]

7. The bitter mango (Bad association) [BP 51] 8. Antelope, Woodpecker, Tortoise and Hunter (Engage the material

modes in acheiving liberation)

9. The rabbit who heard the end of the world (same as Chicken

Little or Sargal Singh) [BP 55]

10. Hawk and Quail (same as Brer Rabbit and the briar patch) [BP
11. Blind men and elephant (Avoid wrangling) [BP 75] 12. Mistress Vedehika (How Maya tests our self-control) [BP 79] 13. Foolish friends [BP 82, 84] 14. Monkey Gardeners (Remote control managment) [BP 85] 15. Boar and Lion (How false ego blinds us to reality) [BP 89] 16. The Beetle and the Elephant (How false ego binds us to the

stooly body) [BP 90]

17. Kisa Gotami or Frail Gotami (Everyone is subject to death)
    [BP 92] 18. Patacara (Fallible soldiers) [BP 94] 19. Visakha's Sorrow (As many dear ones, as many sorrows) [BP
20. The Questions of Payasi (Life after death) [BP 109]

a. The Condemned Criminal [BP 110]
b. The Man in the Dung-pit [BP 111]
c. The Blind Man [113]
d. The Woman with Child [BP 115]
e. We Cannot See the Soul During Life [BP 116]
f. Heat Makes Things Light
g. Villagers and Trumpet
h. The Search for Fire
i. Two Caravan Leaders
j. Dung for Fodder
k. Two Dicers
l. Giving Up Better for Worse

21. Nanda the elder (On Motivation in Spiritual Discipline) [BP
22. Theft of Mangos (law of karma) [BP 206] 23. Fire in a Field (ditto) [BP 207] 24. Lamp under a Thatch (ditto) [BP 207] 25. Girl and Woman (ditto) [BP 207] 26. The Brahmin's Spell (Never trust a woman) [JT 37] 27. The Stolen Jewels (Misery loves company) [JT 61] 28. Penny-wise Monkey (On losing more to gain less) [JT 87] 29. Jackal and Crow (Society of flattery) [JT 133] 30. Wolf's Caturmasya (Whimsical renunciation) [JT 134] 31. King and the Fruit-girl (Forget not from where you came) [JT
32. Woodpecker and the Lion (Know who your friends are) [JT 136] 33. Lion in Bad Company (Bad association) [JT 163] 34. Otters and the Jackal (High-priced advice) [JT 165]

Synopses of Stories

1. A rogue elephant stamped upon the nest of a mother quail despite her pleas and killed her hatchlings. Then he passed urine on the crushed nest and trumpeted to mock the mother. The mother quail vowed revenge. She became the servant of a crow, who was pleased with her and asked her what he could do in return. She said, "When I give the word, peck out that ele- phant's eyes." The quail then gave service to a green fly, and got his promise that the fly would lay eggs in the wounded eyes of the elephant. Then the quail served a frog and got his promise to croak at a cliff's edge when the blind elephant went searching for water. So all of this was done. The blinded elephant, furious from the maggots in his wounded eyes, went madly searching for water. He heard the frog croak and thought, "Water is this way." Then he tumbled over the cliff and met his end, to the great satisfaction of the quail.

2. A bird hunter used to capture groups of quails by throwing a net over them. The leader of the flock made a plan: "If this hunter throws his net over a group of you, each of you put a wing out through the net and flap it in unison with the rest. That way you can fly away net and all. Then you descend into a thorn tree and entangle the net there and slip away." So all this was done. The hunter could not catch quail for many days, and his wife complained bitterly. The hunter told her not to worry, that the unity of the quails would not last. And so it was to be: once while feeding, one quail stepped on the head of another and they began to argue. Other quails joined in the argument, and it ended with each saying to the others, "Next time you can free yourself from the net--I won't lift a wing to help you." So when the hunter whistled like a quail and the birds gathered and had the net flung over them, they refused to act in unison just to spite the others. Thus the hunter caught them all.

3. Once a the men of a large caravan of 1000 wagons, on realizing their party was too large to be manageable, held a meeting and picked two leaders to each lead 500 wagons. Though both leaders were skillful handlers of animals, only one had real management foresight. So the intelligent one said to the other, "It is impossible for us to travel together--will you go first, or should I?" The other leader thought, "If I can go first, the roads will be smooth; if I follow him, they will be rutted. If I go first, my oxen will eat untouched grass, the water will be untouched, and I can set my goods at any price I choose to set." So he chose to go first. The intelligent leader though, "Very good. If he goes first, he will smooth the rough spots of the road for his wagons to pass; I'll be spared that work. His oxen will eat the old tough grass that has grown wild for a long time; mine will eat the fresh young grass that will grow after his oxen have moved on. He will dig wells where he cannot find water, and we'll be spared that work. And he and his men will have to haggle for a good price; whereas I will sell my goods for whatever price his party was able to establish." The foolish caravan leader entered a "demon-wilderness" (there are five kinds of wilderness: robber-wilderness, wild beast-wilderness, water- less wilderness, famine-wilderness and demon-wilderness). Before entering that wilderness, the leader filled big clay jars with emergency water provisions and had the carts loaded with extra leaves and grass for the animals. In the middle of the wilder- ness, they were met by a black person riding an ass who was soaking wet and garlanded with fresh blue and white lilies. The black man hailed the foolish leader in a friendly manner. The leader surmised that there must be plentiful water and plants up ahead. The black man heartily agreed, telling the leader that he should dump out the water and throw off the grass and leaves from the wagons to lighten the load so that the caravan could more quickly reach the oasis up ahead. The leader ordered this to be done. But there was no oasis, and the entire caravan met its end in the desert. When the intelligent leader approached the demonwilderness, he had made the same preparations and was met by the same black man on the ass. But he told the man on the ass, "Begone with you. You appear to me to be the bearer of all inauspicity. We shall not lighten our load one bit because of your suspicous statements." And so the caravan crossed the wilderness, and found the remnants of the first caravan on the way.

4. A certain brahmana had mastery of a mystic art known as Vedabbha. When the moon was in conjuction with a certain constellation, he would look up at the sky and recite a mantra. When the utterance of the mantra was complete, a rain of seven kinds of jewels would fall from the heavens. This brahmana had a disciple who was very intelligent. Once when they were travelling through the forest they were kidnapped by a gang who called themselves the Dispatchers. That name indicated their method of extortion: upon capturing two travellers, they would dispatch the less important of the two to secure a ransom for the release of other more important traveller. So when the brahmana and his disciple were surrounded, the gang decided they would let the disciple go free. The disciple assured his master he would return very soon with the ransom and free him. As they parted the disciple begged the brahmana not to invoke the Rain of the Seven Jewels, even though on that night the moon would be in the proper conjunction. "Please endure this trial of captivity patiently and pretend to have no special powers," he told his master, "for I fear that if you use your Vedabbha art you will only worsen your plight." But that night the brahmana grew morose. "Why must I wait out this misfortune when I have the skill to set myself free?" Then he inquired from the thieves why they held him under guard. "For ransom-money," came their reply. "Then do this," he told them: "Free me from my bonds, bathe me, dress me in clean cloth, place a garland around my neck and let me stand and chant a mantra to the sky. Then you will see more wealth than you've ever dreamed of." All this was done, and a rain of seven kinds of jewels fell for some moments on the spot where the brahmana stood. The delighted thieves gathered up the jewels and prepared to leave. Suddenly the gang was surrounded by another gang of thieves who demanded their jewels. The first gang told the second about the brahmana's magical abilities: "You need not plunder us, you'll get all you desire 16from him." But the brahmana said, "This power I have works only once on one night a year, when the moon is in its present position in the sky. If you want riches, have patience and wait a year. Only then can I cause the Rain of Seven Jewels to fall again." Enraged, the second gang of thieves killed the brahmana on the spot. Then they turned upon the first gang and killed all of them. But while looting the dead bodies a quarrel broke out and the second gang divided into two opposing sides. One side killed the other; then that side split into two and fought until there were only two men left. These two made friends in order to carry off all the jewels, but secretly they each wished the death of the other. They camped outside a village. One guarded the swag while the other went into the village to buy food. The latter put poison in his partner's meal and brought it back to the hideout. As soon as he returned his partner killed him with a stroke of the sword, ate the poisoned meal, and died. Moral: Cupidity is the root of all ruin.

5. Two dicers were at play. One was a cheat whose method was to play the winning streaks, but as soon as the game went against him he'd pop one of the dice in his mouth and say, "A die is lost!" and end the game. The other dicer, knowing his opponent's game, craftily smeared the dice with poison. When the game turned in his favor, his cheating opponent seized a die and popped into his mouth. The poison was so strong that he immediately fainted. The other dicer had the antidote handy and revived him. "Never play such a trick with me again," he warned the cheater.

6. In a forest lived three yogis. Each had aquired a mystical gift as a result of his austerity. One had a hatchet that would do his bidding: he would simply rub it and ask it to fetch wood and make a fire, and it would be done. Another had a drum that made such a fearful sound that wild beasts and men fled when he merely beat it once or twice. The third had a pot that would yield as much curd as one might desire. Now, a rascal had by chance acquired a gem that gave power of flight (he took it off of a flying boar that he managed to kill and eat). He came floating over the forest, and the yogis supposed him to be an accomplished mystic like themselves. He landed near the yogi with the magic hatchet. The yogi welcomed him as a brother. The rascal coveted the magic axe and traded the gem for it. He left the yogi's asrama with the axe, rubbed it and asked it to cut off the yogi's head and bring him the jewel. This was done, and he went to the other two yogis and plundered them in the same way.

7. A king was once presented with a mango fit for the gods. It was as big as a waterpot, perfectly round, golden in color, thinskinned, sweet, juicy and small of seed. The king was so impressed by this mango that after eating it he had the seed planted in his garden and sprinkled daily with milk and water. After three years the tree grew up and bore succulent fruit. This tree became famous throughout the land. It was gaily decorated with garlands, smeared with ointments, and lamps were offered to it in worship. Other kings wanted to plant seeds from this tree in their gardens--but before he made a present of a fruit from this tree to another king, the Mango-king would have the seed within the fruit pierced so that it would not grow. One king in particular grew very envious of the Mango-king's tree. He sent a gardener to sabotage it. This gardener took employment as an assistant to the Mango-king's gardener. The assistant impressed everyone with his exceptional skill, so much so that the Mango-king dismissed his old gardener. Now that he had a free hand, the saboteur-gardener planted neem trees, pot-herbs and creepers above the roots of the mango tree. The roots of these plants entwined with the mango tree and made its fruits grow bitter. When the mangos ripened and the king received the first choice fruit of the season, he was horrified to discover that it tasted like bitter neem leaves. By the time he made this discovery, the saboteur-gardener had long made his escape.

8. At a lake in the forest dwelt an antelope, woodpecker and turtle who had become good friends over the years. One day the antelope's foot got caught in a snare set by a cruel hunter. The turtle arose from the lake and the woodpecker flew down from his tree to help their friend. The turtle began chewing through the leather strap of the snare while the woodpecker flew off to the hunter's cottage. When the hunter came out with his bag and his knife to check his trap, the woodpecker attacked his head and drove him back into the cottage. He tried to go out the back door and the bird attacked again. Thinking that this was an evil sign, the hunter stayed indoors long enough for the turtle to finish his work. Just as the antelope scampered to safety, tbut before the turtle could enter the lake, the hunter arrived. "At least I'll have some turtle soup tonight," said the hunter as he threw the turtle in his back. To save his friend, the antelope dallied on the edge of the wood close by the hunter, pretending to be lamed from the snare. The hunter hung the bag from a branch of a tree and ran after the antelope with his knife ready. The antelope led the hunter deeper and deeper into the woods. Finally the hunter was completely lost. All at once the antelope ran like the wind back to the lake and ripped out the bottom of the bag with his sharp horns. The turtle fell out onto the ground. The antelope then instructed his two friends to flee their lake home. "This place has become dangerous for us. Take the hunter as an omen. We have cooperated nicely to save our lives; now let us disperse." And so they all fled away, the antelope by fleet foot, the woodpecker by wing and the turtle through the water.

9. A rabbit lived beneath a young coconut tree that grew next to a tall bilva tree. Once he sat in his warren thinking, "If the earth would collapse, what would become of me?" At that instant a bilva fruit fell upon the coconut tree with a crash. The hare scampered off shouting, "The earth is collapsing!" Other rabbits heard this, took up the same cry and scampered about until a flock of thousands were fleeing through the forest. A herd of deer, hearing the awful news of the end of the world from the rabbits, stampeded and in turn caused a herd of wild pigs to stampede that stampeded a herd of elks that stampeded a herd of buffalo that stampeded a herd of oxen that stampeded a herd of rhinoceros that stampeded a pack of tigers that stampeded a pride of lions that stampeded a herd of elephants. Finally the king of the jungle, an old lion, stood up before this madly racing army of animals and roared thrice, bringing them all to a halt. "What is this all about?" he demanded. "The earth is collapsing!" the elephants trumpeted. "Who says?" he shot back. "Your own brothers, the lions." The lions shrugged and said, "The tigers told us." The tigers said, "The rhinos told us." The rhinos said, "The oxen told us." The oxen said, "The buffalo told us." The buffalo said, "The elks told us." The elks said, "The wild pigs told us." The wild pigs said, "The rabbits told us." And the rabbits pointed to the first rabbit and said, "He told us." The lion went with the rabbit to his warren under the coconut sapling. He saw a broken coconut leaf on the ground and next to it a bilva fruit. "The earth is not collapsing," the lion announced. "A bilva fruit fell on this rabbit's home, and for that you have lost your heads." Feeling very foolish, all the animals went home.

10. A quail was caught by a hawk. The quail lamented aloud, "This is my fate, that I have left my own feeding ground, the land of my elders. Had I stayed there, this hawk could not defeat me so." The proud hawk said, "Weakling, it makes no matter on what ground you stand, you will always be defeated by me. Now go to the land of your elders and I will seize you there." The hawk turned the quail loose. He flew to a ploughed field full of turned-up clods of earth and alighted upon a clod. "Here is the land of my elders!" From above the hawk shouted, "Now watch as I seize you again, foolish one!" The hawk dove with the speed of an arrow towards the quail. The quail ducked between two big clods of earth. The hawk smashed into the clods and was killed.

11. A group of blind men were asked by a king to explain what an elephant is after they felt it with their hands. Those who felt the head said, "An elephant is like a waterpot." Those who felt the ears said, "An elephant is like the sail of a riverboat." Those who felt the tusks said, "An elephant is like a plough." Those who felt the trunk said, "An elephant is like a python." Thos who felt the belly said, "An elephant is like a granary." Those who felt the legs said, "An elephant is like the trees." Those who felt the tail said, "An elephant is like a fly-whisk." They began to argue with one another, and then fought each other with fists. The king was delighted.

12. A noble lady named Vedehika had a reputation of being gentle, meek and tranquil. Everyone used to speak highly of her good qualities. But she had a saucy servant-girl who decided to put her mild disposition to the test. One day the servant did not get up in the morning. When Vedehika inquired what the reason was for the girl's not rising that morning at the proper time, the servant replied, "Why, my lady Vedehika, there was no reason at all." Lady Vedehika frowned. Seeing this, the servant-girl gloated. "Just see," she thought, "my mistress has an inward temper. Her mildness is only the result of my performing my duties well. I shall test her temper even further." The next day the servant rose even later. When asked by Lady Vedehika why, she replied, "For no reason at all, my lady." "Worthless charwoman!" Lady Vedehika snapped. Inwardly the servant gloated even more. "Now we are seeing her true nature at last. I shall test her temper even further." The next day she rose even later. When the lady asked why, the servant again answered, "For no reason at all, my lady." Lady Vedhika then hit the servant-girl on the head with an iron pipe. She ran screaming from the house, blood flowing down over her face, shouting "Cruel, cruel are you, Lady Vedehika! Gentle you are not! Meek you are not! Tranquil you are not!" From that day on Lady Vehehika's reputation in her neighborhood changed. Everyone said, "That woman is most unkind, arrogant and angry."

13. Two similar stories: 1) A carpenter and his foolish son were planting a tree. A fly bothered the father as he worked to put the roots in the ground, so he asked his son to shoo it away. The son, wishing to strike the fly when it landed on his father's head, hit the father in the head with the shovel, killing him. 2) A lady had a servant-girl named Rohini. Once while the lady was pounding rice, a fly landed on her head. The lady asked Rohini to drive it off. Rohini hit the lady in the head with a pestle and killed her.

14. The king of Benares declared a state holiday. The royal gardener desired to take advantage of it, but worried for the upkeep of the trees and shrubs in the royal garden. Now, this garden was inhabited by a big pack of monkeys. So the gardener requested the chief monkey to organize the watering of the trees and shrubs while he took his holiday. The chief monkey gladly agreed and accepted from the gardener enough watering-cans to equip his pack for the task. After the gardener left, the monkey-chief assembled his subjects and announced their new duty. But he added, "Water is precious. So before you sprinkle any water on any plant, dig up its foundation and see how big the roots are. Plants with big roots shall get lots of water, but plants with small roots shall get only a little. Thus we shall use water more efficiently." A passer-by happened to see the monkeys hard at work digging up the roots of all the trees and shrubs in the royal garden. "What are you doing?" he demanded. "We are following our leader's directions," came the reply. The passer-by remarked, "If that's the sort of wisdom that makes a leader among you, then you must all be very stupid indeed. You are destroying this garden!" The monkey-chief then said, "But sir, how else will we know which plant requires more or less water? Why do you blame us for trying to use the king's water wisely?" The passer-by answered, "I don't blame you at all. I blame the fool gardener who gave you this duty."

15. A herd of boars lived near a lake, and in the cave of a hill not far from the lake lived a lion. One day the lion came to the lake to drink his fill after having killed and eaten his fill of the flesh of a buffalo. As he turned to leave after drinking, a boar came out of the woods. The lion thought, "If he sees me now he may be so frightened that he'll not come to this lake again for a long time. Next week, after I've digested this meal, that boar will make a good feast. So let me not confront him." The lion then turned to dash off in another direction. The boar saw the lion's attempt not to be seen as a sign of fear. That boar, being fat and proud, called to the lion, "Halt! Face me now and fight!" The lion, his belly full and not wishing to kill the boar needlessly, replied, "Master Boar, today there will be no battle between you and me, but in seven day's time we shall fight at this very spot." The boar assented: "If you need seven days to steel your nerves to face my wrath, so be it." The boar swaggered back to his kinsfolk and proudly related what had taken place. They were frightened. "You were very impetuous to challenge that lion. Have you no common sense? He'll kill you in a flash and then come here and finish off the rest of us." The boar grew apprehensive. "Well, what should I do?" "Some human ascetics live neaby. They pass stool in a field; you go there and wallow in that stool for seven days. Before facing the lion, sprinkle yourself with water so that the stool is freshened and make sure when the lion comes you are standing downwind from him. He'll not touch a hair on your head." The boar did as he was told; when the lion came, he smelled the stench of stool and stopped. "Master boar!" he called from a distance. "I concede this fight to you. Were you not in this unclean state I would surely kill and eat you, but as you are, I cannot even come near you." The boar swaggered to his kinfolk, boasting "I defeated the lion." But they hushed him: "If that lion knows you are saying such things, he'll come back here and kill us all."

16. A dung-beetle approached some fresh heaps of horse stool left on a forest path where some travellers had been riding and drinking wine. As he came near the stool he became intoxicated by the drops of wine that had sprinkled on the ground. Thinking one particularly large heap of stool was a great mountain, he climbed to the top of it. "From here I see the whole world," he crowed. Being moist, the dung gave way slightly beneath his feet; the dung bettle then announced, "The earth cannot support my weight!" At that moment an elephant came down the path, but smelling the horse stool it got off the path and walked around it to avoid the filth. The dung beetle jumped up and down excitedly and shouted, "Fat and foolish one! I see how you flee me. Come back and fight, coward!" The elephant instantly became angry. "You miniscule nuisance, since your arrogance seems to grow due to contact with stool, I shall destroy you with stool." The elphant backed up next to the dungheap on which the beetle stood and dropped a heavy load of stool on the insect, crushing it instantly to death.

17. Kisa Gotami (Frail Gotami) was greatly sorrowful because of the death of her little son. She went from house to house holding her dead son piteously and begging someone to give him medicine that would bring him back to life. A wise man advised her to go to the Buddha, who was nearby lecturing. She stood at the edge of the crowd, her dead son on her hip, and cried, "Oh Exalted One, give me medicine that will bring my son back to

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