A Meaningful Story of Buddha, Elephant and Monkey
01-15-2016    United Press International

Honeycomb and bees


By Marguerite Theophil, United Press International, November 16, 2006


Mumbai, India -- In the Thai Buddhist tradition, each day of the week has its special Buddha icon that blesses and influences the person born on that day. So those born on Monday have the Buddha Dispelling Fear, Tuesday-borns have the Reclining Buddha, and so on.


Curiously, Wednesday has two!


There is a special Buddha statue -- and story -- for those born on Wednesday, at night. The statue of the Wednesday Night Buddha is of a seated Buddha, before whom an elephant and a monkey bow in reverence, holding out symbolic offerings.


I am a Wednesday night born person, and I found this story so beautiful that I decided to really learn with it for my own life, and after that I felt I'd like to share it with others in my "Storychakra" workshops that use teaching stories from different traditions to help us learn deep truths about ourselves.


Many of the sacred story traditions hold that if you do not tell a story that has power for you, it can become sad, or angry or malicious and downright nasty! And I don't want to risk that, so ...


Once the Buddha felt really sad at the bickering going on between the monks at his monastery. In spite of all his teachings, in spite of the fact that his followers were basically good people who wanted sincerely to be on the Path, if there was one lot that wanted this -- the others wanted that. If there was one group that believed strongly in something, there would be others who believed something quite different. If one lot perceived things one way -- why, then, of course others perceived it in quite the opposite way. If some people were satisfied with something -- you can be sure there was an equal number who were not!


The people were human. The Buddha was human (something we tend to forget). Growing quite sad with all of this discord, he told them he was leaving the place for a while to allow them to find their own way to sort out their issues, and smiled gently as Ananda, his close disciple, wailed, "But, how?"


He left to live in solitude in the forest.


The forest was silent, the forest was peaceful; the forest was also cold. The Buddha climbed halfway up a small hill and found a sheltered cave near a small pool that provided a source of water for drinking and bathing, even though the water was icy cold.


As news of the Buddha's presence spread among the forest creatures, the birds and animals began to come by to breathe in his holy presence -- and yes, to worship the Holy One, as only they really knew how.


Among the creatures of the forest, a wise old elephant noticed how cold the water in the pool was, and made it his task every evening to roll down a huge rock from the very top of the hill, after it had been heated by the rays of the sun. Pushing and shoving mightily, he got it to finally end up -- SPLASH -- in the little pool near the Buddha's cave, where it warmed the water for the Lord Buddha's bath.


Then, each morning, with great effort he pushed and pushed, his mighty forehead against the huge rock, to get it back up to the top of the hill, so it would get heated by the sun again. Day after day, he rolled the huge hot rock downhill into the pool, bowing to announce to the Buddha that the task was done.


Monkey noticed all of this as he jumped around all over the place. Monkey too loved Lord Buddha. He too wanted to show his love and make an offering. So he went off swinging and leaping, climbed up a tree, snatched a good bit of a large honeycomb, fleeing the angry buzzing bees, and almost fell over Lord Buddha as he made a bumbling-tumbling bow before him, waving the dripping honeycomb in an awkward but joyous offering.


Lord Buddha smiled. Then Lord Buddha gently shook his head. "No," he said to Monkey, "I know you mean well, but to squeeze honey from that will kill the bees still inside. We cannot harm them.' And he instructed Monkey to leave the comb next to the tree from which he had broken it off, so that those bees could rejoin their hive.


We can happily assume that Lord Buddha returned, when Ananda came to tell him that there was more peace and understanding now at the monastery. But we don't know if he returned after many days or many weeks or many months or many years. ...


The devoted elephant and monkey and their gifts find a place in the enduring story and icon of the Wednesday Night Buddha ... and all of this finds a place in our own hearts and lives too.


We can reflect on where we can "make things better" by less action -- even temporary withdrawal. We can look also at where in our lives we are currently making well-meaning but inappropriate interventions, like the monkey; or where we are being of significant service, like the elephant.


And we can joyfully own our Buddha-nature, our higher, nobler selves, every one of us. As the Buddhists teach -- we are all Buddhas; only perhaps densely clouded.


May Story color and bless your lives.

Editor: Wang Xinyu
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