Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"The Monkey's Heart" (Rebirth Tale)

Stories of the Buddha's Former Births (The Jataka) edited by E.B. Cowell (Cambridge University Press, 1895), Book 2, No. 20; more at; updated by Wisdom Quarterly
Mr. Monkey (John Downer/materialismisanaddiction/
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta [the "Buddha-to-be"] was reborn in the Himalayan foothills as a monkey. He grew strong and sturdy, with a healthy frame, living by a curve of the river Ganges in the forest.
Mr. Crocodile (Jon Sevcik/
Now at that time there was a crocodile dwelling in the Ganges. The crocodile's mate saw the great frame of the monkey, and she conceived a longing to eat his heart. So she said to her mate, "Sir, I desire to eat the heart of that great king of the monkeys!"
"Good wife," answered the crocodile, "I live in the water, and he lives on dry land. How can we catch him?"
"By hook or by crook," she replied, "he must be caught. If I don't get him, I shall die."
"All right," replied the crocodile, consoling her, "don't trouble yourself. I have a plan. I will give you his heart to eat."
Kind monkey kissing kitty (animalszooguru)
When the Bodhisatta was sitting on the bank of the Ganges, after taking a drink of water, the crocodile drew near and said to him, "Good monkey, why do you live on bad fruits in this old familiar place? On the other side of the Ganges there are many mango and labuja trees with fruit sweet as honey! Would it not be better to cross over and gain all kinds of wild fruit to eat?"
"Lord crocodile," the monkey answered, "the Ganges is deep and wide. How would I get across?"
"Well, if you want to go, I shall let you ride on my back, and I will carry you over."
The monkey trusted him and agreed. "Come here, then," beckoned the crocodile. "Up on my back with you!" Up the monkey climbed. But when the crocodile had swum a little way, he plunged the monkey under the water.
"Good friend, you are letting me sink!" cried the monkey. "What is that for?"
Nagas surround mammal in cage (wikipedia)
The crocodile roared, "You think I am carrying you out of pure good nature? Not a bit of it! My wife has a longing to eat your heart, and I intend to give it to her!"
"Friend," explained the monkey, "it is nice of you to tell me. But if our hearts were inside us, when we monkeys go swinging among the tree tops they would be all knocked to pieces!"
"Well, then, where do you keep it?" asked the crocodile.
The Bodhisatta pointed out a fig tree with clusters of ripe fruit standing close by. "See there," he said, "hanging on that fig tree? There are our hearts."
"If you will show me your heart," offered the crocodile, "then I won't kill you."
Monkey's kindness to pigeon (paleonym)
"Take me to the tree, and I will point it out to you."
The crocodile ferried him to the place. The monkey leaped off his back, and climbing up the fig tree sat high in it. "Oh, silly crocodile!" he yelled back. "You thought that there were creatures that kept their hearts in the treetops! You are silly, and now you are outwitted! You may keep your [karmic] fruit for yourself. Your body is great, but you have no sense!"
Then to explain this idea he uttered the following stanzas:
Roseapple, jackfruit, mangoes, too, across the water there I see;
Enough of them, I want them not; my fig is good enough for me!
Great your scaly body, verily, but how small your serpent wit!
Now go your own way, crocodile, for I have had the best of it.
The crocodile, feeling as silly and miserable as if he had lost a thousand pieces of money, went back sorrowing to the place where he lived. More

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