In the Buddhist tradition, June 15th is a greatly auspicious day as it commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana (passing from this world). On this day we join Buddhists around the world in celebration by embracing Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha’s humor and great storytelling abilities. Below you’ll find some of the best short stories that embody Buddha’s teachings.
The Bird’s Nest: An old Buddhist tale that exemplifies the simplicity of Buddha’s teachings:
Once a very old king went to see an old hermit who lived in a bird’s nest in the top of a tree, “What is the most important Buddhist teaching?” The hermit answered, “Do no evil, do only good. Purify your heart.” The king had expected to hear a very long explanation. He protested, “But even a five-year old child can understand that!” “Yes,” replied the wise sage, “but even an 80-year-old man cannot do it.”
Gautama Buddha’s preaching was interrupted one day by a man unleashing a flurry of abusive invective. Calmly waiting for his critic to finish, Buddha asked: “If a man offered a gift to another but the gift was declined, to whom would the gift belong?” “To the one who offered it,” the man replied. “Then,” Buddha declared, “I decline to accept your abuse and request that you keep it for yourself.”
Once Buddha was walking from one town to another town with a few of his followers. This was in the initial days. While they were travelling, they happened to pass a lake. They stopped there and Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from that lake there.”
The disciple walked up to the lake. When he reached it, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water, and right at that moment, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water became very muddy, very turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink!” So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.” After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake and get him some water to drink. The disciple obediently went back to the lake. This time he found that the lake had absolutely clear water in it. The mud had settled down and the water above it looked fit to be had. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha. Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be…. and the mud settled down on its own – and you got clear water. Your mind is also like that! When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”
Once child Gautama Buddha, then known as Siddhartha, went to his father’s farm. During recess he was resting under a tree enjoying the peace and beauty of the nature. While so seated a bird fell from the sky just in front of him. The bird had been shot at by an arrow which had pierced its body and was fluttering about in great agony.
Siddhartha rushed to help the bird. He removed the arrow, dressed its wound and gave it water to drink. He picked up the bird, came to the place where he was seated and wrapped up the bird in his upper garment and held it next to his chest to give it warmth.
Siddhartha was wondering who could have shot this innocent bird. Before long there came his cousin Devadatta armed with all the implements of shooting. He told Siddhartha that he had shot a bird flying in the sky, the bird was wounded but it flew some distance and fell somewhere there, and asked him if he had seen it. Siddharth replied in the affirmative and showed him the bird which had by that time completely recovered.
Devadatta demanded that the bird be handed over to him. This Siddhartha refused to do. A sharp argument ensued between the two. Devadatta argued that he was the owner of the bird because by the rules of the game, he who kills a game becomes the owner of the game. Siddhartha denied the validity of the rule. He argued that it is only he who protects that has the right to claim ownership. How can he who wants to kill be the owner?
Neither party would yield. The matter was referred to arbitration. The arbitrator upheld the point of view of Siddhartha Gautama.
For more stories you can download Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old, a free e-book of Buddhist stories told by Todd Anderson.
Note: Some of these stories are very old and the original source has long been lost.
Image courtesy of vickypoo.