A monk visits the village untimely – Parable of the elephant and the lotus roots
Translation of BZA 022. First version published in Buddhist Studies Review vol. 23-1 (2006).
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī at the Jeta Grove in the Anāthapiṇḍika Park.
At that time the monks took their robes and begging bowls and entered the town to beg for food. There was a young, newly ordained monk who entered the village not at the appropriate time [only ]. The monks noticed this young, newly ordained monk in several places and said to him: ‘You have just started to learn, and do not know yet the practices to control yourself. What are you doing among the families everywhere?’. The newly ordained monk spoke to the other monks: ‘The venerable Elders all move among the families. Why should I be denied this and not stay among the families?’.
There the monks, having eaten what they had received on their alms-round, put away their robes and begging-bowls, washed their feet and went to the Buddha, paid homage to his feet and sat to one side. There they said to the Buddha: ‘World-honored One! When we entered the town to beg for food, we saw a young, newly ordained monk, who did not visit the families at the appropriate time. We said to him: “You have just started to learn, do not know yet how to control yourself. Why do you visit the families at an inappropriate time?”. He answered us: “The elder monks as well have come to the families. Why should I alone be denied this?’’’.
At that time the Buddha said to the monks: ‘In a vast wilderness there was a large lake. A number of large elephants used to enter the lake and with their trunks pull out the lotus roots that were growing there. After giving them a shake, they cleaned them in the water and ate them. Their bodies became fat and full, and they grew extremely strong. Some smaller elephants also ate of the lotus roots, but did not know how to shake them and clean them in the water. They ate them together with the mud and became weak and thin, they did not grow strong. Some died, some almost died’.
At that time the World-honored One spoke a verse:
The elephant enters the lake / with his trunk pulls out the lotus root, //
frees it from mud, gives it a shake / and only then takes it as food. //
Those among the monks / practising the unsullied Dhamma, //
who receiving the alms / stay moderate, can not be tainted. //
They may be called practitioners / they are like the great elephants. //
Those who do not well understand skillful means / will suffer because of their excesses, //
will later have to suffer pains / like the young elephants. //
The monks, having listened to what the Buddha had said, were happy and practised accordingly.
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「世尊！我等晨朝著衣持缽，入毘舍離乞食。有一年少比丘，於此法、律出家未久，行乞食時，不以次第，前後復重。諸比丘等再三諫，不受，而作是言： 『諸上座亦不次第，何故呵我？』 我等諸比丘三呵，不受，故來白世尊。唯願世尊為除非法，哀愍故！」
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