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Story of the Great Ape
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma
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Story of Great Ape
Once, the Bodhisatta was born as an ape and lived alone like an ascetic in a Himalayan forest. Yet, unlike other monkeys he was kind and virtuous; and survived on leaves and fruits of the forest trees.
The great ape advises the man to safeguard him before going to sleep.
man holding a rock to kill the benefactor ape
One day, a shepherd in search of his stray cattle lost his way and reached that forest. Exhausted with hunger, thirst, heat and toil he sat on the foot of a tree. Soon, he noticed a tinduka tree (diosperos embryopteris) laden with fruits. The hungry shepherd then in no time climbed the tree. But he overlooked the roots of the tree, which had grown out of a sloping cliff over a water-fall. When he reached a branch laden with ripe tindukas to pluck them, the branch could not sustain his weight and broke off and he fell down into a pit. Luckily, his bones were not broken. Yet, it was impossible for him to find an exit.
As a matter of chance, the
great ape saw the man in his distress. Feeling pity for him he rescued him
by putting great exertions. To ease himself the exhausted monkey wanted to
have some rest. So, he asked the man to guard him before he could take a
nap. But the ungrateful man decided to kill the innocuous monkey in his
sleep to obtain his meat for his survival in the lost forest. So he picked
up a large piece of stone and dropped it on the head of the sleeping
monkey. The stone somehow slipped and missed the target. Nonetheless, it
hurt the monkey. When the ape opened his eyes in agony and read the guilt
written in the face of the man, he uttered:
Brought back from the mouth of Death
When reaching the other world.
Saved from one precipice
Thou hast now fallen on the worse.
Fie upon ignorance that spurs one to such vice and cruelty
And leads one to miseries
As it is the infatuation
Which deludes one to fall on the false hope of prosperity.
The pain of this wound does not aggrieve me much
As the thought
That on account of me
You have plunged into such evil
From where I or else could ever rescue thee!
Nonetheless, the compassionate
monkey escorted him to the fringe of the forest so that he could go back
to his own fellow beings.
By and by, the manís evil
manifested in leprosy. His skin thawed and he was expelled from the
society. Thus, excommunicated from the world of his own fellow beings he
started living in a dense forest, where no man dared to tread.
One day, the king of Varanasi
detected him on his hunting expedition in the forest and mistook him to be
a ghost, because his body had deformed. When he came closer he discovered
to his shock that the ghost-looking-being was none other than a man.
Further, he was shocked when he heard the pathetic story of that man; who
was still remorseful for his ungratefulness to the great ape. His miseries
had no bound!!
Truly, he repented. But then it was too late. Indeed, no one can escape the fruit of his or her own karma!
Vevajatiyakapi Jataka Jataka Pali No. 516; Jataka Mala No.24
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