Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this story while at the Bamboo Grove
temple also with regard to Devadatta’s attempts to kill him.
The monks requested that the Buddha tell them this story of
the past. The Buddha told it in this way:
Once upon a time there was a cruel monkey king who
ruled in the Himalayas. All the monkeys in his band were his
own wives and children. He was afraid that one of his sons
might grow up and take over as king. So it was his policy to
bite each son just after he was born. This altered him so he
would be too weak to ever challenge his father.
A certain wife of the monkey king was pregnant. Just in
case the unborn one was a son, she wanted to protect him
from the cruel policy of her husband. So she ran away to a
forest at the foot of a distant mountain. There she soon gave
birth to a bright little baby boy monkey.
Before long this baby grew up to be big and strong. One
day he asked his mother, “Where is my father?” She told
him, “He is king of a band of monkeys living at the foot of a
far-off mountain. That makes you a prince!”
The prince of monkeys said, “Kindly take me to my
father.” His mother said, “No my son, I am afraid to do so.
Your father bites all his sons in order to weaken them for life.
He is afraid one of his sons will replace him as king.” The
prince said, “Don’t be afraid for me, mother. I can take care
of myself.” This gave her confidence, so she agreed and took
him to his father.
When the cruel old king saw his strong young son, he
thought, “I have no doubt that when this my son grows
stronger he will steal my kingdom from me. Therefore I must
kill him while I still can! I will hug him, pretending it is out
of love for him. But really I will squeeze him to death!”
The king welcomed his son, saying, “Ah, my long lost
son! Where have you been all this time? I have missed you
dearly.” Then he took him in his arms and hugged him. He
kept squeezing harder and harder, trying to squeeze the life
out of him! But the prince of monkeys was as strong as an
elephant. He hugged his father right back. He squeezed him
tighter and tighter, until he could feel the old king’s rib bones
starting to crack!
After this terrible greeting, the monkey king was even
more terrified that one day his son would kill him. He
thought, “Nearby there is a pond possessed by a water
demon. It would be easy to get him to eat my son. Then my
problems would be over!”
The monkey king said, “Oh my dear son, now is the
perfect time for you to come home. For I am old and I would
like to hand over my band of monkeys to you. But I need
flowers for the coronation ceremony. Go to the nearby pond
and bring back two kinds of white water lilies, three kinds of
blue water lilies and five types of lotuses.”
The prince of monkeys said, “Yes my father, I will go
and get them.”
When he arrived at the pond, he saw that there were
many kinds of water lilies and lotuses growing all over it. But
instead of jumping right in and picking them, he investigated
carefully. He walked slowly along the bank. He noticed there
were footprints going into the pond, but none coming out!
After considering, he realized this was a sure sign the pond
was possessed by a water demon. He also realized his father
must have sent him there to be killed.
He investigated further, until he found a narrow part of
the pond. There, with great effort, he was able to jump from
one side clear across to the other. In the midst of his leap he
reached down and picked flowers, without actually getting
into the water. Then he jumped back again, picking more
flowers. He continued jumping back and forth, collecting lots
Suddenly the water demon stuck his head up above the
water. He exclaimed, “In all the time I’ve lived here, I have
never seen anyone, man or beast, as wise as this monkey! He
has picked all the flowers he wanted, without ever coming
within the grasp of my power, here in my kingdom of water.”
Then the ferocious demon made a path for himself
through the water and came up onto the bank. He said, “My
lord, king of monkeys, there are three qualities [tayo-
dhamma-s] that make a person unbeatable by his enemies. It
appears that you have all three – skill, courage and wisdom.
You must be truly invincible! Tell me, mighty one, why have
you collected all those flowers?”
The prince of monkeys replied, “My father wants to
make me king in his place. He sent me to gather these
flowers for the coronation ceremony.”
The water demon said, “You are too noble to be
burdened by carrying these flowers. Let me carry them for
you.” He picked up all the flowers and followed him.
From a distance, the monkey king saw the water demon
carrying the flowers and following the prince. He thought, “I
sent him to get flowers, thinking he would be eaten by the
demon. But instead he has made the water demon his servant.
I am lost!”
The monkey king was afraid all his unwholesome deeds
had caught up with him. He went into a sudden panic, which
caused his heart to break into seven pieces. Of course this
killed him on the spot!
The monkey band voted to make the strong young
prince the new king.
The Buddha said:
“The monkey king was the venerable Devadatta. And I
who am today the Buddha was his son.”
The moral: “It pays to be careful.”
Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old