Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this story while he was living in
Jetavana monastery with regard to a layman of Sāvatthi
whose wife changed her character unpredictably. Her
husband could not figure her out. She upset him so much,
that he neglected going to visit the Buddha. One day when
he finally went to see the Buddha, with perfumes and flowers
in his hands, the Buddha questioned him as to why he was
absent for so long. On telling the Buddha the situation with
his wife, the Buddha told him that he had already been told in
the past that women were hard to figure out. But on account
of re-becoming, this had become clouded over in his mind.
And on so saying, the Buddha told this story of the past:
* * *
The Buddha told this story while he was living in
Jetavana temple about another layman who, when he
discovered that his wife was unfaithful to him, became so
upset that he also neglected going to see the Buddha. When
he finally went to see the Buddha, and was asked why he had
been absent for so long, he told the Buddha the reason. The
Buddha said, “Long ago, a wise person told you not to
become upset by the naughtiness of women, but to preserve
your equanimity. But on account of re-becoming, this has
been forgotten by you.” And at the layman’s request, the
Buddha told the story of the past:
* * *
Once upon a time, there was a well known teacher who
taught in and around Benares. He had over 500 students. One
of these was from the distant countryside. Knowing little
about the ways of city folks, he fell in love with a Benares
girl and married her. After the marriage he resumed his
studies with the famous teacher. But he started missing
classes, sometimes staying away for two or three days at a
His wife was used to doing whatever she wanted. Even
though she was married to the student, she was not loyal and
faithful. She still had secret boyfriends.
It just so happened that after she had been with a
boyfriend, she acted very humble with her husband. She
spoke softly and tried very hard to please him. But on other
days, when she had done nothing wrong, she was rude and
domineering. She yelled at her husband and nagged him. This
drove the man crazy. He was completely confused by how
differently she acted from one day to the next.
The country man was so disturbed that he stayed away
from his classes. And while he remained home he discovered
that his city wife was unfaithful. He was so upset that he
missed school for seven or eight days.
When he finally showed up, the famous teacher asked,
“Young man, you have been away so long. What was the
matter?” He replied, “Sir, my wife is cheating on me. She is a
big problem to me. On some days she likes me very much,
and acts as humble as a servant. But on other days she is
arrogant and domineering, rough and rude. I can’t figure her
out. I don’t know what to do or where to go for help. That’s
why I couldn’t attend your classes.”
The teacher said, “Young man, don’t worry. Rivers can
be bathed in by anyone, rich or poor. Highways too are open
to all. Generous people build roadside rest houses to gain
merit, and anyone can sleep there. Likewise, all are welcome
to take water from the village well.
“So, too, there are some women who won’t be faithful
to one man. They love to keep their secret boyfriends. That’s
just the way some people are. It’s hard to understand why
they act the way they do. But why get angry about what you
cannot change?
“On the days when your wife has been with a
boyfriend, those are the days she acts meek and mild. But on
the days when she has done nothing wrong, those are the
days she acts rough and rude. That’s just the way some
people are. So why get angry about what you cannot change?
“Accept her the way she is. Treat her in the same
understanding way, whether she is kind or mean to you. Why
get angry about what you cannot change?”
The student from the countryside followed the famous
teacher’s advice. He no longer got upset by his city wife’s
behavior. And when she realized that her actions were no
longer secret, she gave up her boyfriends and changed her
* * *
“The husband and wife in the past are the same as the
husband and wife today. And I who have become the
Buddha was the teacher.”
The moral: “Understanding relieves anger.”

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