The Monkey King And The Water Demon – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Attentiveness]
Once upon a time, far away in a deep for-
est, there was a nation of 80,000 monkeys. They
had a king who was unusually large, as big as a
fawn. He was not only big in body, he was also
‘large in mind’. After all, he was the Bodhisatta –
the Enlightenment Being.
One day, he advised his monkey nation by
saying, “My subjects, there are poisonous fruits in
this deep forest, and ponds possessed by demons.
So if you see any unusual fruit or unknown pond,
do not eat or drink until you ask me first.” Paying
close attention to their wise king, all the monkeys
agreed to follow his advice.
Later on, they came to an unknown pond.
Even though they were all tired out and thirsty
from searching for food, no one would drink
without first asking the monkey king. So they sat
in the trees and on the ground around the pond.
When he arrived, the monkey king asked
them, “Did anyone drink the water?” They re-
plied, “No, your majesty, we followed your in-
structions.” He said, ‘Well done.”
Then he walked along the bank, around the
pond. He examined the footprints of the animals
that had gone into the water, and saw that none
came out again! So he realized this pond must be
possessed by a water demon. He said to the
80,000 monkeys, “This pond is possessed by a
water demon. Do not anybody go into it.”
After a little while, the water demon saw
that none of the monkeys went into the water to
drink. So he rose out of the middle of the pond,
taking the shape, of a frightening monster. He had
a big blue belly, a white face with bulging green
eyes, and red claws and feet. He said, “Why are
you just sitting around? Come into the pond and
drink at once!”
The monkey king said to the horrible mon-
ster, “Are you the water demon who owns this
pond?” “Yes, I am,” said he. “Do you eat whoever
goes into the water?” asked the king. “Yes, I do,”
he answered, “including even birds. I eat them all.
And when you are forced by your thirst to come
into the pond and drink, I will enjoy eating you,
the biggest monkey, most of all!” He grinned, and
saliva dripped down his hairy chin.
But the monkey king with the well trained
mind remained calm. He said, “I will not let you
eat me or a single one of my followers. And yet,
we will drink all the water we want!” The water
demon grunted, “Impossible! How will you do
that?” The monkey king replied, “Each one of the
80,000 of us will drink using bamboo shoots as
straws. And you will not be able to touch us!”
Of course, anyone who has seen bamboo
knows there is a difficulty. Bamboo grows in sec-
tions, one after another, with a knot between each
one. Any one section is too small, so the demon
could grab the monkey, pull him under and gobble
him up. But the knots make it impossible to sip
through more than one section.
The monkey king was very special, and
that is why so many followed him. In the past, he
had practised goodness and trained his mind with
such effort and attention, that he had developed
very fine qualities of mind. This is why he was
said to be ‘large in mind’, not because he simply
had a ‘big brain’.
The Enlightenment Being was able to keep
these fine qualities in his mind, and produce a
very unlikely event – a miracle. First, he took a
young bamboo shoot, blew through it to make the
knots disappear, and used it to sip water from the
pond. Then, amazing as it may sound, he waved
his hand and all the bamboo growing around that
one pond lost their knots. They became a new
kind of bamboo.
Then, all his 80,000 followers picked bam-
boo shoots and easily drank their fill from the
pond. The water demon could not believe his
green eyes. Grumbling to himself, he slid back
under the surface, leaving only gurgling bubbles
behind.
The moral is: “Test the water before jumping in.”