Hoa Vo Uu (Buddha Dharma Education Association)
Venerable Shravasti Dhammika
The Buddha’s Words of Wisdom
At the time there was a fierce elephant in Rãjagaha, a man-killer called Nãlãgiri. Then Devadatta entered Rãjagaha and went to the elephant stable and said to the mahouts: “I am a relative of the king. I am capable of putting one who is in a low position into a high position, and of bringing about an increase in food and wages. So my good fellows, when the recluse Gotama is coming along the carriage road, let loose Nãlãgiri and send him down the road.”
“Very well, honoured sir,” those mahouts said to Devadatta. In the morning the Lord dressed, and taking his robe, entered the city for alms-food, together with serveral other monks. As they went down the road, the mahouts released Nãlãgiri. He saw the Lord coming in the distance, and lifting up his trunk and making his ears and tail erect, he rushed towards him. The monks saw Nãlãgiri coming and said to the Lord: “Lord, this elephant is a fierce man-killer. Turn back.”
“Do not be afraid, monks, for it is impossible, it cannot happen that someone could kill the Tathãgata; the Tathãgata cannot attain final Nirvãna due to violence.”
A second and third time they spoke to the Lord. People climed on the roofs of the houses, waiting, said: “This great recluse is beautiful indeed, but he will be harmed by this bull elephant.”
But those with faith, those who were believers, said: “Good sirs, soon this bull elephant will confront a truly great being.” Then the Lord suffused Nãlãgiri with a mind full of love, and the elephant lowered his trunk, went up to the Lord, and stood beside him. The Lord stroked Nãlãgiri forehead with his right hand and addressed these verses to him:
O elephant, do not strike a truly great being,
For to do so is painful indeed.
For one who slays a great being, O elephant,
There is no good rebirth, when one departs from here.
Be not proud, be not reckless,
Or there will be no good rebirth.
Act in such a way to have a good rebirth.
The Nãlãgiri took dust from the Lord’s feet with his trunk, and sprinkled it over his own head, and then backed away bowing while he kept his gaze on the Lord. He returned to the stable and stood in his own place, and in this way was finally tamed. The people at that time sang this verse:
Some are tamed by sticks, by goads or by whips.
The elephant was tamed by the great seer,
Without stick or weapon.
People disparaged and criticized Devadatta widely, saying: “This Devadatta is evil and inauspicious in that he tried to murder the recluse Gotama who is of such great psychic power and majestic.” And Devadatta’s reputation declined while the Lord’s grew.