Buddhist Parables

A Herd of Cows

A man had a herd of 250 cows and took great care looking after their welfare. One day, however, a tiger ate one of them–and when the man noticed this, he thought, “I’ve lost one of my cows, and my herd is incomplete. What’s the point of having all these other cows?” And with that, the man drove all the cows off a cliff and to their death.

He is like a person who, after breaking just one precept of righteousness, thinks, “I’ve broken one, so I might as well abandon them all.”

Thirsty

A man went wandering on a very hot day. As the hours passed, he became quite thirsty, and, imagining a mirage of water far away, chased it as if it were real. As luck would have it, his pursuit of the mirage lead him right towards a real riverbank, gushing with water. However, the man, now more thirsty than ever, merely stood next to the water without taking so much as a single drink.

A bystander noticed him and asked about his bizarre behavior. “You look extremely thirsty, and yet you’ve been standing here for a minute without taking a drink.”

The man replied, “Well, I am really thirsty–but there’s too much water in this river for me, and I can’t finish it all!”

This man is comparable to someone who is presented with numerous advantages or teachings, and but refuses to take a single one because he can’t take and maintain all of them. He is putting himself on an unending cycle of missed opportunities.

Converting Inventory

The son of a wealthy man found some valuable aloe wood at the bottom of a river, and he took it to the bazaar and offered it for sale for $3,000. The wood, however, as only worth $700, and he found no buyers. Growing discouraged and desperate, he noticed a nearby charcoal seller doing brisk sales, and he decided to burn his aloe wood into charcoal. He managed to sell the charcoal easily for $20.

This is similar to how some people practice diligently at first to achieve spiritual goals, but soon grow discouraged at some obstacle, and choose to abandon great things and give up a great deal in order to accept a trivial amount.

Salt

A man invited a friend over for dinner one night–but while his friend ate, he did not seem to be enjoying the food. The man handed him a salt shaker, and after the friend ate some salted food, he thought, “This salt really makes the food taste good. And if just a little salt makes it better, then a lot of salt will only improve it more.” He then proceeded to pour salt directly into his mouth–and seconds later, he spit it out in disgust.

The man in this story is comparable to people who think that since moderate eating and drinking has benefits, extreme deprivation must be even better. They end up starving and depriving themselves, and soon find out that they have veered from the right path.

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