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Between Master and Disciples / Buddhist Stories

Buddhist Stories: The Story of Magha, Part 3 of 10, Sept. 12, 2015

Lecture Language:English
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“Friends, we have no refuge but love. Therefore, let your hearts be tranquil. Cherish anger towards no one. Let your hearts be full of love for the king and the village headman and the elephant that tramples you under his feet.” The 33 youths followed the admonition of their leader. Such was the power of their love that the elephant dared not approach them.

We are going back to India again. “The prince then thought to himself, after being pushed around like that, he was thinking to himself, ‘All these men appear to be pleased.’” When they took his place, of course. After he cleaned it already and made it comfortable, they came and just took it. Of course, they were pleased. “Since this work of mine conduces to the happiness of men, it must be a meritorious work.” He was proud of himself! I wasn’t proud on that train. I was thinking, “My God, where are they pushing me?” Did not have time to be proud and thinking.

So on the following day, he took a spade and cleared a big, big empty space, as big as a threshing floor, probably a football field, something like that. A threshing floor is a place where they clear very big so that people can thresh their cereals. And then it will spill all over in different places. Different people came in different areas to thresh their cereal, the rice and stuff like that. So it’s probably a very big one. Whereupon all the men came and stood there. And then in cold weather, he even built a fire to warm them, so that the place became a favorite resort to all. Then he thought to himself again, “It behooves me to take upon myself the task of making the road smooth and even.” So, early in the morning he started out to make the road smooth and even, cutting down and removing all the branches of trees that needed to be removed. Thus, he did spend his time.

I wonder why. Is he a prince? Doesn’t he have any assistant or horse to carry out work for him? Probably in the old time, old-time prince. In Africa, I met some princes. They don’t look like princes. They’re working, like you and I. And some princes stand for Africa’s different tribes. And I met the king, one of the kings. He just lived in one of the normal huts. He had seven wives, nevertheless. They were all very coordinated, harmonious together, the wives. At least when I was there, in front of me. Behind, I don’t know. I cannot tell you.

Another man saw him and said to him, “Master, what are you doing?” So he replied to the questioner, “Master, I am treading the path that leads to Heaven.” So the other guy said, “OK, I want to be your companion.” Because they translated a little difficult, so I make it simple. “Be my companion, Master.” They call each other “Master” politely. Maybe “Sir” nowadays, call each other “Sir.” “Be my companion, Master. Heaven is a pleasant place for many.” He was thinking that in making meritorious deeds, he would go to Heaven. That’s why he said he was walking the path toward Heaven.

Seeing the two, a third man asked the same question, received the same answer, and joined them the same way. And then a fourth, then a fifth, until finally there were thirty-three. Now we know why. All these men worked together with spades and axes, and made the road smooth and even for a distance of one and two leagues. I don’t know how, maybe two miles or something? Two leagues, how much is that? Is there a such thing in this time? No. Old time. Just say one or two thousand miles.

The village headman saw them and thought to himself, “These men are all following the wrong occupation.” He worried about taxpaying. “If they keep digging like that, they don’t pay tax. If they would only fetch fish and flesh from the forest, or indulge in strong drink, or do something else of the sort, I should make something by it.” Yes, I knew it. You see what I mean? Meaning these men are useless, paying no tax.

So he sent for them and asked them, “What is it that you are doing?” “We are treading the path to Heaven, Master.” “That is no proper occupation for men, living the lives of laymen. What you should do is to bring fish and flesh from the forest, indulge in some strong drink,” meaning alcoholic stuff, “and enjoy a generally good time.” But they refused to follow his suggestion. And the more he urged them, the more firmly they refused to do as he suggested.

Finally, the village headman became angry. “I will destroy them!” he said. So he went to the king and said to the king, “Your Majesty, I see a band of thieves going about committing depredations.” The king replied, “Go and catch them and bring them before me.” Oh, poor king! This is the problem when people give wrong information. What to do? So the village headman arrested the 33 youths, and took them before the king. Without instituting an inquiry into their conduct, the king gave them the following order: “Cause them to be trampled to death by an elephant.”

Just because he was the headman of a village, so the king believed him instead of believing the young people. Because it’s prejudice. Probably people always think, “OK, young people, they are always up to no good. Many of them are going stealing or doing something bad.” Just like in some countries, people always have an impression that the black youth are up to no good, that dark-skinned young people are bad, or even old or middle-aged black men are no good. If some police report them as no good, then somebody believes that he is no good, definitely no good. And therefore, a lot of incidents, sad incidents happen because of the color, because of the age, because of prejudice of humans. Just like that.

Thereupon, Magha admonished his companions as follows: “Friends, we have no refuge but love. Therefore, let your hearts be tranquil. Cherish anger towards no one. Let your hearts be full of love for the king and the village headman and the elephant that tramples you under his feet.” The 33 youths followed the admonition of their leader. Such was the power of their love that the elephant dared not approach them.

When the king heard of this, he said, “If the elephant sees so many men, he will not venture to trample them under his feet.” Maybe he’s scared of the crowd. “So, have the men covered with heavy matting, and then order the elephant to trample them.” So, it means they don’t see many men, so maybe he dares to do it. So, the village headman had the men covered with heavy matting and drove the elephant forward to trample them. But when the elephant was yet a long way off, he turned around and went back again.

When the king heard what had happened, he thought to himself, “There must be some reason for this.” So, he caused the 33 youths to be brought before him and asked them, “Friends, is there anything which you have failed to receive at my hands?” They replied, “Your Majesty, what do you mean?” The king said, “I am informed that you are a band of thieves, and that you rove around the forest committing depredations.” So, “Your Majesty, who said that?” “Friends, the village headman so informed me.” “Your Majesty, it is not true that we are thieves. The fact is we are clearing a path to Heaven for ourselves. And we do this and that. The village headman tried to persuade us to adopt an evil mode of life. And when we refused to follow his suggestions, he became angry at us and determined to destroy us.”

It’s not easy to do good things in this world. It’s not all that. Everybody praises goodness and holiness, and wholesomeness, and even charity work. But it’s not always easy to do. Even in our group, sometimes it happens. It’s very funny, more funny sometimes. Sometimes it’s very sad, but sometimes it’s very funny. Because people hear this and that and they don’t prove the truth, they don’t prove it. They don’t fact check. And they just believe it, and that’s the problem.

And, it’s so funny, this American newspaper. They even said Clinton is the son of one of the nurses, that it’s a different father and all that kind of stuff. They speculated. It’s so funny. That was probably during voting time. And they said Obama didn’t have a birth certificate even. Remember? That he was probably smuggled through the border of Mexico. Who knows? Oh, everybody was making a lot of noise, asking him: “If you are innocent, prove it! Give us this long version, short version, whatever, middle version of your birth certificate.” And then they insisted until they had it. Oh, man. Because he is black, you know also.

But I’m not black, I’m also in trouble. I’m yellow. That’s another problem. And even it happened inside our group. This is a very funny thing. Now it’s funny. But at that time, I didn’t know what to say. And at that time, just recently you had a retreat in SMC. Before we moved here. I didn’t even have. I just went there. I didn’t expect anybody to cook for me or anything. I probably thought of cooking for myself, like all this time, before July this year. I was always cooking for myself, simple stuff. Then, but one Aulacese (Vietnamese) she said she saw me so skinny and walking with sticks, that she had to feed me. So, she cooked. And then she had to go soon. So I didn’t know, they tried to arrange somebody else to cook for me somehow. I didn’t tell anything. I didn’t even know she was going.

Excuse me! I am so excited. I feel hot, very hot now, with all these stories. It’s too hot. Laughing too much! Too excited, thinking of the story made by air. People can live by air, breatharians, so maybe also humanitarians, no. Humabreatharians, humatharians, like make air, make story from air, make story from nothing. It’s cool.

I want to tell you this, the present story, the new story. In August, sometime in August, or the end of August, almost before we came here, the sister who cooked for me every day Aulacese (Vietnamese), she was going, so they arranged for somebody to come. Well, I didn’t know. They said somebody would come from America. I said, “What’s her name?” They said “Nguyễn,” an Aulacese (Vietnamese). And the sister said, “Master, every Aulacese is named Nguyễn.” I said, “Who is that?” She said, “We don’t know. They just said Nguyễn.” So she said, “Master, everybody in Âu Lạc (Vietnam) is Nguyễn, just like every Korean is Kim.” Even the vegetable they eat is “kim”-chi! So, we were laughing so much.

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