Tittira Jataka

Once on a time, hard by a great banyan-tree on the slopes of the Himalayas, there dwelt three friends, a partridge, a monkey, and an elephant. And they came to lack respect and subordination one to another, and had no ordering of their common life. And the thought came to them that it was not seemly for them to live in this way, and that they ought to find out which of their number was the senior and to honour him.

As they were engaged thinking which was the oldest, one day an idea struck them. Said the partridge and the monkey to the elephant as they all three sat together at the foot of that banyan-tree, “Friend elephant, how big was this banyan when you remember it first?” Said the elephant, “When I was a baby this banyan was a mere bush, over which I used to walk; and as I stood astride of it its topmost branches used just to reach up to my belly. I’ve known the tree since it was a mere bush.”

Next the monkey was asked the same question by the other two; and he replied, “My friends, when I was a youngling, [219] I had only to stretch out my neck as I sat on the ground, and I could eat the topmost sprouts of this banyan. So I’ve known this banyan since it was very tiny.”

Then the partridge was asked the same question by the town others; and he said, “Friends, of old there was a great banyan-tree at such and such a spot; I ate its seeds, and voided them here; that was the origin of this tree. Therefore, I have knowledge of this tree form before it was born, and am older than the pair of you.”

Hereupon the monkey and the elephant said to the sage partridge, “Friend, you are the oldest. Henceforth you shall have form us acts of honour and veneration, marks of obeisance and homage, respect of word and deed, salutation, and all due homage; and we will follow your counsels. You for your part henceforth will please impart such counsel as we need.”

Thenceforth the partridge gave them counsel, and established them in the Commandments, which he also undertook himself to keep. Being thus established in the Commandments, and becoming respectful and subordinate among themselves, with proper ordering of their common life, these three made themselves sure of rebirth in heaven at this life’s close.

“The aims of these three” continued the Master “came to be known as the ‘Holiness of the Partridge,’ and if these three animals, Brethren, lived together in respect and subordination, how can you, who have embraced a Faith the Rules of which are so well taught, live together without due respect and subordination? Henceforth I ordain, Brethren, that to seniority shall be paid respect of word and deed, salutation, and all due service; that seniority shall be the title to the best lodging, the best water, and the best rice; and nevermore let a senior be kept out of a lodging by a junior. Whosoever so keeps out his senior commits an offence.”

It was at the close of this lesson that the Master, as Buddha, repeated this stanza:-

For they who honour age, in Truth are versed;

Praise now, and bliss hereafter, is their meed.

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