Tag Archives: parable

A Luxurious Life

Continuing in yesterday’s vein, another Buddhist-Yiddish folktale by Tashrak in the collection “Five Stories about Buddha, the Indian Prophet.” This one is titled “A Luxurious Life.”

When Buddha went into the world, teaching people to be decent and just, he eventually reached a town where the citizens came out to welcome him and bow to him.

However, there wasa rich man who did not bow, and he said to the prophet: “The prophet must forgive me. I’m too fat and I can barely move on my feet.”

“Would you like to know why that is?” Buddha asked.

“Yes,” said the rich man. “And perhaps the prophet can teach me how to find a cure.”

“There are five things that lead to a condition like yours,” the prophet explained. “Too much food, too much sleep, too much pleasure-seeking, too little work, and too little thought. Control your appetite for food and everything else, and you’ll become a normal human being.”

A few years later, Buddha arrived in the same town, and the rich man came out to welcome him like everyone else, bowed like everyone else, and said:

“Great prophet! You healed my body. Now advise me how to heal my mind, so that I can think and grasp everything like all wise and learned men.”

And the prophet replied:

“So long as you keep your body healthy, your mind will also remain healthy. For a healthy mind can exist only in a body that is properly cared for and never flouts the laws of nature.”

So, what do you think? Sound advice, or just more evidence that fat people just can’t catch a break anywhere?


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The Burning Palace

Tashrak, a pseudonym for Yisroel-Yoysef Zevin (1872-1926), adapted Buddhist tales into a Yiddish tradition. In one of the collections, “Five Stories about Buddha, the Indian Prophet”, he tells a story called “The Burning Palace.”

A rich man lived in a palace. The palace was very large but also very old. The walls and the columns were rotted and the roof was very dry. One day, while sitting there, the rich man smelled smoke. He dashed outdoors and saw that the entire building was ablaze. The man then remembered that his children were playing inside the palace, and he shuddered.

The terrified father stood there, not knowing what to do. He heard the children running about indoors and jumping and shouting merrily and cheerfully. He knew that if he told them the palace was on fire, they wouldn’t believe him. They’d think he wanted them to play outdoors. And if he dashed into the building and grabbed just one child at a time, he’d be unable to save the others, who’d scoot away from him and be lost in the flames.

Suddenly the father had a wonderful idea. “My children love toys,” he mused. “If I promise them some beautiful playthings, they’ll obey me.”

He now yelled: “C’mon children! Look at the lovely presents your father has brought you! Why, you’ve never seen such wonderful toys in all your lives! Come out as fast as you can!

And lo and behold! Children came running from all parts of the burning palace. They were mesmerized by the word “toys,” and their good father had brought them some marvelous playthings. But the children then ignored their presents, they gaped at the fire and they realized what great danger they had been in. They thanked their intelligent and loving father, who had saved them from certain death.

The prophet is well acquainted with human children, and he tells them that if they are good, they will receive good things, and that is how he saves them from evil.

And there are times when the children see the great danger that the prophet has saved them from, and they praise his name.

I am not a parent yet, and so I wanted to ask parents out there — is this good advice at all? On the one hand, I can see how this form of — well, for lack of better word — bribery could help, but in the end, it could also backfire, right? What do you parents think out there?


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Same name, new flavor

So, I’ve been reading Teachings of the Buddha, which is a collection of Buddhist stories and teachings edited by Jack Kornfield, the director of the Spirit Rock Centre in Woodacre, California. I came across two teachings with titles that should sound very familiar to Christians, but with completely different (and interesting) messages.

Parable of the Mustard Seed

Gotami was her family name, but because she was tired easily, she was called Kisa Gotami, or Frail Gotami. She was reborn at Savatthi in a poverty-stricken house. When she grew up, she married, going to the house of her husband’s family to live. There, because she was the daughter of a poverty-stricken house, they treated her with contempt. After a time she gave birth to a son. Then they accorded her respect.

But when that boy of hers was old enough to play and run hither and about, he died. Sorrow sprang up within her. Thought she: Since the birth of my son, I, who was once denied honor and respect in this very house, have received respect. These folk may even seek to cast my son away. Taking her son on her hip, she went about from one house door to another, saying: “Give me medicine for my son!”

Whenever people encountered her, they said: “Where did you ever meet with medicine for the dead?” So saying, they clapped their hands and laughed in derision. She had not the slightest idea what they meant.

Now a certain wise man saw her and thought: This woman must have been driven out of her mind by sorrow for her son. But medicine for her, no one else is likely to know — the Sage of the Ten Forces alone is likely to know. Said he: “Woman, as for medicine for your son — there is no one else who knows — the Sage of the Ten Forces, the foremost individual in the world of men and the worlds of the gods, resides at a neighboring monastery. Go to him and ask.”

The man speaks the truth, thought she. Taking her son on her hip, she took her stand in the outer circle of the congregation around the seated Buddha and asked: “O Exalted One, give me medicine for my son!”

The Teacher, seeing that she was ripe for understanding, said: “You did well, Gotami, in coming hither for medicine. Go enter the city, make the rounds of the entire city, beginning at the beginning, and in whatever house no one has ever died, from that house fetch tiny grains of mustard seed.”

“Very well, reverend sir,” said she. Delighted in her heart, she entered within the city, and at the very first house said: “”The Sage of the Ten Forces bid me fetch tiny grains of mustard seed for medicine for my son. Give me tiny grains of mustard seed.”

“Alas! Gotami,” said they, and brought and gave to her.

“This particular seed I cannot take. In this house someone has died!”

“What say you, Gotami! Here it is impossible to count the dead!”

“Well then, enough! I’ll not take it. The Sage of the Ten Forces did not tell me to take mustard seed from a house where anyone has ever died.”

In this same way she went to the second house, and to the third and forth. Finally, she understood. In the entire city this must be the way! The Buddha, full of compassion for the welfare of mankind, must have seen! Overcome with emotion, she went outside of the city, carried her son to the burning-ground, and holding him in her arms, said: “Dear little son, I thought that you alone had been overtaken by this thing which men call death. But you are not the only one death has overtaken. This is a law common to all mankind.” So saying, she cast her son away in the burning-ground. Then she uttered the following stanza:

No village law, no law of market town,
No law of a single house is this —
Of all the world and all the world of gods
This only is the Law, that all things are impermanent.

This next one also has a very familiar-sounding title to Christians, and even has a familiar beginning premise; however, the moral is not so familar:

The Woman at the Well

Ananda, the attendant to the Buddha, having been sent by the Lord on a mission, passed by a well near a village, and seeing Pakati, a young outcast woman, asked her for water to drink.

Pakati said, “O monk, I am too humbly born to give you water to drink. Do not ask any service of me lest your holiness be contaminated, for I am of low caste.”

And Ananda replied, “I ask not for caste but for water,” and the woman’s heart leaped joyfully and she gave Ananda water to drink.

Ananda thanked her and went away; but she followed him at a distance.

Having heard that Ananda was a disciple of the Buddha, the woman went to the Blessed One and said, “O Lord, help me and let me live in the place where your disciple Ananda dwells, so that I may see him and minister unto him, for I love Ananda.”

And the Blessed one understood the emotions of her heart and he said, “Pakati, your heart is full of love, but you do not understand your own sentiments. It is not Ananda that you love, but his kindness. Accept, then, the kindness you have seen him practice toward you and practice it toward others.

“Pakati, though you are born low caste, you will be a model for noblemen and noblewomen. Swerve not from the path of justice and righteousness and you will outshine the royal glory of queens and kings.”

That last one is dense with multiple nuggets of wisdom embedded in it.

So, what do you guys think?

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Not Mixing Up Buddhism

I found this story in Teachings of the Buddha, and I do not get it. If you get it, or have an interpretation thereof, please write in the comments:

Not mixing Up Buddhism

Once a monk on pilgrimage met a woman living in a hut. The monk asked, “Do you have any disciples?”

The woman said, “Yes.”

The monk said, “Where are they?”

She said, “The mountains, rivers, and earth, the plants and trees, are all my disciples.”

The monk said, “Are you a nun?”

She said, “What do you see me as?”

He said, “A layperson.”

The woman in the hut said, “You can’t be a monk!”

The monk said, “You shouldn’t mix up Buddhism.”

She said, “I’m not mixing up Buddhism this way?”

The monk said, “Aren’t you mixing up Buddhism this way?”

She said, “You’re a man, I’m a woman — where has there ever been any mixup?”


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The Parable of the Refrigerated Leftovers

Editor’s note: This text was recently discovered by a group of digital archaeologists, who believe the text to over 2,500 years old. Scholars date the document to the first half of the twenty-first century as part of a collection of apocryphal stories called The Bloggernacle, belonging to the Latter-day Saint religious movement. Church officials warned that such writings were not considered as canonized scripture, but that the average Saint, when guided by the Spirit, could still discern truths within the collection of stories. Due to the fragile nature of primitive digital data storage in the twenty-first century, scholars were only able to recover a portion of the piece. They believe it to be incomplete, due to the sudden termination of the story. Ellipses indicate missing text. Footnotes are provided for students unfamiliar with the historical and cultural context of this piece.

The Parable of the Refrigerated Leftovers

1. Now it came to pass that on the twenty-sixth montha of my marriage that the Lord did rouse me from my sleep, calling to me.

2. Upon hearing the voice of the Lord, I did arise from my bed, and inquired of the Lord.

3. And the Spirit of the Lord did speak unto me, saying, Is there not an appointed day in the land, yea, a most sacred day, on which thou didst swear to thine wife that thou wouldst clean out thy fridge? Yea, and has not the day long passed, and thine fridgea dost remain spoiled and unclean?

4. And the words of the Lord did pierce my heart, and I did tremble in fear.

5. And the voice of the Lord continued, saying, Didst I not bless thy family with a bountiful harvest, yea, with green beans, and cucumbers, and basil, and lettuce? And dost not the brambles which do afflict thine wife when she travels to thine vehiclea also bring forth wild blackberries, which thou dost pluck even when thou hast not watered nor cared for them?

6. And didst not thy friends bless thee with all manner of squash, and all manner of peppers, and with ears of corn, and leaves of mint, yea, even with tomatoes and peas, which bringeth joy to thine wife?

7. Wherefore shall I place this bounty of which I hast blessed thee, yea, even this most bountiful harvest, when thy fridge dost remain unclean and full of iniquity?

8. Upon hearing this, I did tremble even more exceedingly, and throwing my body upon the floor, I didst cry, Speak, O Lord, for thy servant heareth thy words. I have sinned in the eyes of God, and wilt thou forgive me of my sins?

9. And the voice of the Lord spoke unto me, saying, Arise, my servant, and repent of this wickedness which thou hast committed, and of the fraud which thou didst put upon thy wife by saying, Yea, I shall clean the fridge.

10. I arose, and behold, I did gaze upon the fruits of my labors, for because of mine procrastination, my fridge had thus become most iniquitous, full of all manner of unclean things;

11. Yea, for I didst find a pot full of chicken soup which did feel like gelatina to the touch, yea, of a most odorous quality;

12. And I didst also find a tupperwarea of rotting lettuce, which did ooze forth;

13. And I didst find a tupperware of chicken bonesa, long picked clean by wild animalsb which did roam the wildernessc;

14. Yea, and I didst find soy bean sproutsa, which didst smell of fermented barleyb;

15. And I didst find a most iniquitous tupperware full of bean dipa;

16. But lo, upon the bean dip did rest a cubita of mold, as green as the hills of Seattleb, and I didst almost retch at the sight, yea, I did almost spew forth the contents of my dinner had it not been for the grace of God.

17. In the Lord’s infinite mercy, I did find a pot of currya, which had not yet hardened and did maintain a viscousness of a most unnatural manner;

18. And though a tupperware of wild blackberries was found, lo, I did find them to be miraculously preserved, and I did rejoice in the midst of my sorrow;

19. For I didst realize in my heart that such iniquity found in my fridge did arrive because of my procrastination, and surely I did understand the words of my fathers, when they told me in my youth to never procrastinate the day of my repentance, and yea, I did shed tears for my iniquities.

20. And the Lord said unto me, Thrust the iniquities into the garbage heap, for thou shalt not retain these sins, and cleanse thine vesselsa, yea, even with hot soapb and water, and thou shalt be forgiven and thine wife shall smile upon thee yet again in the morning.c

21. And I did as the Lord commanded, and lo, the vessels did become clean once more, though it took the space of many minutes in order for them to appear anew.

22. And I did thrust the chicken parts into the garbage heap, yea, even the gelatin soup, and the rotting leaves of lettuce, and the fermented bean sprouts, and yea, even the most iniquitous bean dip which a cubit of mold did inhabit, and I did thrust them into the garbage heap, and I did wrap up the garbage and I did cast it out of mine house, for the Lord hath commanded that every man must keepeth his house clean.

23. After I had done these things, the Lord then spoke to me, saying, If thou wilst not prepare the bountiful harvest which I have blessed thee with for storage in thine newly cleaned fridge, surely they shall rot away.

24. And I did hear the words of the Lord, and I did prepare the multitudes of squash, and I didst prepare the ears of corn, and I didst prepare the multitudes of peppers, yea, and I did prepare all of these things, even down to the lowliest pea.

25. I did rejoice in the work, for I then understood the words of my fathers, which did instruct me that the Lord smileth on a clean house, and that if a man doth not keep a clean house, surely he shall suffer the wrath of the Lord, yea, and even the wrath of his wife, which shall surely strip the flesh from his bones until he remaineth as nothing…and the wrath of the wife is great, for surely all men would tremble in the wrath of the wife unless he repent, for dost not the Lord command every husband to listen to his wife? And now I say unto you, how couldst a husband listen to his wife if he doth incur her wrath? I say unto you, nay…Surely the Lord commandeth it.

26. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who doth provide such wondrous items of great power, who doth provide soap and hot water of which I may clean my vessels!

27. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who doth command his children to keep clean their houses, so that their families may be raised in happiness and health!

28. And I did follow all the instructions of the Lord, and I did then retire to my bed, for my hands and bones were weary, and I didst know that I must complete the laundry in the morrow.

29. And the Lord did bless me with a deep sleep…And my wife did answer me, saying, Yea, perhaps the Lord did provide thee with a gospel principle in thine experiences, but verily, verily, I say unto thee, beware of false spirits who do profess to be the Spirit of the Lord which…And she did scoff my words, but did thank me for my diligence despite my foolishness, and peace did reign within my house. [fragment ends]


1a “twenty-sixth month of my marriage” – It was custom of the time back then to celebrate yearly commemorations of marriage ceremonies.

3a “fridge” ENG frigid – A box which perishable items were placed inside.

5a “vehicle” – Scholars estimate the document to be from the early part of the twenty-first century, which indicates the author most likely owned a combustible car, rather than the fusion car, developed in the latter half of the century.

12a “tupperware” – ENG “tub” + “wear” – Scholars believe this to be a corrupted form of the two English root words “tub” and “wear.” Scholars believe this to be some form of container, most likely to hold liquid items (as suggested by the root “tub”, a large container of water used for bathing). See also TG Rubbermaid.

13a “chicken bones” – The author refers to chicken bones, chicken parts, and chicken soup, which suggests that this text is pre-2075, when the LDS church issued a declaration of the Church prohibiting the consumption of meat, according to Doctrine and Covenants section 89.

13b “animals” – It was customary for Latter-day Saint families to raise animals within the confines of their house. Judging from clues within the text, scholars believe this to be a cat, a primitive ancestor to the modern-day lyger.

13c “wilderness” – ENG “wild” + “nest” – Scholars believe this to be a corrupted form of the two English root words “wild” and “nest,” indicating some form of home (nest) for wild creatures. It was customary for families raising animals within their homes to reserve a portion of the house specifically for the animal. This word has also been used often from 1500 – 1900, indicating an area outside of the city-state wherein wild animals could be found to be captured or hunted. Most likely the 2000-2100 form of the word is derived from this usage.

14a “bean sprouts” – A culinary dish prepared mostly by those Asiatic decent. Though common today, the consumption of bean sprouts during the early twenty-first century was mostly isolated by Asiatic cultures, which strongly indicates that the author is most likely of Asiatic decent, or married into an Asiatic tribe.

14b “fermented barley” – Beer; most likely the author is referring to Doctrine and Covenants 89, which details the LDS health code. The original scripture encourages the usage of barley for making “mild drinks.”

15a “bean dip” – A culinary dish enjoyed by many Latter-day Saints at the time. Scholars believe that the Great Obesity Epidemic of 2043 – 2067 resulted in widespread consumption of this rather unhealthy dish. In 2075, LDS authorities added bean dip to the list of prohibitory items in their health code, the “Word of Wisdom,” but usage of bean dip had already been in decline for several decades.

16a “cubit” – Estimated to be roughly five centimeters.

16b “green hills of Seattle” – Seattle, an ancient city off the coast of the northern Pacific Ocean, was renowned for its evergreen trees. Contemporary epithets to the city included “Emerald City” and “Evergreen City,” referring to its famous trees. Though a temple did reside in the territories known as the Greater Seattle Area, scholars believe that the author originated from this ancient city rather than the verse having any religious significance, as Seattle is not one of the ancient Holy Cities of the Latter-day Saint religion. It is believed that various Latter-day Saints of the Cybernacleblogger sect lived in the area contemporary to the author in the early twenty-first century (most of them were excommunicated for heresy between 2015-2037).

17a “curry” – A culinary dish originating in the Indian sub-continent. This also points towards an Asiatic origin for the author.

20a “vessels” – Scholars believe the author is writing to aforementioned tupperware.

20b “soap” – An ancient clean aid, developed by carefully mixing together caustic lye with fats, mostly animal fats and oils.

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