As the precepts are interconnected
in the spirit of non-harm to anyone,
to truly observe any one is to truly observe all.
Many years ago there was a man who had two hundred and fifty cows. He took great care of his herd, always driving them to water or to pasture as was needed, and he made sure to feed them throughout the seasons. One day a tiger appeared and devoured one of the man’s cows. When the man discovered this he thought, ‘Since I have lost a cow, my herd is no longer complete. What use are all these other cows?’ With this foolish thought in mind he drove the herd to the edge of a high cliff and forced them to fall to the bottom of the gorge, killing each and every one.
Common people and fools are also like this. They receive the precepts offered by the Tathagata but when they break even one precept they do not regret it, nor do they purify themselves with confession [repentance]. They think, ‘I have already broken one precept and no longer hold them all. What good is keeping the others?’ Then they break the remaining precepts until none are left intact. In this way they are exactly like the fools who killed his entire herd of cows without leaving even one alive. (Two hundred and fifty cows: representative of the precepts of early monks)
A Flock of Fools: Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter from the One Hundred Parable Sutra
Translated and retold by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt
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