The Sage, The Lady, And The Fish

back view of a monk walking with barefoot
Photo by Kelly Jack on Pexels.com

Although we have both grudges and gratitude
linked to one another in the rounds of rebirth,
it is by focusing on gratitude that grudges dissolve.

— Stonepeace | Get Books

In the fifth century B.C. lived an enlightened monk, venerable in wisdom and years, named Katyayana. He was an arhat, a liberated being, free from the vicious cycle of birth and death known as Samsara. Renowned among Buddha’s disciples for his prescience, he rarely displayed it except as an aid to his teachings. Katyayana, through his miraculous powers and abilities, could have produced whatever he wished or needed. However, like Lord Buddha himself, he chose to join the other monks of the order in collecting their daily alms.

One day Katyayana, while pursuing his daily round for alms, encountered a woman seated in front of her house, dandling a small child on her lap. She was eating a fish, whose bones she threw to the barking dog hovering nearby. When the dog became too insistent, the woman gave him a kick. Confronting the scene, the kindly old arhat — much to the woman’s surprise — suddenly burst into laughter. Then he chanted:

“Devouring the flesh of one’s father,
kicking one’s mother;
chewing the bones of one’s father
while nursing one’s enemy upon one’s breast –
What a gigantic melodrama, what a spectacle
is this magical illusory wheel of Samsara!”

The clairvoyant monk clearly perceived that the baby in the woman’s arms was the reincarnation of her recently deceased enemy, the fish between the teeth was the rebirth of her late father, the dog her own recently deceased, often mourned mother reborn… Unconsciously, she was eating the flesh of her own father, tossing his bones to her mother, and kicking the latter’s recently assumed canine form, while unknowingly succouring her former enemy at her breast.

Opined the sagacious old arhat, “Thus is that the wondrous wheel of cyclic existence, like a waterwheel, endlessly turns — refilling its buckets again and again, ceaselessly emptying and replenishing itself.” Who knows from whom the meat on our table has been butchered, whose bones we chew upon?

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1 Comment

  • This story had a great impact on my move to pro-vegetarian diet when I read about it many years ago…

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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