The greatest teacher of them all...

The greatest teacher of them all...
There is much to learn, and we are yet to begin...

The mind that is pure, that mind is indeed happy

Inspired by the second verse of the Yammaka Vagga (The Twin Verses) of the Dhammapada - "Matthakundali Vatthu" - Happiness follows the doer of good

Once upon a time, long long ago, in a place far far away, as all good stories say, in the old village of Satyagriha, very near the town of Sravasti of known fame due to the travels and stay of the Most Enlightened One in these regions, lived an old brahmin archaka, a priest, Perikasyapa, who was very devoted to his duties at the temple and beloved by his family. His son, Balakasyapa, would also help him at the temple alongside him, at the prayers, and on some days, was known to conduct the day long sanctification, all by himself. Perikasyapa was very proud of his son and loved him dearly, and would always speak of him with pride in his voice to his neighbour, the kind and benevolent neighbour, Dayaluprema. 

Perikasyapa had a large family. Two other sons, Raghavakasyapa and Harshakasyapa had been given the responsibility of managing the  temple's cropfields, wells and animals, including the dairy sheds, cattle, mules, horses and elephants. The temple was not as impressive as the other large temples in the region, and certainly not as large as the Jetavana monastery at Sravasti, where the Most Enlightened One led his sangha for the past several years.

Four daughters born before his sons had been married and were settled in the town of Sravasti and nearby villages to honest and god-fearing brahmins from very old families in the region. All four daughters, Deepakalavika, Neetikalavika, Preetikalavika and Jyotikalavika had loved their father dearly and were deeply attached to the temple and its annual religious ceremonies. They returned, year after year, to help Perikasyapa and Balakasyapa in organising the festivities and prayers, and they would come, each one of the four daughters, with their spouses, children and servants and other relatives.

Perikasyapa  was never tired of telling the mother of his chidlren, Kalavikamata, of the god's own blessings and the proper manner of all prayers, and denial of any wrong doing, had allowed them to be happy with their children, and their children's families, and their children's children, while also being happy with the manner of functioning of the temple and all their properties and their animals.

Perikasyapa’s neighbour, Dayaluprema, was a grocer but was also an expert at breeding select varieties of cattle and also had several businesses, including a grain shop and a dairy farm. Dayaluprema and the wonderful and wise Bhavanamata, the mother of his chidlren were very devout householders, and were always present at the small temple at Satyagriha, helping Perikasyapa, and also chatting with him about all worldly matters.

Perikasyapa and Dayaluprema were very busy people, and they would be at their work from before dawn, and would be working through the day, and moving about in the village and nearby areas and to Sravasti, at least once a day. They were well known in the area and loved by all and respected because of their good behaviour and generous nature. Their children were also good natured and devoted to their tasks and always generous to one and all. Their language was pure and their speech was clean.

There was many an occasion when the poor, the old, the sick and the needy in the region would come to them asking for some help or guidance and would never be turned away. Perikasyapa took care to ensure that he should never be considered as a charitable but foolish person. To each person who would come asking for help, the old priest would ask questions about the misfortune, and would offer support by way of food, clothing and shelter and money in exchange for a job and service at the temple, or his crop fields or dairy farms or in setting up a vending shop in Sravasti or nearby places.

There were always many opportunities, he felt, and these were not seen because one was in misery or in severe distress, or merely because people did not know how to recognise a way out of their problems. Perikasyapa felt that if one was devoted to their work, and to their god, and to their family, there would be strength of thought that would always flow like a river within their mind, and this would give that ability to help others always without any hesitation.

Similar to Perikasyapa, the actions of Kalavikamata, were always being praised by the villagers of Satyagriha. She had more courage and kindness in her mind, and usually, she never waited for someone to approach her for help. She had a way, an enormous ocean of kindness within her, and with a happy mind, she could locate those helpless people, who would hover nearby and not have the courage to come and ask for help. Her eyes saw their distress, and her mind recognised their anguish and her heart accepted, with all her love, that they did not wish to lose their dignity in asking for help and accepting charity.

Kalavikamata would wave to these helpless ones, calling them nearer, and unlike Perikasyapa, without any questions or without asking them to work in return, she would give each one a small fistfull of curd rice from a large pot carried on a small cart accompanying her. She was always with her small cart, pulled by a very faithful and beloved ox, Bhatta, who had been on the same task for many many years. At times, it seemed that even Bhatta knew where to stop, and as the grandchildren loved to claim, Bhatta also knew how to recognise those who needed help from Kalavikamata.

Several grandchildren accompanied Kalavikamata and her small cart and Bhatta, the most docile, friendly and good-natured ox. The children would help in giving the curd rice to people, and would keep the fistfulls ready in wrapped up banana leaves. They enjoyed this work, and one some days, they would also call their young friends from other houses to join them. To the villagers of Satyagriha and to the visitors from other places, and to all at Sravasti, it seemed like the pure mind of Perikasyapa was always at peace and always keen to help others. It seemed like this purity of thought and benevolence of action flowed like an endless never ceasing river from Perikasyapa to Kalavikamata and thereby to all their children and their spouses and their families and to their grandchildren.

Always kind and helpful within themselves, and in perpetual association with good and pure souls, it did seem that the good nature went out to accept the people who met them, and each one of them went away carrying their kindness and goodness in their hearts. The love that they spread among people also seemed to reach out to all the animals near them and this was seen clearly by all those who saw the manner of behaviour of the animals who were in service at the carts or the yokes at the crop fields or those that were in the dairy farms.

Most uniquely, this love and benevolence also spread to the wild birds and animals in Satyagriha. Near the temple, and among the fruit orchards and flower gardens of Perikasyapa, it was the task of a gardener, one who had come years ago, asking for help, and ended up working at the gardens, to place nesting pots and fill up the drinking pans for the wild birds, garden peafowl and the pigeons that swarmed the area. This gardener had lost one hand in a fight with a fellow thief, in his earlier occupation as a bandit. Jobless, and with no means to help his family, he had come to Perikasyapa asking for help, and had confessed all information about his wrongful actions.

Perikasyapa had employed the one-handed bandit, and named as Cheyyilena and asked him to tend to the temple’s flower gardens behind the southern walls, and reuse all the waters that drained from the temple to irrigate the fruit orchards and flower beds. Over many years, Cheyyilena had settled his family in a small hut below the southern walls of the temple, near an old disused well that still retained water. His own children had become young persons in these years and went to work on the crop fields of Perikasyapa in nearby areas.

In all these years, Cheyyilena, kept soaking up the kindness of Perikasyapa and the benevolence of Kalavikamata, and got totally captured by the purity of their minds, and the good nature of their thoughts, and in a short period had totally forgotten of who he had been in earlier years, and thus cleansing his own mind. His thoughts had become pure and sincere, and he ceased to have evil thoughts, and over some years, had come to accept, believe and act in such a manner that he would only conduct himself with a totally pure mind. Thereby, his actions though restricted mainly to trees, flowers, water and to the birds, and feral dogs and cats and the occasional wandering donkey from the nearby brick kilns, his day-long actions also resounded with the purity of his mind and thought.

At one of the flower gardens alongside the southern walls of the temple, Cheyyilena had placed a series of clay saucers with water for birds to quench their thirst. These saucers were kept on ledges above the ground, high enough, so that the village dogs could not jump up or dislodge them. Some cats would always attempt to reach the saucers for the birds, but Cheyyilena had thought about it and placed larger and deeper vessels at ground level for the dogs and cats to drink from.

Cheyyilena’s wife would always leave the leftover rice and lentils, small portions of leftovers, high enough so that the birds could eat peacefully without any threat from the dogs and cats. There was always enough food at the temple and market areas for the dogs and cats of Satyagriha and, in any case, Cheyyilena’s wife never had large portions of leftovers. The sparrows, mynas and bulbuls, and the occasional other birds that came by were the right number to completely consume the leftover food.

On one such day, when the Most Enlightened One was at Jetavana, in Sravasti, near the village of Satyagriha, it so happened that there was a big feast at the temple, and Cheyyilena and his wife had gone to help Perikasyapa and others with the activities and serving food to all those who attended. Having eaten at the temple, Cheyyilena’s wife had more food at her home as leftovers to give to the birds. This food was tasty and spicy and the odour was very welcoming and tempting to one hungry and starved-looking dog, perhaps a wandering mongrel from some other place. The dogs of Satyagriha were still busy feasting at the leftovers of the feast of the day before and were not present at the flower garden.

This had presented an opportunity to the stranger mongrel, who came up to the vessels containing water, drank from them, and began searching for the food that he could not see, but could certainly smell very strongly. He looked around and could not spot any food, but following his nose, he could guess that the wonderful smells were coming from the ledge, high above, and was probably being consumed by the many birds that he saw flocking around.

Hungry and desperate, not able to contain himself, the mongrel barked in request to the myna that was perched nearby. That myna, seemed to understand that the stranger dog was hungry and needed food, for, it flew up to the ledge, and having perched itself on some lumps of lentil-mixed rice balls, pushed them from the ledge, to fall on the ground. Immediately, the hungry dog pounced on the rice balls and consumed them, drank some water and ran away, satisfied and happy.

The monk, Jaiprakasa Muni, was seated nearby, under the shade of a mango tree. As I have informed you earlier, he could understand the language spoken by all wild and domestic creatures, and was also able to talk to them. He had been seated in the orchard for some time, resting, and waiting for the noon meals to be over at the temple and the market, so that he could go to the village to beg for his alms and food. He had seen the desperate hunger of the wandering stranger-mongrel, and had seen him bark in request to the myna, and had seen the kind bird, with purity in its mind, and clean in its thought, push away some food from the ledge to allow the dog to eat.

He knew of the kindness and purity of mind of Perikasyapa, his family and the benevolent nature of most of the villagers of Satyagriha. He knew of Cheyyilena, and of how without any attempt to preach, the bandit had been reformed with the assurance of honest employment, and of how he had gained perpetual purity in his mind and busied himself only in good deeds. The monk, Jaiprakasa Muni, called out to the myna, “O kind bird, please, slow yourself in your busy actions, and do come near and sit at this low branch, for I want to be able to see inside your mind, and seek the blessings of your pure mind.”

The kind myna, not realising the import and intent of the words of the wise monk, came down immediately and perched on a branch that swung low from the mango tree. Hearing the words of the monk, all the other birds also came to perch nearby. Sparrows, mynas, bulbuls, doves, parakeets and cuckoos, and many others, including two peafowl that had been sitting on their eggs, quietly and secretly, in some flower bushes nearby, also came to sit nearby. All these birds, possibly more than thirty, sat patiently awaiting the words of the wise monk who spoke to all the wild and domestic creatures.

He said to the birds, “O soul-driven birds of this splendid place, O flying birds, who can always seek places with purity in your minds, hear me out, for I am blessed that I can speak to all living creatures, those that are freely wild, and also to all domestic creatures, and I see all aspects of life, the good and the bad, the pure and the evil, the content and the misery, the peaceful and the troubled and this I see, that sadness (dukha) follows the impure mind, and happiness (sukha) follows the perpetually pure mind.”

“O kind bird, the unhesitating act of helping a stranger, by giving away something that you needed to survive, without question and without any second thought, this very action came from the purity in your mind, and thereby you have assured yourselves of the results of good actions by others and the certainty that you will forever be successful in being good, always.”

The monk, Jaiprakasa Muni, said thus to all the birds listening to him, “All living beings are unique, in that their actions emerge from their thoughts, and their thoughts lead to their experiences. Since your thoughts were to result in helpful action, and in good deeds, you will continue to convey good thoughts, and this purity in mind will thus become stronger. The results will always be in good deeds, thus always leading you to happiness. Such happiness, resulting from good thought, will never leave you, and will always be with you. Wherever you fly, and even if you perch within the darkest tree, your happiness will always follow you like a faithful shadow that will never leave you, even if you cannot see it. Thus, taught the Most Enlightened One.” 

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