The Virtue of Compassion
There was once a hunter form the city of Varanasi, on the sacred Ganges River. He went out to shoot antelope with his bow and a full quiver of poison arrows. When he was far out into the forest, he spotted a herd of antelope and shot his arrows at them, missing every one. One of his arrows, however, did hit an ancient old tree where a kindly parrot lived. As soon as the arrow struck, the old tree began to wither and die. But the parrot, who had been born in that very tree and spent all of its life there, refused to abandon it.
The parrot remained in the tree, not even leaving to find a new food to eat. As the tree withered, so did the parrot. The bird just remained in the very spot where it was born, motionless and mourning in silence. The sky god Indra looked down on the faithful parrot and decided to visit the bird, taking the human form of a noble Brahman.
Indra, in this guise, asked the bird, "Why don't you leave this tree? It is almost completely dead." But the parrot replied, "I cannot leave this tree. I was born here; for my entire life, this tree has given me a home, food to eat, and refuge from my enemies. How could I ever leave such a faithful friend?" But Indra replied, "It is you, O parrot, who is a faithful friend." Deeply moved by the parrot's loyalty, Indra touched the withered tree and it was restored to life.
Indra then told the parrot, "I have brought the tree back to life, but it is really you, the faithful parrot, that kept it alive."
With this story of friendship, faithfulness, and the virtue of compassion, everyone who hears it will be blessed; everyone who tells it will be blessed twice. Reference - a1Back to Top
Anansi and the Ear of Corn
Anansi was one of God's chosen, and he lived in human form before he became a spider. One day he asked God for a simple ear of corn, promising that he would repay God with one hundred servants. God was always amused by the boastful and resourceful Anansi, and gave him the ear of corn. Anansi set out with the ear and came to a village to rest. He told the chief of the village that he had a sacred ear of corn from God and needed both a place to sleep for the night and a safe place to keep the treasure. The chief treated Anansi as an honored guest and gave him a thatched-roof house to stay in, showing him a hiding place in the roof.
During the night, while the entire village was fast asleep, Anansi woke the village with his cries. "What happened to the sacred corn? Who stole it? Certainly God will bring great punishment on this village!" He made such a fuss that the villagers begged him to take a whole bushel of corn as a demonstration of their apologies.
He then set down the road with the bushel of corn until it grew too heavy for him to carry. He then met a man on the road who had a chicken, and Anansi exchanged the corn for the chicken. When Anansi arrived at the next village, he asked for a place to stay and a safe place to keep the "sacred" chicken. In this new village, Anansi was again treated as an honored guest, a great feast was held in his honor, and he was shown a house to stay in and given a safe place for the chicken.
During the night Anansi butchered the chicken and smeared its blood and feathers on the door of the chief's house. In the morning he woke everyone with his cries, "The sacred chicken has been killed! Surely God will destroy this village for allowing this to happen!" The frightened villagers begged Anansi to take ten of their finest sheep as a token of their sincere apology.
Anansi drove the sheep down the road until he came to a group of men carrying a corpse. He asked the men whose body they were carrying. The men answered that a traveler had died in their village and they were bearing the body home for a proper burial. Anansi then exchanged the sheep for the corpse and set out down the road.
At the next village, Anansi told the people that the corpse was a son of God who was sleeping. He told them to be very quiet in order not to wake this important guest. The people in this village, to, held a great feast and treated Anansi as royalty.
When morning came, Anansi told the villagers that he was having a hard time waking the "son of God" from sleep, and he asked their help. They started by beating drums, and the visitor remained "asleep". Then they banged pots and pans, but he was still "asleep." The the villagers pounded on the visitor's chest, and he still didn't stir.
All of a sudden, Anansi cried out, "You have killed him! You have killed a son of God! Oh, no! Certainly God will destroy this whole village, if not the entire world!" The terrified villagers then told Anansi that he could pick one hundred of their finest young men as slaves if only he would appeal to God to save them.
So Anansi returned to God, having turned one ear of corn into one hundred slaves. Reference - a1Back to Top
Midas and the Golden Touch
When King Midas was an infant, a curious omen took place. While the baby was sleeping, ants gathered up grains of wheat and marched them up to his lips, presaging that Midas would be a wealthy man.
Dionysus the god of the grapes has a debauched son named Silenus, who is very rarely sober and tend, when drunk, to forget where his is. This worries his father terribly. While sojourning in Midas's kingdom Silenus, per usual, got drunk and stumbled about confusedly. In that area there was a terrible whirlpool that had claimed the lives of even many sober men. Silenus stumbled into the waters and would have perished had Midas not saved him.
In gratitude, Dionysus offered the king whatever he wanted. Midas asked that the touch of his hand would turn everything to gold. Dionysus asked him. "Are you sure?" But Midas was insistent. At that, everything that the king touched turned to gold.
At first, Midas found this wonderful: he turned flowers, stones, trees, and other objects to gold. However, he became hungry. As he sat down to eat, his food turned to gold. His daughter came to embrace him; she also turned to gold. Midas was grieved and feared that he would starve to death. Dionysys had known that this would happen; the god hoped that Midas would learn the lesson of greed. Hearing the pitiful pleas of King Midas, Dionysus removed the golden touch. Reference - a1Back to Top
Midas, Ears of an Ass
Midas became renowned for this wealth and for his wisdom as a ruler. Once the king attended a musical contest between Apollo and the mortal Marsyas that was judged by a river god named Tmolus. Tmolus, of course, awarded the prize to Apollo. However, the arrogant Midas dissented and argued to the point that Apollo turned the king's ears into those of an ass.
For a long time, Midas was able to hide this punishment by wearing a cap, and he extracted a promise from his barber never to reveal this secret under the pain of death. It was virtually impossible for the barber to keep from laughing when he cut Midas's hair. When the barber could bear it no longer, he dug a hole in a riverbank and whispered into it, "Midas has the ears of an ass." Then covered the hole so his secret would be safe.
Sometime later, however, a tiny reed grew out of that very hole and whispered the secret to every passerby. Midas then had the barber killed. But the reeds, which whispered of the ass's ears, remained. Reference - a1Back to Top
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