THE POISONOUS TREES
ONCE upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the
Bodhisatta was born a merchant. When he grew up, and was
trading with five hundred wagons, he came one day to where
the road led through a great forest. Halting at the outskirts,
he mustered the caravan and addressed them
thus:—"Poison-trees grow in this forest. Take heed that
you taste no unfamiliar leaf, flower, or fruit without first
consulting me." All promised to take every care; and the
journey into the forest began. Now just within the forest-border
stands a village, and just outside that village grows a What-fruit
tree. That What-fruit tree exactly resembles a mango alike in
trunk, branch, leaf, flower, and fruit. And not only in outward
semblance, but also in taste and smell, the fruit—ripe and
unripe—mimics the mango. If eaten, it is a deadly poison,
and causes instant death.
Now some greedy fellows, who went on ahead of the caravan,
came to this tree and, taking it to be a mango, ate of its
fruit. But others said, "Let us ask our leader before we eat";
and they according halted by the tree, fruit in hand, till he
came up. Perceiving that it was no mango, he said:—"This
'mango' is a What-fruit tree; donít touch its fruit."
Having stopped them from eating, the Bodhisatta turned his
attention to those who had already eaten. First he dosed them
with an emetic, and then he gave them the four sweet foods to
eat; so that in the end they recovered.
Now on former occasions caravans had halted beneath this same
tree, and had died from eating the poisonous fruit which they
mistook for mangoes. On the morrow the villagers would come,
and seeing them lying there dead, would fling them by the heels
into a secret place, departing with all the belongings of the
caravan, wagons and all.
And on the day too of our story these villagers failed not to
hurry at daybreak to the tree for their expected spoils. "The
oxen must be ours," said some. "And we'll have the wagons," said
others;—whilst others again claimed the wares as their
share. But when they came breathless to the tree, there was the
whole caravan alive and well!
"How came you to know this was not a mango tree?" demanded the
disappointed villagers. "We didnít know," said they of the
caravan; "it was our leader who knew."
So the villagers came to the Bodhisatta and said, "Man of wisdom,
what did you do to find out this tree was not a mango?"
"Two things told me," replied the Bodhisatta, and he repeated
"When near a village grows a tree
Not hard to climb, 'tis plain to me,
Nor need I further proof to know,
No wholesome fruit thereon can grow!"
And having taught the Truth to the assembled multitude, he
finished his journey in safety.