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THE WELL-TRAINED ELEPHANT
ONCE upon a time when King Magadha was ruling in Rajagaha in
Magadha, the Bodhisatta was born an elephant. He was white
all over and graced with all beauty. And because of his
beauty the King made him his state elephant.
One festal day the King adorned the city like a city of
the devas and, mounted on the elephant in all its trappings,
made a solemn procession round the city attended by a
great retinue. And all along the route the people were
moved by the sight of that peerless elephant to exclaim,
"Oh, what a stately gait! what proportions! what beauty!
what grace! such a white elephant is worthy of an universal
monarch." All this praise of his elephant awoke the King's
jealousy and he resolved to have it cast over a precipice
and killed. So he summoned the mahout and asked whether he
called that a trained elephant.
"Indeed he is well trained, Sire," said the mahout. "No,
he is very badly trained." "Sire, he is well trained." "If
he is so well trained, can you get him to climb to the summit
of Mount Vepulla?" "Yes, Sire." "Away with you, then," said
the King. And he got down from the elephant, making the mahout
mount instead, and went himself to the foot of the mountain,
whilst the mahout rode on the elephant's back up to the top of
Mount Vepulla. The King with his courtiers also climbed the
mountain, and had the elephant halted at the brink of a
precipice. "Now," said he to the man, "if he is so well
trained as you say, make him stand on three legs."
And the mahout on the elephant's back just touched the
animal with his goad by way of sign and called to him,
"Hi! my beauty, stand on three legs." "Now make him stand
on his two fore-legs," said the King. And the Great Being
raised his hind-legs and stood on his fore-legs alone. "Now
on the hind-legs," said the King, and the obedient elephant
raised his fore-legs till he stood on his hind-legs alone.
"Now on one leg," said the King, and the elephant stood
on one leg.
Seeing that the elephant did not fall over the precipice,
the King cried, "Now if you can, make him stand in the air."
Then thought the mahout to himself, "All India cannot show
the match of this elephant for excellence of training.
Surely the King must want to make him tumble over the
precipice and meet his death." So he whispered in the
elephant's ear, "My son, the King wants you to fall over
and get killed. He is not worthy of you. If you have power
to journey through the air, rise up with me upon your back
and fly through the air to Benares."
And the Great Being, endowed as he was with the marvelous
powers which flow from Merit, straightway rose up into the
air. Then said the mahout, "Sire, this elephant, possessed
as he is with the marvelous powers which flow from Merit,
is too good for such a worthless fool as you: none but a
wise and good King is worthy to be his master. When those
who are so worthless as you get an elephant like this, they
donít know his value, and so they lose their elephant, and
all the rest of their glory and splendor." So saying the
mahout, seated on the elephantís neck, recited this
"Exalted station breeds a fool great woe;
He proves his own and others' mortal foe."
"And now, good-by," said he to the King as he ended
this rebuke; and rising in the air, he passed to Benares
and halted in mid-air, over the royal courtyard. And there
was a great stir in the city and all cried out, "Look at
the state-elephant that has come through the air for our
King and is hovering over the royal courtyard." And with all
haste the news was conveyed to the King, too, who came out
and said, "If your coming is for my behoof, alight on the
earth." And the Bodhisatta descended from the air. Then the
mahout got down and bowed before the King, and in answer to
the Kingís enquiries told the whole story of their leaving
Rajagaha. "It was very good of you," said the King, "to come
here"; and in his joy he had the city decorated and the
elephant installed in his state-stable. Then he divided his
kingdom into three portions, and made over one to the
Bodhisatta, one to the mahout, and one he kept himself. And his
power grew from the day of the Bodisatta's coming till all
India owned his sovereign sway. As Emperor of India, he was
charitable and did other good works till he passed away to
fare according to his deserts.