On a certain occasion the Exalted One admonished a company of monks to show proper respect for their elders. Said he:
"In former times, monks, on a slope of Himavat, grew a huge banyan tree. Near it lived three friends: a partridge and a monkey and an elephant. They lived without respect or deference for each other, having no common life. Now, monks, to these friends occurred the following thought: 'If only we knew which one of us was the oldest, we would respect, reverence, venerate, and honor him, and we would abide steadfast in his admonitions.'
"Accordingly, monks, the partridge and the monkey asked the elephant: 'How far back sir, can you remember?' 'Sirs, when I was a youngster, I used to walk over this banyan tree, keeping it between my thighs; the little tips of the shoots would just touch my belly. As far back as that, sirs, can I remember.'
"Next, monks, the partridge and the elephant asked the monkey: 'How far back, sir, can you remember?' 'Sirs, when I was a youngster, I used to sit on the ground and eat the little tips of the shoots of this banyan tree. As far back as that, sirs, can I remember.'
"Finally, monks, the monkey and the elephant asked the partridge: 'How far back, sir, can you remember?' 'In yonder open space, sirs, grew a huge banyan tree. I ate one of its fruits and voided the seed in this place. From that sprang this banyan tree. At that time also, sirs, I was the oldest.'
"Thereupon, monks, the monkey and the elephant said this to the partridge: 'You, sir, are our elder. You will we respect, reverence, venerate, and honor, and in your admonitions will we abide steadfast.'
"Accordingly, monks, the partridge prevailed upon the monkey and the elephant to take upon themselves the Five Precepts, and himself also took upon himself the Five Precepts and walked therein. They lived in respect and deference for each other, and had a common life. After death, upon dissolution of the body, they were reborn in a place of bliss, in a heavenly world. This, monks, was called the Holy Life of the Partridge.
"Men versed in the Law who honor the aged