"By listening first to robbers' talk,"--This the Master told when at Jetavana, about Devadatta. Devadatta became well-pleasing to Prince Ajata-Sattu, and had great gain and honor. The Prince had a monastery built for him at Gaya-Sisa, and five hundred vessels-full of food made of the finest old fragment-rice provided for him daily. Through this patronage Devadatta's following increased greatly, and he lived with his disciples in that monastery.
At that time there were two friends living at Rajagaha; and one of them took the vows under the Teacher, the other under Devadatta. And they used to meet in different places, or go to the monasteries to see one another.
Now one day Devadatta's adherent said to the other, "Brother! why do you go daily with toil and trouble to beg your food? Ever since Devadatta was settled at the Gaya-Sisa Monastery he is provided with the best of things to eat. That's the best way to manage. Why do you make labor for yourself? Wouldn't it be much better for you to come in the morning to Gaya-Sisa and enjoy really good food--drinking our excellent gruel, and eating from the eighteen kinds of dishes we get?"
When he had been pressed again and again, he became willing to go; and thenceforward he used to go to Gaya-Sisa and take his meal, and return early to the Bamboo Grove. But it was impossible to keep it secret for ever; and before long it was noised abroad that he went to Gaya-Sisa and partook of the food provided for Devadatta.
So his friends asked him if that were true.
"Who has said such a thing?" said he.
"Such and such a one," was the reply.
"Well, it is true, brethren, that I go and take my meals at Gaya-Sisa; but it is not Devadatta, it is the others who give me to eat."
"Brother! Devadatta is a bitter enemy of the Buddhas. The wicked fellow has curried favor with Ajata-Sattu, and won over his patronage by his wickedness. Yet you, who took the vows under a system so well able to lead you to Nirvana, now partake of food procured for Devadatta by his wickedness. Come! we must take you before the Master!" So saying, they brought him to the Lecture Hall.
The Master saw them, and asked, "What, then! are you come here, O mendicants! bringing this brother with you against his will?"
"Yes, Lord," said they. "This brother took the vows under you, and yet he partakes of the food which Devadatta's wickedness has earned for him."
The Teacher asked him whether this was true what they said.
"Lord!" replied he, "it is not Devadatta, but the others who give me food: that I do eat."
Then said the Teacher, "O monk, make no excuse for it. Devadatta is a sinful, wicked man. How then can you, who took the vows here, eat Devadatta's bread, even while devoting yourself to my religion? Yet you always, even when right in those whom you honored, used to follow also any one you met." And he told a tale.
"Long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva became his minister. At that time the king had a state elephant, named 'Girly-face,' who was good and gentle, and would hurt nobody.
"Now one day, robbers came at night-time to a place near his stall, and sat down not far from him, and consulted about their plans, saying, 'Thus should a tunnel be broken through; thus should housebreaking be carried out; goods should be carried off only after the tunnel or the breach has been made clear and open as a road or a ford; the taker should carry off the things, even with murder, thus no one will be able to stand up against him; robbery must never be united with scruples of conduct, but with harshness, violence, and cruelty.' Thus advising and instructing one another, they separated.
"And the next day likewise, and so for many days they assembled there, and consulted together. When the elephant heard what they said, he thought, 'It is me they are teaching. I am in future to be harsh, violent, and cruel.' And he really became so.
"Early in the morning an elephant keeper came there. Him he seized with his trunk, dashed to the ground, and slew. So, likewise, he treated a second and a third, slaying every one who came near him.
"So they told the king that 'Girly-face' had gone mad, and killed every one he caught sight of. The King sent the Bodhisattva, saying, 'Do you go, Pandit, and find out what's the reason of his having become a Rogue!'
"The Bodhisattva went there, and finding he had no bodily ailment, thought over what the reason could be; and came to the conclusion that he must have become a Rogue after overhearing some conversation or other, and thinking it was meant as a lesson for him. So he asked the elephant keepers, 'Has there been any talking going on at night time, near the stable?'
"'O yes, sir! Some thieves used to come and talk together,' was the reply.
"The Bodhisattva went away, and told the king, 'There is nothing bodily the matter with the elephant, your Majesty; it is simply from hearing robbers talk that he has become a Rogue.'
"'Well; what ought we to do now?'
"'Let holy devotees, venerable by the saintliness of their lives, be seated in the elephant stable and talk of righteousness.'
"'Then do so, my friend,' said the king. And the Bodhisattva got holy men to sit near the elephant's stall, telling them to talk of holy things.
"So, seated not far from the elephant, they began: 'No one should be struck, no one killed. The man of upright conduct ought to be patient, loving, and merciful.'
"On hearing this, he thought, 'It is me these men are teaching; from this time forth I am to be good!' And so he became tame and quiet.
"The king asked the Bodhisattva, 'How is it, my friend? Is he quieted?'
"'Yes, my Lord! The elephant, bad as he was, has, because of the wise men, been re-established in his former character.' And so saying, he uttered the stanza:
"'By listening first to robbers' talk,
"Then the king gave great honor to the Bodhisattva for understanding the motives even of one born as an animal. And he lived to a good old age, and, with the Bodhisattva, passed away according to his deeds."
The Teacher having finished this discourse, in illustration of what he had said ("Formerly also, monk, you used to follow any one you met. When you heard what thieves said, you followed thieves; when you heard what the righteous said, you followed them"), he made the connection, and summed up the Jataka by saying, "He who at that time was 'Girly-face' was the traitor-monk, the king was Ananda, and the minister was I myself."