"'Tis those who reverence the aged."--This the Master told on the road to Savatthi about Sariputta being kept out of a night's lodging.
For when Anatha Pindika had finished his monastery, and sent word to the Teacher, the latter left Rajagaha and arrived at Vesali; and after resting there a short time, he set out again on the road to Savatthi.
On that occasion the pupils of the Six went on in front, and before lodgings had been taken for the Elders, occupied all the places to be had, saying,--
"This is for our superior, this for our instructor, and these for us."
The Elders who came up afterwards found no place to sleep in. Even Sariputta's pupils sought in vain for a lodging-place for the Elder. So the Elder having no lodging passed the night either walking up and down, or sitting at the foot of a tree, not far from the place where the Teacher was lodged.
In the early morning the Teacher came out and coughed. The Elder coughed too.
"Who's there?" said the Teacher.
"'Tis I, Lord; Sariputta," was the reply.
"What are you doing here, so early, Sariputta?" asked he.
Then he told him what had happened; and on hearing what the Elder said, the Teacher thought,--
"If the monks even now, while I am yet living, show so little respect and courtesy to one another, what will they do when I am dead?" And he was filled with anxiety for the welfare of the Truth.
As soon as it was light he called all the priests together, and asked them--
"Is it true, priests, as I have been told, that the Six went on in front, and occupied all the lodging-places to the exclusion of the Elders?"
"It is true, O Blessed One!" said they.
Then he reproved the Six, and addressing the monks, taught them a lesson, saying,--
"Who is it, then, O monks, who deserves the best seat, and the best water, and the best rice?"
Some said, "A nobleman who has become a monk." Some said, "A Brahman, or the head of a family who has become a monk." Others said, "The man versed in the Rules of the Order; an Expounder of the Law; one who has attained to the First Jhana, or the Second, or the Third, or the Fourth." Others again said, "The Converted man; or one in the Second or the Third Stage of the Path to Nirvana; or an Arhat; or one who knows the Three Truths; or one who has the Sixfold Wisdom."
When the monks had thus declared whom they each thought worthy of the best seat, and so on, the Teacher said:
"In my religion, O monks, it is not the being ordained from a noble, or a priestly, or a wealthy family; it is not being versed in the Rules of the Order, or in the general or the metaphysical books of the Scriptures; it is not the attainment of the Jhanas, or progress in the Path of Nirvana, that is the standard by which the right to the best seat, and so on, is to be judged. But in my religion, O monks, reverence, and service, and respect, and civility, are to be paid according to age; and for the aged the best seat, and the best water, and the best rice are to be reserved. This is the right standard; and therefore the senior monk is entitled to these things. And now, monks, Sariputta is my chief disciple; he is a second founder of the Kingdom of Righteousness, and deserves to receive a lodging immediately after myself. He has had to pass the night without a lodging at the foot of a tree. If you have even now so little respect and courtesy, what will you not do as time goes on?"
And for their further instruction he said:
"Formerly, O monks, even animals used to say, 'It would not be proper for us to be disrespectful and wanting in courtesy to one another, and not to live on proper terms with one another. We should find out who is eldest, and pay him honor.' So they carefully investigated the matter, and having discovered the senior among them, they paid him honor; and so when they passed away, they entered the abode of the gods."
And he told a tale.
"Long ago there were three friends living near a great Banyan-tree, on the slope of the Himalaya range of mountains--a Partridge, a Monkey, and an Elephant. And they were wanting in respect and courtesy for one another, and did not live together on befitting terms.
"But it occurred to them, 'It is not right for us to live in this manner. What if we were to cultivate respect towards whichever of us is the eldest?'
"'But which is the eldest?' was then the question; until one day they thought, 'This will be a good way for finding it out;' and the Monkey and the Partridge asked the Elephant, as they were all sitting together at the foot of the Banyan-tree--
"'Elephant dear! How big was this Banyan Tree at the time you first knew it?'
"'Friends!' said he, 'When I was little I used to walk over this Banyan, then a mere bush, keeping it between my thighs; and when I stood with it between my legs, its highest branches touched my navel. So I have known it since it was a shrub.'
"Then they both asked the Monkey in the same way. And he said, 'Friends! when I was quite a little monkey I used to sit on the ground and eat the topmost shoots of this Banyan, then quite young, by merely stretching out my neck. So that I have known it from its earliest infancy.'
"Then again the two others asked the Partridge as before. And he said--
"'Friends! There was formerly a lofty Banyan-tree in such and such a place, whose fruit I ate and voided the seeds here. From that this tree grew up: so that I have known it even from before the time when it was born, and am older than either of you!'
"Thereupon the Elephant and the Monkey said to the clever Partridge--
"'You, friend, are the oldest of us all. Henceforth we will do all manner of service for you, and pay you reverence, and make salutations before you, and treat you with every respect and courtesy, and abide by your counsels. Do you in future give us whatever counsel and instruction we require.'
"Thenceforth the Partridge gave them counsel, and kept them up to their duty, and himself observed his own. So they three kept the Five Commandments; and since they were courteous and respectful to one another, and lived on befitting terms one with another, they became destined for heaven when their lives should end.
"The holy life of these three became known as 'The Holiness of the Partridge.' For they, O monks, lived in courtesy and respect towards one another. How then can you, who have taken the vows in so well-taught a religion, live without courtesy and respect towards one another? Henceforth, O monks, I enjoin upon you reverence, and service, and respect, according to age; the giving of the best seats, the best water, and the best food according to age; and that the senior shall never be kept out of a night's lodging by a junior. Whoever so keeps out his senior shall be guilty of an offence."
It was when the Teacher had thus concluded his discourse that he, as Buddha, uttered the verse--
"'Tis those who reverence the old
When the Teacher had thus spoken on the virtue of paying reverence to the old, he established the connection, and summed up the Jataka, by saying, "The elephant of that time was Moggallana, the monkey Sariputta, but the partridge was I myself."