Samyukta Āgama (2) 22

Bhikkhu Saṃyutta

A monk makes an untimely visit to a village

Parable of the elephant and the lotus roots

Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, the Anāthapiṇḍika Park.

At that time a large group of monks put on their robes, took their begging-bowls and entered the town to beg for food. There was a young, newly ordained monk who entered the village at an inappropriate time. The monks noticed this young, newly ordained monk in several places and said to him: “You have just begun training and do not yet know the discipline. What are you doing among the families?” The newly ordained monk said to the other monks: “The venerable Elders all visit the families. Why should I be denied this and not visit the families?”

Then the monks, having eaten what they had received on their alms-round, put away their robes and begging-bowls, washed their feet, and went to the Buddha. Having paid homage at his feet, they sat to one side and said. Then they said to the Buddha: “World-honored One! When we entered the town to beg for food, we saw a young, newly ordained monk, who did not visit the families at the appropriate time. We said to him: ‘You have just begun training and do not yet know the discipline. Why do you visit the families at an inappropriate time?’ He answered us: ‘The elder monks as well have come to the families. Why should I alone be denied this?’”

At that time the Buddha said to the monks: “In a vast wilderness there was a large lake. A number of full-grown elephants used to enter the lake and with their trunks pull out the lotus roots that were growing there. After giving them a shake, they cleaned them in the water and ate them. Their bodies became fat and full, and they grew extremely strong. Some juvenile elephants also ate of the lotus roots, but did not know how to shake them and clean them in the water. They ate them together with the mud and became weak and thin, they did not grow strong. Some died, some almost died.”

At that time the World-honored One spoke a verse:

“When full-grown elephants enter a lake /
and pull out lotus roots with their trunks,
they shake them and wash off the mud /
and only then eat them.

Those monks who /
practice the unsullied Dhamma,
when receiving alms /
are not tainted by any fault.
Them I call practitioners /
who are like the full-grown elephants.

Those who do not well understand skillful means /
suffer later for their faults,
they suffer later pain and distress /
like the juvenile elephants.”

The monks, having listened to what the Buddha had said, were happy and remembered it well.