Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Relying on Noble-heart. This parable was related by the Teacher while he was in residence at Jetavana with reference to a certain monk who relaxed effort. Said the Teacher to him: “Of a truth, monk, did you not, in a previous state of existence, by exerting yourself, get and give to a young prince no bigger than a piece of meat, dominion over the city of Benares, a city twelve leagues in measure?” So saying, he related the following Story of the Past:

In times past, when Brahmadatta ruled at Benares, there was a carpenters’ settlement not far from Benares. In this settlement lived five hundred carpenters. They would go up-stream in a boat, cut timber for building materials for houses in the forest, and prepare houses of one or more stories on the spot. Then, marking all of the timbers, beginning with the pillars, they would carry them down to the river-bank, load them on a boat, return to the city with the current, and for a price build for any particular person any particular kind of he desired to have built. Then they would go back to the forest and get building materials once more. Thus they made their living.

One day, not far from the camp where they were fashioning timbers, a certain elephant trod on an acacia splinter, and the splinter pierced his foot. He suffered intense pain, and his foot became swollen and festered. Maddened with pain, hearing the sound of those carpenters fashioning timbers, thinking to himself, [2] “With the help of these carpenters I can get relief,” he went to them on three feet and lay down not far off. The carpenters saw that his foot was swollen, and on drawing closer, saw the splinter in his foot. So making incisions all around the splinter with a sharp , they tied a cord to the splinter, removed the splinter with a pull, let out the , washed the wound with hot water, and by applying proper remedies, in no very long time made the wound comfortable.

When the elephant was well, he thought: “I owe my to these carpenters; now I ought to do something for them.” From that time on he helped the carpenters remove trees, rolled them over and held them for the carpenters while they were fashioning them, brought them their tools, and held the measuring-cord, taking it by the end and wrapping his trunk about it. As for the carpenters, when it was time to eat, each one of them gave the elephant a morsel of food; thus in all, they gave him five hundred morsels of food.

Now that elephant had a son, and he was pure white, a noble son of a noble sire. So the following thought occurred to the elephant: “I am now old. I ought, therefore, to give my son to these carpenters to help them in their work, and myself go away.” Without saying a to the carpenters, he entered the forest, and leading his son to the carpenters, said: “This young elephant is my son. You gave me my life; I give you this elephant by way of paying the fee which I owe to my physicians. Henceforth he will work for you.”

Then he admonished his son: “Henceforth you are to do whatever it was my duty to do.” Having so said, he gave his son to the carpenters and himself entered the forest. From that time on the young elephant obeyed the commands of the carpenters, was patient of admonition, performed all of the duties. They fed him also with five hundred morsels of food. After doing his work, he would descend into the river and play, and then come back. And the carpenters’ children used to take hold of him by the trunk and play with him, both in the water and on dry land.

Now noble animals, whether elephants or horses or human beings, never dung or stale in the water. Therefore he also did not dung or stale in the water, but attended to nature’s needs out of [3] the water, right there on the river-bank. Now one day the god rained up the river. A half-dry cake of elephant-dung washed away by the rainwater came down the river and drifted along until it stuck and lodged in a clump of bushes near the landing-place of the city of Benāres.

Now the king’s elephant-keepers, with the thought in their minds, “We’ll let the elephants bathe,” led five hundred elephants to the river-bank. Smelling the odour of the dung of a noble elephant, not a single elephant would descend into the river, but all whisked up to their tails and started to run away. The elephant-keepers told the elephant trainers. Thought the latter: “There must be some offensive object in the water.” So they had the water purified, and seeing the dung of a noble elephant in that clump of bushes, and knowing, “That’s what’s the trouble there,” they had a chatty brought, filled with water, the dung dissolved in it, and therewith the bodies of the elephants sprinkled. Their bodies became sweet-scented. Then they descended into the river and bathed.

The elephant-trainers reported that incident to the king, remarking: “That noble elephant should be sought out and brought to you, your majesty.” The king made haste up the river with boats and rafts; with rafts bound up-stream he reached the place of abode of the carpenters. The young elephant, playing in the river, on hearing the sound of the drum, went and stood by the carpenters. The carpenters went forth to meet the king, and said: “Your majesty, if you have need of timber, why did you yourself come? Why shouldn’t you have sent men to get it?” “I didn’t come for timber, I assure you, but I came for this elephant.” “Take him and go, your majesty.”

The young elephant would not go. “What, pray, will you have done, elephant?” “Have the carpenters paid for my keeping, your majesty.” “Very well, I will,” said the king. He had a hundred thousand pieces of money laid near each of the elephant’s four feet, near his trunk, and near his tail. But for all that the elephant would not go. When, however, pairs of cloths had been given to all of the carpenters, when under-garments had been given to the carpenters’ wives, and when the proper attention had been paid to the children he had played with, then the elephant turned [4] around, and eyeing the carpenters and their wives and their children as he went, accompanied the king.

The king took the elephant, went to the city, and caused both city and elephant-stable to be adorned. He caused the elephant to make rightwise circuit of the city and to be taken into the elephant-stable. He adorned the elephant with all the adornments, sprinkled him, made him his riding-animal, elevated him to the dignity of a , gave him half his kingdom, and had him treated as himself. From the day when the elephant arrived, the king obtained complete mastery over all the Land of the Rose-apple.

As time thus went on, the Future Buddha received a new conception in the womb of the chief consort of that king. When her unborn child was ripe for , the king died. Now if the elephant had known that the king was dead, it would have broken his heart then and there. So they said not a word to the elephant about the king’s death, but waited on him just as if nothing had happened.

But when the king of Kosala, who ruled over the country immediately adjoining, heard that the king was dead, he reflected: “The kingdom, they say, is empty;” and came with a large army and surrounded the city. The citizens closed the gates of the city and sent the following message to the king of Kosala: “The chief consort of our king is about to give birth to a child. The soothsayers have told us: ‘Seven days hence she will give birth to a son.’ If, on the seventh day, she gives birth to a son, we will give battle, – not the kingdom. Wait that long.” “Very well,” said the king in assent. On the seventh day the queen gave birth to a son. On the day when he received his name, because, as they said, “He is born extending a noble heart to the multitude,” they gave him the name Noble-heart, Alīnacitta.

Now from the day he was born, the citizens fought with the king of Kosala. But because they had no man to lead them in battle, the force, large as it was, gave way little by little in the conflict. Ministers reported this fact to the queen, saying: “We fear that if the force continues thus to give way, we shall lose the battle. But the state elephant, the king’s friend, does not know that the king is dead, that his son is born, and that the king of Kosala has come to fight.” And they asked her: “Shall we let him [5] know?” “Yes,” said the queen, assenting. She adorned the boy, laid him in a head-coil of fine cloth, came down from the terrace, and accompanied by a retinue of ministers, went to the elephant stable, and laid the Future Buddha at the feet of the elephant. Said she: “Master, your friend is dead. We didn’t tell you because we were afraid it would break your heart. Here is the son of your friend. The king of Kosala has come and has surrounded the city and is fighting with your son. The force is giving way. Do you either kill your son or get and give him the kingdom.”

Then the elephant with his trunk caressed the Future Buddha and lifted him up and put him on his shoulders and cried and wept. Then he lowered the Future Buddha and laid him in the arms of the queen, and with the words, “I will capture the king of Kosala!” went out of the elephant-stable. Then the ministers clad him with armour and adorned him, and unlocking the city-gate, went out in his train.

As the elephant went out of the city, he trumpeted the Heron’s Call, making the multitude tremble and quake, and frightening them away. He broke down the stockade, seized the king of Kosala by the top-knot, and carried him and laid him at the Future Buddha’s feet. And when men rose to kill him, he would not let them, but set the king free with the admonition: “Henceforth be careful; do not presume on the youth of the prince.”

Thenceforth the Future Buddha had complete mastery over all the Land of the Rose-apple. No other adversary dared to stand up against him. When the Future Buddha was seven years old, he received the ceremonial sprinkling and became known as King Noble-heart. He ruled with righteousness, and when his life has come to an end, departed, fulfilling the Path to .

When the Teacher had related this parable, he uttered, as Supreme Buddha, the following pair of stanzas:

Relying on Noble-heart, a mighty host, delighted,
Captured Kosala alive, dissatisfied with his army.

So also the monk who has found a Reliance,
Who exerts strenuous effort,
Who cultivates the Exalted States

To the attainment of Nibbāna,
Shall, in due course, reach
The Destruction of all Bonds.