Venerable Jing Yuan Discourse: The Elephant Helper
The merits of building a monastery is inconceivable. If the intention is good, together with pure actions and sincere dedication, the effects obtained will definitely be remarkably superior. Please read the following story on cause and effect:
The Elephant Helper, originated from The Sutra of the Wise and Foolish 《贤愚经》——《象护品》
During Buddha’s time, in the country of Magadha, one of the householderhad a son. On the day the baby was born, a golden elephant appeared in the family’s treasury. Hence, the baby boy was named as the Elephant Helper. The elephant never left the side of its young master and gradually grew up with its master. It was considerate and understood people’s views, and the most amazing thing about the golden elephant was that gold could be found when it urinated or defecated. Prince Ajatasatru knew about this and schemed to obtain the golden elephant when he ascended to be king.
Later, Prince Ajatasatru murdered his father and ascended the throne as king. He sent people to summon the Elephant Helper, his father and the golden elephant to the palace. The householder told the Elephant Helper that the king had summoned for them so that he could seize the elephant.The Elephant Helper replied that no one could seize his elephant. Upon seeing the king, the king deliberately retained the elephant in the palace. However,as the Elephant Helper and his father were at the palace gates, the golden elephant appeared before their eyes. Hence, both father and son rode the elephant home.
The Elephant Helper knew that the king did not follow moral ethics, and since it was during Buddha’s time, he decided to become a monk. The Elephant Helper obtained his parent’s permission and rode on the golden elephant to see Buddha to be ordained as a monk. The Elephant Helper had divine intelligence and soon became an Arhat. Whenever the Elephant Helper sat together with the other monks to meditate, the golden elephant would come along. On hearing this, the people in the country came one after another to see the elephant. With the noise and excitement from the crowd, it interfered with the practice of the monks. Buddha requested for the Elephant Helper to send the golden elephant away. The Elephant Helper shared that he had wanted to send the golden elephant away but the elephant refused to leave. The Buddha taught the Elephant Helper what to tell the elephant. He repeated it three times and the golden elephant left.
The Sangha community felt unusual and asked Buddha what causes the Elephant Helper had cultivated to reap such a fruit. Buddha said, “ After the Buddha Kasyapa had passed into Nirvana, many stupas were built to house the Buddha’s relics. One of the stupas depicted the bodhisattva descending from Tusita heaven and riding on an elephant to enter his mother’s womb. A man who was performing circumambulation of the stupa, saw the damages on the elephant’s body and thought to himself,” The elephant is what the Bodhisattva rode and now that it’s damaged, I must repair it.” Then, he obtained some plaster and repaired the elephant’s body and used some yellow paint to paint on it. When it was done, he established his wishes that in future he would permanently be bornin a place where it was respectable and filled with immense wealth. When he died of old age, he was reborn in the heavens. When he was later reincarnated on earth, in all his rebirths, he was born into a respectable, powerful and wealthy family with dignified appearance and the company of the golden elephant. Buddha said, the man in the story was the monk, Elephant Helper. The result of the Elephant Helper mending the elephant’s body, was to be reborn with great wealth in every life. And, because he made offerings to the Three Jewels with heartfelt respect, he met Buddha and reaped the fruit of attaining realization. Buddha said,
”In the field of virtue of the Three Jewels, no matter how small a seed of virtue a man sows, he would reap great harvest.”
- Upon seeing the damage on the elephant sculpture, the Elephant Helper repaired the damages and received great karmic fruit. Does that mean common people dealing with the arts, who draw pictures of elephants, craftsmen, who carve elephants will also have such immense karmic fruit ?
- The relic of the bodhisattva riding the elephant belongs to the stupa of Buddha relics. If it’s damaged and repaired, this is also a way of safeguarding stupas/monasteries.
- Merely by repairing the elephant ridden by the bodhisattva and putting on yellow paint on the elephant, the results were to be blessed with abundance of wealth and happiness in heaven, and to be reborn as a human with an elephant assigned to be ordered about; to find gold in the elephant’s urine and faeces, and therefore having immeasurable wealth. The merits of generosity and offering are unimaginable; Repairing a stupa results in immeasurable merits ! Constructing a monastery or stupa bears the same result.
- The causes and conditions that were encountered by the Elephant Helper in his previous life were not really unique. Today, we can also see damages on the sculpture of some stupas, what contemplation arises within our hearts ?What have we done about it ? Buddha said, “In the field of virtue of the Three Jewels,no matter how small a seed of virtue a man sows, he would reap great harvest.” Everyone should “contemplate thoroughly, and hold this in mind !”