Foreword by Ven Aggacitta
As this is the Chinese Lunar Year of the Rooster, we shall celebrate it by sharing with you 3 “chicken-themed” parables. The first parable is taken from the Jataka tales, a series of verses found in the Tripitaka, supposedly about the past lives of our Gotama Buddha when he was still a bodhisatta — as an animal, a human and so on. Many modern Pali scholars criticise these stories as fiction, not fact and more appropriate for children. However, such an argument is beside the point for we are actually looking at the moral of each story.
“Kukkuta Jataka (#448)” by Ven Balacitta
A bhikkhu once asked the Buddha why is it that Devadatta, the Buddha’s own cousin always tries to harm him. The Buddha replied that it is not only in this life-time that this occurs but in many of their past lives together, this has also happened. He then proceeded to tell him of one such life.
In one of his past lives as a bodhisatta, the Buddha was born as a wild fowl in a bamboo grove in Kosambi who matured to become the leader of the flock. Living nearby was an old eagle who would swoop down and kill the fowls. Slowly he managed to kill all of them, leaving only the bodhisatta. Even as a bird, he had the wisdom to know the danger of being out in the open. So he chose to foray for food only among the stalks of bamboo. The eagle, being larger in size, could not reach him under the bamboo stalks. It perched itself on a stalk of bamboo and tried to deceive him by offering to be friends with him and inviting him to feast in another area of the woods. The bodhisatta refused saying, “Between you and me, no friends can we be! Begone!!”
For the second and the third time, the eagle tried to persuade the bodhisatta by saying that it had turned over a new leaf and there is no more enmity between them. The bodhisatta then expounded Dhamma at the end of which even the spirits of the woods applauded in joy. He said: –
- Do not believe in one who lies.
- Do not believe in one who is selfish and thinks only about himself.
- Do not believe in one who acts immorally.
- Do not believe in one who is not steadfast and keeps changing his mind.
Some people have the gift of the gab and are good with words. On the surface, they will say complimentary things to you even when you have done wrong. Their words do not reflect what is in their heart. They are neither helpful nor thankful. They distract you from the righteous path. Such are false friends who often show their true nature in times of adversity or when they have obtained what they want from you. Beware of such people and avoid them if you can.
“The Proud Monk” (Cv.I.18.1-5) by Ven Kumara
Once during the Buddha’s time in a place called Macchikasanda, there was a monk called Sudhamma who stayed in a park (or monastery) belonging to Citta, a layman. Citta was supportive of and respectful towards the venerable, who in return, oversaw new constructions and received constant meals there. If Citta wished to invite a group of monks or an individual monk for a meal, he would always inform the venerable first.
One day, a retinue of many great elder bhikkhus came to Macchikasanda. Among them were Ven Sariputta, Ven Maha Moggallana, Ven Maha Kaccana, Ven Anuruddha, Ven Upali, Ven Ananda and Ven Rahula. Having learnt of their coming, Citta went to meet and pay his respects to them. While he was there, Ven Sariputta instructed him with a Dhamma talk. After that, Citta invited them to “a newcomers’ meal” from him the next day. (In Kaladana Sutta (AN5.36), the Buddha said that giving to a newcomer is a timely giving and therefore bears abundant merits.)
Then Citta went to Ven Sudhamma to invite him to the dana together with the elder bhikkhus. Instead of accepting the meal, he was offended that Citta did not consult him first before inviting those bhikkhus. He even considered Citta to have become corrupted and insensitive to him. He refused the invitation. Even upon the third time Citta invited him, Ven Sudhamma steadfastly refused. Then Citta thought that it should not matter to him whether Ven Sudhamma accepted the invitation or not. So, he paid respect to him and went away.
Early next morning, Citta prepared a sumptuous meal of various kinds of food for the elder bhikkhus. At that time, Ven Sudhamma wondered what kind of food had Citta prepared. I think despite having refused the meal invitation, he still wished he could be there for the dana. In other words, he was dissatisfied, or better rendered in Hokkien as “bo kam muan”.
Anyway, he went to Citta’s house. After Citta had paid his respects to him, he commented that Citta had prepared many kinds of food, but only one thing was missing; that is, sesame sweets. If a monk makes such a comment about the food you prepared, how would you answer?
Anyway, Citta responded by saying that there were many treasures to be found in the Buddha’s words, yet all that he mentioned was sesame sweets. Perhaps he was trying to imply that Ven Sudhamma was being petty. Earlier, when Ven Sariputta gave him a Dhamma talk, Ven Sudhamma complained about the lack of sesame sweets.
Then Citta told a strange story about some merchants who went to a distant place and upon returning brought back a hen. The hen mated with a crow and gave birth to a chick. Whenever that cross-bred chick wanted to caw like a crow, it would cry “kakakukkuti” [Note: ‘Kaka’ and ‘kukkuti’ are Pali words that are onomatopoeic, meaning they sound like what they mean. ‘Kaka’ means crow and ‘kukkuti’ means hen.] Then when it wanted to crow like a rooster, it cried “kukkutikaka”. Citta said that this was similar with the situation with Ven Sudhamma – that while there were many treasures to be found in the Buddha’s words, all that he could think of and harp on was sesame sweets. What do you think Citta was trying to say?
Anyhow, Ven Sudhamma took offence and said, “You are insulting me, householder. You are reviling me. This is your monastery, householder. I’m leaving it.” Citta assured Ven Sudhamma that he was not insulting him. He also invited him to stay on and that he would be responsible for his requisites. Again, Ven Sudhamma insisted that Citta was insulting him and said that he will be leaving the place. Again, Citta said the same thing. Ven Sudhamma remained adamant.
So Citta asked him where he would go. Ven Suddhama replied that he would go to Savatthi to see the Buddha. Perhaps he intended to complain to the Buddha about this rude follower of his, whom (as we learn from other suttas) the Buddha praised. Then Citta asked Ven Sudhamma to report everything that was said between them to the Buddha and predicted that Ven Sudhamma would eventually return to Macchikasanda.
Ven Sudhamma then packed his things and went to see the Buddha. Having heard the story, the Buddha reproached him for having insulted Citta, who was in fact, an anagami (non-returner). The Buddha also ordered Ven Sudhamma to return to Macchikasanda (just as Citta had predicted) and ask Citta for his forgiveness.
The moral of the story is that while it is good to associate with monks, we should not assume that simply because a person wears a religious garment, he should naturally be holy. There are monks who are not practising well. This is something that we should bear in mind.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that one should not support them. As in the story above, even a highly attained lay person supported an egoistic monk. While we should not assume that all monks are necessarily wise, we can support monks who may not be very virtuous and even those who may be bogus, with allowable requisites such as food, bearing in mind that every dana sincerely offered bears its own yield of merits.
“The Hopeful Hen” by Ven Aggacitta
In the Anguttara Nikaya (7:71), the Buddha said that a monk who aspires for Nibbana while meditating but does not put in the effort to guard the 6 sense doors will not achieve liberation. It is just like the simile of a hen which lays 12 eggs and hopes to see 12 healthy baby chicks but does not proceed to sit down to hatch them. On the other hand, a hen that dutifully sits on her eggs without even yearning for chicks will nevertheless hatch them eventually. Similarly, a monk will achieve liberation if he proceeds to meditate well, even if he does not yearn for Nibbana. This particular advice is especially suitable for TIMS, which is centred on vipassana meditation. Each yogi here, while meditating, must not have any expectations but should instead put in the right effort to guard their sense doors. If they persevere, they will eventually achieve liberation.
Just as a woodcutter will eventually leave his fingerprint marks on the handle of the axe he has carried long enough but will not be able to tell you when exactly the marks started appearing, so a yogi will not be able to pinpoint the exact moment when greed, hatred and delusion are reduced but will eventually and automatically realise that they have been reduced if he perseveres long enough. The rope attached to the anchor of a ship that has sailed the seven seas will, over the course of time, encounter wear and tear. Such a rope will one day fray and snap and the ship will be released from its fetter. So too, the fetters of the yogi who has assiduously meditated will gradually be weakened and they will easily snap when he attains liberation.
In conclusion, it is our hope that in this Year of the Rooster, the devotees will follow closely the above chicken-themed spiritual advice given by the Buddha and prosper both materially and spiritually.