Gateway to the Classics: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock
Eastern Stories and Legends by  Marie L. Shedlock

The Pupil Who Taught His Teacher

A ND the Buddha was re-born in a Brahmin family and was known as Dhamapala or Law Keeper.

When he came of age he was sent by his father to study with a world famed teacher at Takasila and became the chief pupil in a company of five hundred youths.

At that time the eldest son of the teacher died and the father, surrounded by his pupils, in the midst of his kith and kin, buried his son—and all the pupils wept and wailed, but Dhamapala was silent and shed no tear, but when the company returned from the cemetery Dhamapala asked, "Why did your son die? It is not right that children should die; only when people grow old can this happen." And they asked him, "Is it the custom of your family that the young do not die?" And he said: "Yes, that is the custom in my family." The lads told this conversation to their teacher.

Now when the teacher heard this, he said to them, "That is a most marvelous thing that he says. I will make a journey to his father and ask him about it, and if it be true I will live according to his rule of right."

And he said to the young man: "I am going on a journey. Do thou, in my absence, instruct these youths."

So saying, he procured the bones of a wild goat, washed and scented them, and put them into a bag. Then taking with him a little page boy he started for the village in which lived the father of his pupil.

When the house was reached, and the teacher had rested and taken food, and the host had washed the feet of his guest, the teacher said: "Brahmin, your son when full of wisdom has by an unhappy chance lost his life. Grieve not for him." The Brahmin laughed loudly. "Why do you laugh, Brahmin?" asked the other. "Because," he said, "it is not  my son who is dead; it must be some other."

"No, Brahmin, your son is dead, and no other. Look on his bones, and believe." So saying, he unwrapped the bones. "There are your son's bones," he said.

"A wild goat's bones, perhaps," quoth the Brahmin, "or a dog's, but my son is not dead. In our family for seven generations, no such thing has been known as a death in tender years, and you are speaking falsehood." Then they all clapped their hands and laughed aloud.

The teacher, when he beheld this wonderful thing, was much pleased and said: "Brahmin, this custom in your family line cannot be without cause, that the young do not die. Why is it that you do not die young? Of what good and holy deed is this the fruit?"

Then the Brahmin made answer:

"We walk in righteousness. We speak no ill. We flee from things that are evil. We take no heed of the foolish. We follow the counsel of the wise. We delight in giving gifts. We feed the hungry. We are faithful in our marriage vows. We are versed in sacred knowledge. Therefore, the young amongst us never die."

On hearing this, the teacher replied: "A happy journey is this of mine and fruitful. I came hither, O wise Brahmin, to test you. Your son is safe and well. I pray you impart to me your rule of preserving life."

Then the other wrote it on a leaf and returned to his pupils.

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