Forest Monks in a King's Pleasure Garden (Pupils Without a Teacher)
Once upon a time, there was a high class rich man who gave up his wealth and his easy life in the ordinary world. He went to the Himalayan forests and lived as a homeless holy man. By practicing meditation, he developed his mind and gained the highest knowledge. Dwelling in high mental states, he enjoyed great inner happiness and peace of mind. Before long, he had 500 pupils.
In a certain year, when the rainy season was beginning, the pupils said to their teacher, “Oh wise master, we would like to go to the places where most people live. We would like to get some salt and other seasonings and bring them back here.”
The teacher said, “You have my permission. It would be healthy for you to do so, and return when the rainy season is over. But I will stay here and meditate by myself.” They knelt down and paid their farewell respects.
The 500 pupils went to Benares and began living in the royal pleasure garden. The next day they collected alms in the villages outside the city gates. They received generous gifts of food. On the following day they went inside the city. People gladly gave them food.
After a few days, people told the king, “Oh lord king, 500 forest monks have come from the Himalayas to live in your pleasure garden. They live in a simple way, without luxuries. They control their senses and are known to be very good indeed.”
Hearing such good reports, the king went to visit them. He knelt down and paid his respects. He invited them to stay in the garden during the whole four months of the rainy season. They accepted, and from then on were given their food in the king’s palace.
Before long a certain holiday took place. It was celebrated by drinking alcohol, which the people thought would bring good luck. The King of Benares thought, “Good wine is not usually available to monks who live simply in the forests. I will treat them to some as a special gift.” So he gave the 500 forest monks a large quantity of the very best tasting wine.
The monks were not at all accustomed to alcohol. They drank the king’s wine and walked back to the garden. By the time they got there, they were completely drunk. Some of them began dancing, while others sang songs. Usually they put away their bowls and other things neatly. But this time they just left everything lying around, here and there. Soon they all passed out into a drunken sleep.
When they had slept off their drunkenness, they awoke and saw the messy condition they’d left everything in. They became sad and said to each other, ‘We have done a bad thing, which is not proper for holy men like US.” Their embarrassment and shame made them weep with regret. They said, ‘We have done these unwholesome things only because we are away from our holy teacher.”
At that very moment the 500 forest monks left the pleasure garden and returned to the Himalayas. When they arrived they put away their bowls and other belongings neatly, as was their custom. Then they went to their beloved master and greeted him respectfully.
He asked them, Mow are you, my children? Did you find enough food and lodgings in the city? Were you happy and united?”
They replied. “Venerable master, we were happy and united. But we drank what we were not supposed to drink. We lost all our common sense and self-control. We danced and sang like silly monkeys. It’s fortunate we didn’t turn into monkeys! We drank wine, we danced, we sang, and in the end we cried from shame.”
The kind teacher said, “It is easy for things like this to happen to pupils who have no teacher to guide them. Learn from this. do not do such things in the future.”
From then on they lived happily and grew in goodness.