THE ELEPHANT AND HIS OLD BLIND MOTHER
Long ago, in the hills of the
Himalayas near a lotus pool,
the Buddha was once born as a baby elephant. He was a magnificent
elephant, pure white with feet and face the color of coral. His trunk
gleamed like a silver rope and his ivory tusks curled up in a long arc.
He bathed her in the cool lotus pool among the fragrant
flowers. Drawing the sparkling water up in his trunk, he sprayed her
over the top of her head and back until she shone. Then they rested in
the soft muck with their trunks curled together. In the deep shadows of
afternoon, the young elephant guided his mother to the shade of a
rose-apple tree. Then he went roaming with the other elephants. One day
a king was hunting and spied the beautiful white
But the young elephant would not eat or drink. He wept and wept, growing thinner each day. "Noble elephant," said the king, "I adorn you with silk and jewels. I give you the finest food and the purest water, yet you do not eat or drink. What will please you?" The young elephant said, "Silk and jewels, food and drink do not make me happy. My blind old mother is alone in the forest with no one to care for her. Though I may die, I will take no food or water until I give some to her first."
The king said, "Never have I seen such kindness, not even among humans. It is not right to keep this young elephant in chains." Free, the young elephant raced through the hills looking for his mother. He found her by the lotus pool. There she lay in the mud, too weak to move. With tears in his eyes, he filled his trunk with water and sprayed the top of her head and back until she shone. "Is it raining?" she asked. "Or has my son returned to me?" "It is your very own son!" he cried. "The king has set me free!" As he washed her eyes, a miracle happened. Her sight returned. "May the king rejoice today as I rejoice at seeing my son again!" she said.
The young elephant then plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from a tree and gave them to her. "First you, then me."