Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, Japan, October 1, 1991
(originally in Chinese)
The first precept that we have to observe in spiritual practice is "ahimsa," meaning "non-violence." This story discusses the ahimsa ideal.
One day, a poor man was walking through a mango grove, where he saw many mangoes on the trees that looked extremely luscious and tempting. He was very hungry because he had not eaten for three days. So he quickly picked up a stone and threw it at one of the trees. A few huge mangoes fell on the ground and the man was very happy. He then picked up the mangoes and had a hearty meal.
It just so happened that the king was playing chess with his beautiful consorts in the mango grove at the time, and the stone that struck the tree had felled the fruit and then landed on the king's head. Fortunately, the king's hat protected his scalp, but the stone knocked it off, and thus the poorest man met the richest man in the kingdom. The king, feeling very lucky about his close call, showed no interest in investigating the cause. However, the consorts and ministers by his side were very angry, and they hunted for the offender who had thrown the stone. They could not figure out why someone would dare to throw a stone at the king. On the other hand, they were also eager to earn some credit for their work. They soon arrested the poor man, held court hearings on the spot, and condemned him to death for assaulting the king.
Then the king rose from his seat and questioned the ministers about why they had condemned the man to death. He then ordered the stone thrower to be brought before him and asked, "Why did you throw the stone?" "To get mangoes from the tree," replied the man. "Did you get any?" "Yes, your majesty." "Have you eaten the mangoes?" "Yes, your majesty."
The king next turned to his ministers and said, "The poor man was hungry, and he struck the tree with this stone. He got some mangoes and ate them. Now tell me, how long will he be free from hunger after eating those mangoes?" "About twenty-four hours, your majesty. He won't be hungry for a whole day." "That's right. Now I will pronounce my judgment." The entire crowd waited anxiously, thinking, "Could there be anything worse than the death sentence? We have already condemned the man to death. How else does the king want him to be punished?"
Then the king announced, "I command that from this day on until the end of his life on earth, this poor man shall receive from us enough food to feed himself. Convey my order at once to the minister of economics." Everyone was amazed and confused. What kind of punishment was this? They had never heard of such a judgment. The queen thought that it was because she had served the king well, and thus put him in a good mood. She smiled, thinking that it was her merit.
"My dear!" said the king to the queen, "Tell me, is the mango tree a sentient or an insentient object?" "An insentient object, my lord," answered the queen. "And how about me?" asked the king. And the queen replied, "What a question to ask, great one. Humans, the highest of creatures, are sentient beings, and you are a jewel among humans, saintly, great, virtuous and wise."
The king continued, "Then, my beloved, since I am a sentient being, how am I worthy of my human status if I fail to prove that I am better than that tree? What good is there for God to give me this human status?" The queen said, "You are, my lord, worthier than all other men for the human status that God has given you. But why do you say this? What do you mean?"
"Look! That poor man struck the tree with a stone, and the tree gave him luscious fruit to eat, which fulfilled his hunger for a day. That stone also hit me. Since I am the lord of all sentient beings and the gem among humans, should I not prove myself worthier than the tree? (Master and everyone laugh; applause.) That's why I have ordered that his food be provided for the rest of his life."
Immediately, the queen, consorts, ministers, subordinates and servants all fell at the king's feet, prostrating to him. They glorified him, proclaiming, "Oh! Your majesty! You are truly a saintly king so rare. Who but God Hirmself could manifest such compassion and magnanimity? God is inside you. Your merit, blessing and love are comparable to Lord Buddha and Lord Jesus, and the great saints and sages of all times. Only rulers like you can inspire people to cultivate their compassion and inner cosmic love. Inspired by your glorious example, people will love and serve each other. They will purify their bodies, speech and mind, and change their bodies and souls to become cultivated people. Please bless us, so that we may be your worthy servants and followers forever."
This is a very good story. This is how we ought to behave. Sometimes, we may not be any better than a tree. When you punch a tree or shake it, it drops down fruit to feed you. But when you shake or punch a person, he might kill you for it. (Laughter) Some people are really no better than trees!