1 The Stupid Man and The Salt
Once there was a stupid man who paid a visit to a friend. When the host gave him something to eat, he complained that the food was tasteless and so the host added a bit of salt. The stupid man tried the food again and found it much improved. He thought, “If a little salt improves it this much, more salt would make it even better.” Then he ate only salt and his mouth became raw and he became sick.
2 The Stupid Man Tries To Store Up Milk
Once there was a stupid man who was going to have some guests and decided to store up some milk for them. He thought, “If I milk the cow every day beforehand, there will be too much milk and not enough space to store it. It will probably spoil. It would be better to leave it in the cow. I’ll milk the cow right before the guests arrive.”
Then he separated the cow from its calf and tied them up. A month later, when he actually had the gathering, he tried to milk the cow, but found that the milk had run dry. Some guests scoffed at him and others laughed.
This is like stupid people who want to give alms all at once and say that they will wait until they possess great wealth. Usually, before they can accumulate enough money, it is seized by the government, lost in a fire or flood, or taken by robbers. Or else they many even die before they get around to giving. They are just like that stupid man who tired to store up milk.
3 The Pears and The Broken Head
Once there was a bald-headed man. When someone threw several pears at him, injuring his head, he stupidly remained silent and refused to get out of the way. Seeing this, the people said, “Why didn’t you get out of the way and thereby avoid injury to your head?”
The stupid man replied, “That person was just showing off his strength, but he was stupid and had no wisdom. He thought my bald-head was a rock!”
The people said, “You are the stupid one! How can you call him stupid? If you weren’t stupid, how could you have let him injure you and how could you have refused to get out of the way?”
This is like a Bhikshu who, unable to cultivate faith, precepts, learning, or wisdom, merely maintains an awesome appearance to attract support and offerings. Such a Bhikshu is like that stupid man who received blows on his head without running away and then called his attacker stupid.
4 The Wife Plays Dead
Once there was a stupid man who was very much in love with his beautiful wife. She was unfaithful to him; however, and took a lover. Burning with deviant passion, she instructed an old woman, saying, “After I leave, put a dead woman’s corpse in my room and tell my husband I am dead.” The old woman waited until the husband was not at home and then placed a woman’s corpse inside the house. When he returned, she told him his wife was dead.
The husband saw the corpse and believed it to be his wife. He grieved and wept and prepared much firewood and oil for the cremation. He gathered the remains in a bag and carried them with him day and night.
The wife, meanwhile, grew tired of her lover and returned home, saying to her husband, “I am your wife.”
The husband replied, “My wife died long ago. Why do you falsely claim to be my wife?” He refused to believe her even after her repeated explanations.
This is like those of externalist ways who learn deviant teachings and whose minds give rise to delusion and attachment. They claim that the teachings are true and they refuse to change. Afterwards even when they hear the orthodox teaching, they do not believe, accept, or uphold it.
5 Seeing Water and Getting Thristy
Long ago there was a stupid, unwise man who was extremely thirsty and in need of water. Seeing a mirage, he mistook it for water and ran after it. He followed it all the way to the Indus River. Then he just stood by the river and stared at it, without drinking.
A bystander said, “You were so thirsty and desperate for water. Now you have found water, why don’t you drink it?”
The stupid man replied, “If I could drink it all, I would drink it. But there is so much of it I could never drink it all. Therefore, I’m not going to drink any of it.”
Hearing this, the crowd laughed loudly. This is like those of outside ways who stubbornly hold to their views and think themselves, incapable of keeping all the Buddha’s precepts. They therefore refuse to receive any of them. Because of this, they have no share in future enlightenment, but turn and flow in birth and death. They are like the man who was laughed at because he saw the water but refused to drink.
6 The Dead Son Remains in the House
Once there was a stupid man who had seven children. One child died young. Seeing this, the man wished to leave the corpse in the house and move out himself.
Observing this, a bystander said, “Birth and death are separate paths. You should quickly conduct a proper funeral and bury the corpse in a far away place. How can you leave the corpse here and move out yourself?”
Hearing this, the stupid man thought to himself, “If I’m not going to leave the corpse here, but bury it instead, I should kill another child to hang at the other end of a long pole. Then I can carry them both off to be buried.” And so he proceeded to kill another child. Then he put both corpses on the ends of along pole and took them off to be buried in the forest. People who saw this were shocked at such a strange occurrence.
This is like a Bhikshu who secretly breaks one precept and is afraid to repent. He keeps silent about it and hides his mistake, insisting to himself that he is pure. Then someone discovers his misdeed and says, “Those who have left home should keep the precepts flawlessly like guarding precious pearls. Why do you now, having broken a precept, wish not to repent?”
The violator says, “As long as I am going to repent, I might as well break some more precepts and then confess them all at once.” Then he casually breaks the precepts and does many bad deeds. That Bhikshu is like the stupid man who, since one of his children had died, killed yet another.
7 Claiming Another as One’s Elder Brother
Long ago there was a man, both handsome and wise. He was also wealthy and of good repute. Seeing this, another man claimed that man to be his elder brother. He did this, of course, because he wanted access to his money. Then, when the wealthy man went into debt, the man denied that he was his elder brother. A bystander said, “You are a stupid man. Why did you call him your elder brother when you needed the money and then deny this when he went into debt?”
The stupid man replied, “When I want some of his money, I say he is my elder brother, but he is not really my brother. So when he is in debt, I admit he is not my brother.”
Hearing this, there were none who did not laugh.
This is like those of externalist ways who hearing the Buddha’s good words, greedily usurp them, and take them as their own. When people try to teach those externalists to cultivate; however, they want no part of it. Instead they protest, “Those teachings were spoken out of a desire for profit. There is really nothing to those teachings. What need is there to cultivate?” They are like the stupid man who called another his elder brother in order to get his money and then denied it later when the man went into debt.
8 The Rustic Steals from the Palace Treasury
Long ago there was a country bumpkin who stole items from the king’s treasury and ran far away. The king sent men to search for him in the four directions. They apprehended him and brought him before the king. The king accusingly asked, “Where did you get those clothes?”
The rustic said, “These clothes belonged to my grandfather.”
The king ordered him to prove it by putting them on, but the rustic did not know how to wear them. He put on his arms what should have been on his legs; he put on his head what should have been on his back. Seeing he must surely be the thief, the king called his ministers for a consultation. Then he said to the rustic, ”If these clothes really belonged to your grandfather, you would know how to wear them. Why did you get them all mixed up? Since you didn’t know how to put them on, they certainly can’t be your own clothes. You must have stolen them.”
In this parable the king is like the Buddha. The precious treasury is like the Dharma. The stupid rustic is like those of externalist ways who eavesdrop on the Buddhadharma and then take it as their own. Because they misinterpret it, they get it all mixed up and fail to understand the marks of Dharma. This is like the rustic who know how to wear them and put them on upside down.
9 Praising the Father’s Virtuous Conduct
Once there was a man who praised his father’s virtue to the multitudes saying, “My father is humane and kind. He harms no one and he never steals. He speaks directly and truthfully and he also practices giving.”
Hearing this, the stupid man said, “My father is more virtuous than yours.”
The group then asked him, “What is your father’s virtuous conduct? Please tell us about his deeds.”
“When he was young he severed all sexual desire, “the stupid man replied.
The others said, “If your father cut off sexual desire when he was young, how did he beget you?” Then they laughed uproariously.
This is like ordinary ignorant people of the world who wish to praise the virtue of others but who are unrealistic and end up being ridiculous. They are like the stupid man who, although well-intentioned in wishing to praise his father, made an absurd mistake.
10 The Three-Storied House
In the old days, there was a rich man who was stupid and ignorant. One day he went to another rich man’s home. The house was a three-stored structure. Being struck with admiration of the imposing, spacious, and well-lit building, he said to himself, “I am no less rich than he. Why don’t I immediately build a house like this one?”
Thereupon he sent for a carpenter and said, “Can you construct a house as imposing as that one?”
The carpenter replied, ”I built that one!”
The rich man said, “Now you may build a house like that for me.”
The carpenter first began to level the ground. Afterwards he began to lay foundation stones and then drive piles for walls. When the carpenter was laying the stones and building the wall supports, the stupid man asked, “What are you doing now?”
The carpenter replied, “I’m building a three-storied house.”
The stupid man went on, “I don’t want the two lower floors. Build me the third floor first.”
The carpenter answered, “There is no such thing. If I don’t start with the first floor, how can I build the second? If I don’t build the second, how can I build the third?”
The stupid man insisted, “I don’t need the two lower floors; build only the top floor.”
Hearing those words, people laughed sardonically. They all said, “How can one not build the lower floors, yet build the top floor?”
This is like some of the Buddha’s disciples who, being unable to practice earnestly or to revere the Triple Jewel, are lazy and lax in seeking the fruits of the Way and say, “We don’t seek the first three stages below, but seek only the fruit of Arhatship.” They become objects of ridicule just like that stupid man.