Thank You All You Buddhas
Thank you to all of you who are doing something to quench this raging inferno of a pending war, no matter how big or how small. You are doing the work of a buddha.
Sunday, Pat Sensei Enkyo O'Hara, the teacher at the Village Zendo in
NYC, offered this story to a number of people at the Zen Center on Main
Street. As you read it, you might think of our efforts to stop the
massive destruction that is about to ensue. May you take heart in this
sweet story for these very difficult times...We never know the effects
of our actions, no matter how small they seem.
The Brave Little Parrot -- A Jataka Tale
Once, long ago, the Buddha was born as a little parrot. One day a storm
fell upon his forest home, which he loved very, very much. Lightning
flashed, thunder crashed, and a dead tree, struck by lightning, burst
into flames. Sparks leapt on the wind and soon the forest was ablaze.
Terrified animals ran wildly in every direction, seeking safety from the
flames and smoke.
"Fire! Fire!" cried the little parrot. "To the river!" Flapping his
wings, he flung himself out into the fury of the storm and, rising
higher, flew towards the safety of the river. But as he flew he could
see that many animals were trapped, surrounded by the flames below, with
no chance of escape.
Suddenly a desperate idea, a way to save them, came to him.
He darted to the river, dipped himself in the water, and flew back over
the now raging fire.
The heat rising up from the burning forest was like the heat of an oven.
The thick smoke made breathing almost unbearable. A wall of flames shot
up on one side, and then the other. Crackling flames leapt before him.
Twisting and turning through the mad maze of fire, the little parrot
flew bravely on. At last, when he was over the center of the forest, he
shook his wings and released the few drops of water which still clung to
his feathers. The tiny drops tumbled down like jewels into the heart of
the blaze and vanished with a hissssssssss.
Then the little parrot once more flew back through the flames and smoke
to the river, dipped himself in the cool water, and flew back again over
the burning forest. Back and forth he flew, time and time again, from
the river to the forest, from the burning forest to the river. His
feathers were charred. His feet were scorched. His lungs ached. His
eyes, stung by smoke, turned red as coals. His mind spun dizzily as the
spinning sparks. But still the little parrot flew on.
At this time, some of the devas -- gods of a happy realm -- were
floating overhead in their cloud palaces of ivory and gold. They
happened to look down. And they saw the little parrot flying among the
flames. They pointed at him with perfect hands. Between mouthfuls of
honeyed foods they exclaimed, "Look at that foolish bird! He's trying to
put out a raging forest fire with a few sprinkles of water! How absurd!"
And they laughed.
But one of those gods, strangely moved, changed himself into a golden
eagle and flew down, down towards the little parrot's fiery path.
The little parrot was just nearing the flames again when the great eagle
with eyes like molten gold appeared at his side. "Go back, little bird!"
said the eagle in a solemn and majestic voice. "Your task is hopeless! A
few drops of water can't put out a forest fire! Cease now and save
yourself -- before it is too late."
But the little parrot only continued to fly on through the smoke and
flames. He could hear the great eagle flying above him as the heat grew
fiercer, calling out, "Stop, foolish little parrot! Save yourself! Save
"I don't need a great, shining eagle," coughed the little parrot, "to
give me advice like that. My own mother, the dear bird, might have told
me such things long ago. Advice! (cough, cough), I don't need advice. I
just (cough), need someone to help."
And the god, who was that great eagle, seeing the little parrot flying
through the flames, thought suddenly of his own privileged kind. He
could see them high up above. There they were, the carefree gods,
laughing and talking, while many animals cried out in pain and fear from
the flames below. And he grew ashamed. Then one single desire was
kindled in his heart. God though he was, he just wanted to be like that
brave little parrot, and to help.
"I will help!" he exclaimed and, flushed with these new feelings, he
began to weep. Stream after stream of sparkling tears poured from his
eyes. Wave upon wave, they washed down like cooling rain upon the fire,
upon the forest, upon the animals and upon the little parrot himself.
The flames died down and the smoke began to clear. The little parrot,
washed and bright, rocketed about the sky laughing for joy. "Now that's
more like it!" he exclaimed.
The eagle's tears dripped from burned branches. Smoke rose up from the
scorched earth. Miraculously, where those tears glistened, new life
pushed forth -- fresh shoots, stems, and leaves. Green grass pushed up
from among the still glowing cinders.
Where the teardrops sparkled on the parrot's wings, new feathers now
grew. Red feathers, green feathers, yellow feathers -- such bright
colors! Such a handsome bird!
All the animals looked at one another in amazement. They were whole and
well. Not one had been harmed. Up above in the clear blue sky they could
see their brave friend, the little parrot, looping and soaring in
delight. When all hope was gone, somehow he had saved them. "Hurray!"
they cried. "Hurray for the brave little parrot and for the miraculous
(From The Hungry Tigress as told by Rafe Martin. Parallax Press,
Berkeley California, 1990.)
(Taken fron Inquiring Mind -- A Semi-annual Journal of the Vipassana
Community Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 1994)
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