The Sick Bhikkhu

AN old bhikkhu of a surly disposition was afflicted with a loathsome disease the sight and smell of which was so nauseating that no one would come near him or help him in his distress. And it happened that the World-honored One came to the vihara in which the unfortunate man lay; hearing of the case he ordered warm water to be prepared and went to the sick-room to administer to the sores of the patient with his own hand, saying to his disciples:

“The Tathagatha has come into the world to befriend the poor, to succor the unprotected, to nourish those in bodily affliction, both the followers of the Dharma and unbelievers, to give sight to the blind and enlighten the minds of the deluded, to stand up for the rights of orphans as well as the aged, and in so doing to set an example to others. This is the consummation of his work, and thus he attains the great goal of life as the rivers that lose themselves in the ocean.”

The World-honored One administered to the sick bhikkhu daily so long as he stayed in that place. And the governor of the city came to the Buddha to do him reverence and having heard of the service which the Lord did in the vihara asked the Blessed One about the previous existence of the sick monk, and the Buddha said:

“In days gone by there was a wicked king who used to extort from his subjects all he could get; and he ordered one of his officers to lay the lash on a man of eminence. The officer little thinking of the pain he inflicted on others, obeyed; but when the victim of the king's wrath begged for mercy, he felt compassion and laid the whip lightly on him. Now the king was reborn as Devadatta, who was abandoned by all his followers, because they were no longer willing to stand his severity, and he died miserable and full of penitence. The officer is the sick bhikkhu, who having often given offense to his brethren in the vihara was left without assistance in his distress. The eminent man, however, who was unjustly beaten and begged for mercy was the Bodhisattva; he has been reborn as the Tathagatha. It is now the lot of the Tathagatha to help the wretched officer as he had mercy on him.”

And the World-honored One repeated these lines: “He who inflicts pain on the gentle, or falsely accuses the innocent, will inherit one of the ten great calamities. But he who has learned to suffer with patience will be purified and will be the chosen instrument for the alleviation of suffering.”

The diseased bhikkhu on hearing these words turned to the Buddha, confessed his ill-natured temper and repented, and with a heart cleansed from error did reverence to the Lord.

The author of this story is unknown and greatly appreciated!