申年

2016年、申年を迎え、この一年私たちが進むべき人生の方向性を考えましたところ、今回は仏教のジャータカ物語りの一つを紹介したいと思います。釈迦様は大きなイチジクの木に住んでいた猿の群れについて語ったと言われています。そのイチジクの木にはとても美味しい実がたくさんなっていて、猿たちは食べることに心配することなく幸せに暮らしていました。その群れは知恵の優れた猿の王様に治められており、王様は川の上に伸びる枝の実を毎日一個も残さず全部片付けるように命じていました。

猿たちはいつもその実の片付けを頑張りましたが、ある日葉っぱが茂っていたところにあった一つの実に気がつかず、取り残してしまいました。その実は熟れて、川に落ち、近くの人間を治めていた王様のところにまで流れていってしまいました。王様はその美味しいイチジクの実を食べると、直ぐに家来を集め、その実がなっている木を探しに出かけました。ようやくイチジクの木を見つけると、王様は猿の群れが自分が欲しかった美味しいイチジクの実をパクパクと食べている姿を見てとても怒り、家来に猿の群れをやっつけるように命令しました。たくさんの矢と石が飛んできて、猿の群れは大騒ぎしました。

猿の王様は、群れを救うため、木の隣にそびえ立つ山に飛び出し、速やかに高い竹を探して、竹を足で掴み、またイチジクの木に飛び戻ろうとしました。竹の長さが少し足りなかったので、猿の王様は手でイチジクの木の枝を掴み、足で竹を掴んだまま、自分の体をイチジクの木と竹をつなぐ橋のようにして他の猿たちが逃げられる道を作りました。

群れの猿たちは急いで山に逃げ、王様の体は何匹もの猿に踏まれてしまいました。すべての猿が山に逃げると、王様は疲れと怪我のため、自分で逃げる力もなく、そのままイチジクの木と竹の間にいました。

人間の王様は猿の王様の勇気と慈悲に感動し、家来に木の下に毛布を張り、木と竹を矢で打ち折り、猿の王様を受けとめるよう命令しました。猿の王様が木から下ろされると、人間の王様がそばに来て、感心の言葉を述べ、猿の群れが猿の王様を守るべきであるのに、猿の王様が命がけで群れを救おうとした理由を尋ねました。

猿の王様は次のように答えました:「私の身体は痛んでいますが、長年お世話になっている群れたちの恐怖を和らげたので、心が幸せになりました。」そして、次のように人間の王様に幸せになれる道を教えました:「荷役用の動物、軍隊、農民、街の人、大臣、貧しい人、僧侶、神主などに対して、王様は父親のように皆を守り、幸せになれるように頑張らないといけません。このようにして自分の名利を高めることによって、この世と後世の幸せが決まるのです。」

この物語の中で、自分の身体を犠牲にして群れを守ろうとした猿の王様の勇気にもとても感心しましたが、それよりももっと私が感心しましたのは、欲のために猿の群れへの攻撃を命じ、自分にひどい怪我をさせた人間の王様への態度がとても素晴らしかったと思います。怒りや仕返しの心を表すのではなく、慈悲をもって、親切に人間の王様が幸せになれる道を説いてあげています。その道とは、王様自身の利益よりも国の人々を大事にすることが説いてあります。この猿の王様は、釈迦様が仏になる前の菩薩の生まれかわりだと言われています。

この話を自分自身の事として考えてみますと、自分が欲しいことだけを求めて、周りはどうでもよく思ってしまう点で、欲張りな人間の王様に似ているところがあると思います。猿の王様が、欲張りな人間の王様に親切に幸せになれる道を説かれたように、欲張る私のために仏様がお念仏のみ教えを説いてくださっているおかげで、また新しい一年を迎え、私の極楽への道が仏様の智慧の光に照らされていることに気づかされるのです。

 

南無阿弥陀仏

 


Year of the Monkey

As we welcome 2016, the Year of the Monkey, I would like to share with you a traditional Buddhist Jataka Tale that holds much wisdom for us as we consider the direction of our lives for the year to come. It is said that Sakyamuni Buddha once told the story of a troop of monkeys that lived in a banyan fig tree by a river. The tree bore ample and delicious fruit and the monkeys lived comfortably, never needing to worry about what they would eat. The monkeys were led by a wise and compassionate king who warned them not to leave any fruit hanging on the branches that reached out over the river.

Despite the best efforts of the monkeys to keep those branches clear, a day came when they overlooked a piece of fruit that grew under a thick bunch of leaves. In time, the fruit ripened and fell into the river, which carried it downstream where it was discovered by the king who ruled the local people. The king assembled an expedition party and set off up the river in search of the tree that had borne the delicious fruit. When they finally found the tree, the king became enraged by the sight of so many monkeys eating the delicious fruit, while he had none for himself. He ordered his soldiers to attack the monkeys, and as arrows and stones rained down on them they could do nothing but scream out in terror.

Moved by great compassion for his subjects, the monkey king boldly leapt from the tree to the side of a mountain that stood nearby. He quickly found a tall bamboo stalk, and grasping the top of the stalk with his feet, he leapt back over to the tree to rescue the other monkeys. The bamboo stalk was just long enough for the monkey king to grab hold of the nearest branch of the tree with his hands while his feet clung to the bamboo stalk.

When the other monkeys saw that he had created a way for them to escape, they rushed across the bamboo stalk over to the safety of the mountainside, many stepping on the body of their king as they fled. After all his subjects had escaped, the monkey king continued to hold himself between the tree and the bamboo stalk, too exhausted and injured from the trampling to climb away to safety.

Moved by courageous compassion of the monkey king, the human king ordered two of his finest archers to simultaneously shoot down the banyan branch and the bamboo stalk while another group of his men held out a cloth sheet to gently catch the monkey king as he fell. Once the monkey king was brought down, the human king went to his side to express his admiration for the monkey king’s virtuous actions and ask him what motivated him to practice such generous kindness for his subjects, even though it was their duty to protect him as the king.

The monkey king replied by saying: “Your highness, though my body be shattered, yet my spirit has attained perfect well-being, inasmuch as I have relieved the distress of my subjects who I have ruled for so long.” He then went on to instruct the king on the path to realize happiness for himself, saying “Beasts of burden, army, country people, townsmen, ministers, the helpless poor, monks, and brahmins—the king should, like a father, endeavor to procure for them all a fruitful happiness. By increasing your merit, your wealth, your fame in this way, you will earn happiness both in this life and in the next.” (Once the Buddha Was a Monkey: Arya Sura’s Jatakamala, trans. Peter Khoroche, p. 191)

While the courage of the monkey king is truly remarkable, what I find most compelling about this story is the way in which he responds to the human king who, motivated by greed, ordered the attack on the monkey king’s subjects that led to his own pain and serious injury. Rather than expressing anger and vengeance toward the human king, he shows great compassion teaching him the path to realizing true peace and joy—which can only be found in serving and caring for others free of concern for one’s own comfort and convenience. We are told that this monkey king is the bodhisattva who would go to realize awakening in our world and become the true teacher or our world Sakyamuni Buddha.

When I think about the story above, I find that I am most like the greedy king, chasing after the things I want, without regard for the harm I may cause to others. I am grateful that just as the monkey king provided a wise teaching for that greedy king, Sakyamuni Buddha provides me with the Nembutsu, so that I may welcome the coming year with my path to a life a peace and bliss clearly illuminated by the Buddha’s wisdom.

 

Namo Amida Butsu