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Udāna

Udāna
4.5 Nāga Sutta
The King Elephant

Truly great beings love seclusion.

This is as I heard from the Blessed One. Those days, the Blessed One was living in the province of Kosambī, at Ghosita’s monastery. Those days, the Blessed One lived surrounded by monks, nuns, male and female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, followers of other religions. Surrounded, he lived unpleasantly and not in ease. The thought occurred to him: “I now live surrounded by monks, nuns, male and female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, followers of other religions.Surrounded, I live unpleasantly and not in ease. What if I were to live alone, apart from the crowd?”

So, early in the morning, the Blessed One wore his robe and, carrying his bowl and double-layered robe, went into Kosambī for alms. Then, having gone for alms in Kosambī, after the meal, returning from his alms round, he set his own lodgings in order and, carrying his bowl and double-layered robe, without telling his attendant monk, without informing the community of monks, alone and without a companion, left toward Palileyyaka village. After travelling by stages, he reached Palileyyaka village. There he stayed in Palileyyaka in the forest called Rakkhita, at the root of a well grown sal tree.

It so happened that a certain king elephant was living surrounded by elephants, she-elephants, young-elephants and baby elephants. He fed off grass with cut-off tips. They chewed up his stash of broken-off branches. He drank water muddied by other elephants. When he came up from his bathing-place, she-elephants went along, banging up against his body. Surrounded, he lived unpleasantly and not in ease. The thought occurred to him, “I now live surrounded by elephants, she-elephants, young-elephants, and baby elephants. I feed off grass with cut-off tips. They chew up my stash of broken-off branches. I drink water muddied by other elephants. When I come up from my bathing place, she-elephants go along, banging up against my body. Surrounded, I live unpleasantly and not in ease. What if I were to live alone, apart from the crowd?”

So the king elephant, leaving the herd, went to Palileyyaka village, to Rakkhita forest and the root of the well grown sal tree, to the same place where the Blessed One was staying. There he kept the grass down in the area where the Blessed One was staying, and brought drinking water and washing water1 for the Blessed One with his trunk.

Then, when the Blessed One was alone in seclusion, this thought occurred to him, “Before, I lived surrounded by monks, nuns, male and female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, followers of other religions. Surrounded, I lived unpleasantly and not in ease. But now I live not surrounded by monks, nuns, male and female lay followers, kings, royal ministers, followers of other religions. Not surrounded, I live pleasantly and in ease.”

This thought occurred to the king elephant, “Before, I lived surrounded by elephants, she-elephants, young-elephants and baby elephants. I fed off grass with cut-off tips. They chewed up my stash of broken-off branches. I drank water muddied by other elephants. When I came up from my bathing place, she-elephants went along, banging up against my body. Surrounded, I lived unpleasantly and not in ease. But now I live not surrounded by elephants, she-elephants, young-elephants and baby elephants. I feed off grass with uncut tips. They don’t chew up my stash of broken-off branches. I drink undisturbed water. When I come up from my bathing place, she-elephants don’t go along, banging up against my body. Not surrounded, I live pleasantly and in ease.”

Then the Blessed One, realizing his own seclusion and knowing the thoughts in the king elephant, the Blessed One spoke the following inspired verse:

“The thought of the king elephant with massive tusks, matched the thought of the great king elephant called the Buddha, who delights in seclusion in the forest.”

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Udāna 4.5 Nāga Sutta: The King Elephant

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