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The mangoes that did not suit people

The brain, or rather the mind, is criticised for its lack of 'emotion', but the mind is our friend and can be quite helpful. Renuka Narayanan reports.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2012 22:27 IST

The brain, or rather the mind, is criticised for its lack of 'emotion', but the mind is our friend and can be quite helpful. One of the nicest things about Buddhism in its purity is the Sakya Muni's teaching to use our minds as tools, not spittoons, to apply plain common sense to a situation, without harmful sentiment.

A clear case may be found in the well-told Jataka about the 'What not Tree' (Buddhist Literature Society Inc). A responsible caravan leader warned his train not to eat the fruit of the terrain they were about to enter. "Things may not be what they seem, so please check with me first before plucking or tasting anything," he warned.

Of course, most of the travellers forgot. By and by a large advance party chanced upon a splendid mango tree heavily laden with ripe fruit just before a path to a village. "What luck!", they exclaimed and fell to feasting without another thought. A few hesitated but succumbed to the temptation. A very few set their lips firmly and shook their heads. Soon, the caravan leader came by. The ones who had remembered his warning showed him the tree. "IT resembles the mango tree most closely!" said the leader. "But I fear this is poison fruit". Hearing him, the ones who had eaten the fruit began to wail. The leader told them to throw up and empty their stomachs at once. He gave them "raisins, sugarcane paste, yoghurt and honey" to clean their mouths afterwards. Most were saved, but a few succumbed to the poison.

Next morning, the villagers nearby came, as was their custom, to steal the possessions of the dead, as they had done for years. They were aghast to see the travelers alive. "How did you know this tree was poisonous?" they asked. "Ask our caravan leader," said the travelers. "Sir, you must enlighten us!" they all begged. "The caravan leader, who was the Bodhisattva, replied, "I knew this tree was not really a mango tree though it closely resembled one, for two reasons. One, it was easy to climb. Two, even though it was situated near a village nobody had plucked its fruit. So there had to be something deadly the matter with it." The villagers crept back abashed and it is to be hoped that they cut down the poison tree and reformed themselves thoroughly after meeting the Bodhisattva. As for the travelers, they went safely on.

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture