Tuesday's Tale - from China

The Stone Monkey

A very long time ago, on the top of a mountain, there lay a lone, strange-shaped stone egg.  No one knew what bird had laid it, or how it had got there.  The egg lay by itself, until one day it split with a crack, and out came a monkey, whose body was of shining polished stone.  Before long, this wonderful stone monkey found itself surrounded by other monkeys, all chattering as hard as they could.  After a while, one of them came forward and asked the stone monkey to be their king.  He accepted the post readily enough, having already decided that his difference marked him as one fit to rule.

Soon afterward, he determined to travel in search of wisdom, and to see the world.  Making his way down the mountain, he came to the sea-shore, made himself a raft, and sailed away.  Reaching the other side of the great ocean, he found his way to the home of a famous magician, and persuaded the magician to teach him many magical tricks.  The stone monkey learned to make himself invisible, to fly up into the sky, and to jump many miles at a single jump.  It wasn’t long before he began to think himself better and stronger than anybody else, and decided he would make himself Lord of the Sky.

The Dragon prince, on hearing that the true Lord of the Sky was being tormented by the stone monkey, went in search of the Lord Buddha.  “Have you heard of the new king of the monkeys?” the Dragon prince asked.

“No,” answered Lord Buddha.  “What is there to hear about him?”

“He has been doing a lot of mischief.  Having learnt all kinds of magical tricks, he believes he knows more than anybody else.  He now means to turn the Lord of the Sky out of his palace, and be Lord of the Sky himself.  I promised I would ask you to help us, for with your help, I am sure we would succeed against the stone monkey.”

The Lord Buddha promised to help, and the two went together to the palace of the Lord of the Sky.  They found the stone monkey behaving badly and insulting anyone who dared to interfere with him.  The Lord Buddha stepped forward and quietly said to the stone monkey, “What do you want?”

“I want to be Lord of the Sky,” replied the stone monkey.  “I could manage things much better than they are managed now.  See how I can jump.”  The stone monkey jumped a big jump and, in a moment, was out of sight.  And in the next moment, he was back again. “Can you do that?” he asked the Lord Buddha.

The Lord Buddha only smiled and said, “I will make a bargain with you.  Come outside the palace with me and stand on my hand.  Then, if you can jump out of my hand, you shall be Lord of the Sky.  But if you cannot jump out of my hand, you shall be sent down to earth, and never be allowed to come up to the sky anymore.”

The stone monkey could not stop laughing when he heard this.  “Jump out of your hand, Lord Buddha?  Of course I can easily do that.”

So they went outside the palace, and the Lord Buddha put down his hand, and the stone monkey stepped on to it.  He then gave one great jump, and was away far out of sight.  On and on he jumped, until he came to the end of the earth.  There he stopped, chuckling to himself that he would soon be Lord of the Sky.  Looking around, he saw five great red pillars standing on the edge with nothing but empty space beyond.  He decided to make a mark to show how far he had really jumped.  So he scratched a mark on one of the pillars, meaning to bring the Lord Buddha there to see it.  Then he took another big jump, and was soon back in the Lord Buddha’s hand.

“When are you going to begin to jump?” asked the Lord Buddha, as the monkey stepped down onto the ground.

“When?” cried the monkey.  “I have jumped already, jumped to the very end of the earth.  If you want to know how far I have been, you have only to get on my back, and I’ll take you there to see.  There are five red pillars there, and I’ve left a mark on one of them.”

“Look here, monkey,” said the Lord Buddha, holding out his hand.  “Look at this.”

The stone monkey looked but could not believe his eyes.  On one of the fingers of the Lord Buddha’s hand there was the very mark which he himself had made on the red pillar.

“You see,” said the Lord Buddha, “the whole world lies in my hand.  You could never have jumped out of it.  When you jumped and thought that you were out of sight, my hand was under you all the time.  No one, not even a stone monkey, can ever get beyond my reach.  Now, go back down to earth and learn some humility.”

 

This is very reminiscent to stories of Hindu deities that I grew up with, where their omnipotence would be shown through simple means such as this.  This is the only one I personally know that features the Buddha.  A little aside – I’ve always found it weird that, even though the Buddha was originally an Indian prince, and he is one of Vishnu’s avatars/reincarnations, his stories don’t seem to be as well-known as those involving the other Hindu deities.  Also, this story originated in China, where Buddhism is more widespread than in India.