ornament

The Tale of Three Coconuts

One day Gautama went for a walk along the Ganges, carrying a large basket containing three coconuts atop his head. If was a beautiful sunlit day, and the leaves of the banyan still glistened with morning dew.

It wasn't long before he met an old man who was dying of hunger and thirst. Seeing the poor fellow was in great distress, Gautama took one of the coconuts from his basket and dashed it against a large rock. It split open instantly, revealing a copious quantity of delectable white flesh and nourishing milk. On this the old man dined until his health was completely restored.

Strolling further down the river's bank, Gautama chanced upon a blind man who had stumbled into the path of a great cobra. Not a moment too soon or too late, Gautama took the second coconut and hurled it in the direction of the serpent. The coconut crashed to the ground, and the startled snake recoiled and fled into the brush.

When he heard the coconut crash near his feet, the blind man called out, "Who is there?"

Gautama laughed reassuringly, and picking up the coconut, presented it to the blind man.

"Just a friend who offers you a midday meal."

Then Gautama took the man by the hand and led him to a comfortable spot under a ficus tree, where he split open the coconut and gave the still astonished fellow to eat and drink.

Further along, Gautama saw a clean-shaven monk clad in a saffron robe approaching him with an air of recognition.

"You are the Buddha, are you not?" the monk exclaimed eagerly. "I have walked a thousand miles to seek your blessing and attain enlightenment."

Gautama looked at the monk intently, then replied, "I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken. I'm nothing but a simple traveler with nothing to offer you but this coconut."

The monk looked puzzled and then a little angry.

"But they told me I would find the Buddha here. You must be he whom I seek."

Gautama turned attentively towards the flowing current of the Ganges, and replied, "They who told you this must also be mistaken, for I'm but a simple man with a coconut."

So saying, Gautama handed the last coconut to the monk, and with a gentle good-bye continued on his way.

The monk, beside himself with frustration and resentment, cast the coconut into the Ganges and traveled back to his city a thousand miles away. This time he rode upon a magnificently caparisoned elephant sent to him by his father, a wealthy merchant, who feared for his son's safe return.

Several days passed, and the coconut drifted downstream until it finally washed ashore in a tiny village. A little boy spotted it first, and fetched it from the water.

"What have you found there, boy?" asked a man holding a basket.

"Why, nothing, nothing at all except this old coconut," answered the boy. "And when I shake it like this, I can tell there's no more milk inside."

"So there isn't!" observed the man. "What will you do with it?"

"I think I'll throw it back" replied the boy, and gleefully tossed the coconut into the Ganges.

"What's in your basket, Sir?" asked the boy, drawing nearer to the stranger.

"Come and take a look," Gautama answered him, with a twinkle in his eye.

--jdf, 16 July 2001

You are listening to a MIDI file of the "Pure Land Pastorale" Variation on "Hymn for the Standing Buddhas of Bamiyan" by Dillon Ford.

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Last updated September 10, 2001
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© Copyright 2001 by Joseph Dillon Ford