The Supreme Form of Forbearance

At that time, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family and grew up in a town in Kāsi. When his mother died, he performed the funeral rites. At the end of the six-week period of mourning, he gave away all the money that was in the house. Wishing to live as an ascetic, he put on bark garments, and, taking his father and younger brother with him, he went to the Himalayas, where the three of them lived on roots and wild fruit. During the months when the rain was incessant in the Himalayas, it was impossible to dig up roots or to gather fruit, so, like most ascetics living in that region, they came down and stayed with villagers.

At the end of the rainy season, the young ascetic, the Bodhisatta, began the trek back to the Himalayas with his father and brother. As the sun was going down, they were not far from the hut, so he said, “You can come on slowly. I will go ahead and get the hermitage in order.”

His younger brother pulled their father by the arm along the path and butted him with his head to make him go forward, but the old man protested, “I do not like the way you are taking me home!” he cried. He turned around and walked all the way back to the village and started over again. The young ascetic lit a torch and set out to find them. After he had brought them safely to the hermitage, he gave his father a bath and made him comfortable.

“Father,” he said, as he gently massaged the old man’s feet, “young boys are just like earthen vessels and can be broken in a moment. Once broken, they cannot be mended again! When youth become abusive, older folk should bear with them patiently! Forbearance is wiser than foolish reaction.” The old man accepted his son’s admonition and began practising self-restraint.

Based on Jataka Tales of the Buddha, Kawasaki trans.Vol. II, p. 476

The Bodhisatta, in the life when he was called Sarabhanga, said:

One may bear with patience the rudeness of one’s superior through fear; or the abusive language from those who are equal to ward off danger of rivalry. (Both cases are not superior types of patience.) But the wise say that to put up with the rude language coming from one’s inferiors, with no special reason to do so, is the supreme form of forbearance.

Mark HedigerJataka