A Buddhist story suitable for Bodi Day.
Themes: Leadership. Self-sacrifice. Looking after others.
Synopsis: In a forest grows a mango tree bearing the most wonderful fruit.
The Monkey King tells his tribe to pick all the fruit to keep it safe from others. But the juiciest mango of all falls into the river.
The mango is washed along the river to the Land of Humans where the King tastes the fruit - and immediately he determines to find the mango tree. He leads his soldiers deep into the forest and there they find the tree, the monkey tribe in its branches. The Monkey King swoops down to protect the smallest of his tribe and the King of Humans gives an order for all the monkeys to be killed.
The only escape is for the Monkey King to turn his body into a bridge, in the hope that the monkeys will be able to cross from the tree over the river on his back. But it is an act of great self-sacrifice.
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A long time ago, in a far off land, lived a Monkey King. The Monkey King was fearless and strong. He could wrestle a lion and lift an elephant above his head. He ruled over a tribe of monkeys and he looked after them with great wisdom.
The tropical forest where the Monkey King lived was hot and damp. Plants grew fast and trees were heavy with all kinds of delicious fruit. The best fruit of all came from The Great Mango Tree. The mango was sweeter than a peach and juicier than a plum. It was so delicious that everyone who tasted it wanted to go on eating it for ever.
‘If the wrong people taste this fruit,’ the Monkey King told his tribe, ‘they will do anything to get more.’
So he ordered the monkeys to pick the fruit and store it in a safe place. Chattering non-stop, the monkeys did as he asked. But the biggest and best mango remained hidden - and that night a strong wind shook it loose and it fell into the river at the bottom of the gorge and was swept along into another land, called the Kingdom of Humans. Men, women and children lived there and they were ruled over by a King and his Queen.
But the King and Queen were greedy people. Everything they wanted they took. And when the King saw the golden mango floating in the river outside his palace, he ordered his servant to bring it to him. The servant cut up the mango and laid it on a silver platter for the King to taste. But as soon as he ate one piece he wanted another – and another and soon, the greedy King had eaten it all.
‘We must find the tree which produced this fruit,’ he ordered, ‘so that I can keep it for myself.’
It was afternoon when the King and his soldiers reached the forest where the Monkey King lived. Everyone was asleep because it was too hot to do anything else. Only one little monkey was keeping watch. When she saw the soldier’s swords glinting in the sunlight, she was afraid.
‘I must warn the others,’ she said. The other monkeys were in the mango tree. ‘Wake up!’ she cried, when she reached them. ‘Wake up! The King of the Humans is here and he has brought his soldiers.’
But it was too late. The soldiers had followed her. They were all around the tree.
‘This tree belongs to me!’ declared the King. ‘Any creature found in it will be sentenced to death!’ The little monkey was terrified.
She let go of the branch she was holding and fell to the ground. Feeling no pity for the small creature the King raised his sword above his head...
Then a voice rang out. ‘If you harm her you will answer to me,’ the voice cried.
It was the Monkey King. With amazing skill he swung from branch to branch until he was low enough to scoop up the little monkey in one large hand, then swung up into the tall trees again. The other monkeys cheered and clapped.
The Human King was filled with anger. ‘Kill them all,’ he told his soldiers. ‘Not a single monkey is to be left alive!’
High in the trees the Monkey King thought fast. ‘Come,’ he said to the monkeys, ‘you must cross to the other side of the river.’
‘Don’t be afraid,’ said the Monkey King, and, tying his feet to a strong creeper, he flung out his long arms and grabbed the branch of a tree on the other side of the gorge. Using all his strength, his great body now made a bridge across the river.
‘Cross over,’ he told them. ‘Run over my back to the other side. As quickly as you can!’
The monkeys could hear the soldiers climbing the tree. One by one they clambered across the body of their King to safety on the other side. Bruised and in great pain, the Monkey King hung on until there was only one monkey still to cross. It was the little one whose life he had saved.
She began to cry. ‘I can’t go!’ she said. ‘You are in too much pain.’
‘You must,’ said the Monkey King, getting weaker and weaker. ‘You must save yourself.’
Watching from below, the King of the Humans was moved by what he saw. The Monkey King was dying. He called to his soldiers. ‘Untie him,’ he said, ‘and bring him safely down.’
A bed was made of the softest mosses and leaves and he was laid on it gently.
‘You are a great leader,’ the King of the Humans told the Monkey King. ‘From now on I shall follow your example and rule bravely and well, and all creatures will be allowed to share in the fruits of the Mango Tree.’
The Monkey King was buried beneath the Mango Tree and later a golden temple was built nearby in his memory.
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