(A few days after) New Moon Day: The Rhino and The Monkey

January 28, 2009


The Rhino and The Monkey


There’s a great story in the Pali Canon – in the Jatakas, the tales of the Buddha’s former lives – of a rhino and a monkey. 

This rhino was a very patient old beast. On the whole he did what you’d expect any rhino to do: he grazed, he slept, he grazed, he washed, and he slept some more. Sounds good!

But this very gentle and harmless fellow was unable to live his life in peace because of a particular little monkey who never stopped tormenting him. This scrawny little scrot lived (without permission) on our friend the rhino’s shoulders. And he never ever stopped poking him and pricking him and patting him and pulling his ears and spitting on him, EVER! He was unutterably awful! All day long this poor old rhino would lug his heavy frame from tree to pond to field to rock with this crazy little ape doing all manner of things to him. 

But our friend the rhino was no ordinary rhino. No. He was a Bodhisatta – a being intent on enlightenment – and, as such, he used every opportunity as a means to develop his perfections. And so not once did the rhino get angry. Not once did he raise his voice. Not once did he shake his big leathery hide to try and dislodge the wiry weasel. For he was developing patience. That was his mission; that was his life. Nowhere in the world could a being be found whose patience could exceed that of the rhino’s. But he wasn’t proud, and he didn’t show off. He simply conducted his life as any unassuming rhino does, but all the time he polished the golden trophy of patience, as he endured the torrents of abuse and interminable pesterings of his uninvited playmate. A very wise and noble beast indeed, and a shining example to us all.

Patience, when we begin to fathom its depths, appears infinite. For when we are developing patience we do not say: “I’ll be patient until next Tuesday, then I’ll start getting impatient.” That is not patience. Our friend the rhino’s patience had no limit. Patience, by its very nature, has no limit.

As well as patience having no limit it also does not pick and choose what to be patient with. We cannot think: “Oh, I’ll be patient with this, but not with that.” That, like deciding to stop being patient next Tuesday, is not patience.

As we begin to comprehend the magnificence of patience and its unique place amongst the virtues that we are to develop, our perception of the ‘monkey on our shoulder’ flips as though we were simply turning over our hand. No longer do we resent those people in our lives whose presence we once detested. No longer do we frantically seek to avoid the difficulties. No longer do we spend our time dreaming of being in a different place or a different time. We view our life as a vast stage on which we use each scene to nurture and perfect the infinite quality that is patience.  


The next teaching will hopefully be on:

The Full Moon Day, Monday 9th February, which is MAGHA PUJA DAY.


I have just put up some photos from my recent trip to Thailand. You can view them here.


4 Responses to “(A few days after) New Moon Day: The Rhino and The Monkey”

  1. Mutta said

    I am patiently awaiting your next valuable diary entry.

  2. Tahn Manapo said

    Hello Mutta

    Maybe I should test that patience…..

  3. Tim said

    Great story. One of my favourites.

    Great pics of Thailand too.


  4. Meena said

    I’ve not heard that story before but it reminded me to patiently accept the things that I cannot change – thank you.

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