The Tale of the Lion and the Crane
The Buddha was a great and holy man who was born on earth as a Prince. But he gave away his Kingdom in order to travel the earth teaching men and women the path to freedom and peace. He told many wonderful stories to help people understand how to live a happy and peaceful life, and to find a pathway to God.
Here is one of those stories…
In the kingdom of Benares, brave King Devadatta was just and kind. He ruled wisely and all lived happily in prosperity.
Beyond the kingdom walls, was a dark jungle; many animals lived within its shadowy limits. Monkeys leapt from branch to branch, screeching to each other. Colourful parrots squawked their cheerful greetings. Timid deer trod warily through the dappled shade, and snakes and other slithering creatures slid through the layer of moist leaves, which formed a soft carpet underfoot.
The King of all these beasts was a ferocious and cruel Lion.
This fierce Lion spent his days hunting and feasting. He would pad softly through the green undergrowth hunting his prey, brushing the straight stalks of grass aside with his powerful shoulders. His golden shaggy mane framed his face. When he opened his mouth, two rows of razor-sharp teeth gleamed in the sunlight.
When he roared, the whole jungle shook. Monkeys fell from the trees, the birds flew this way and that, the deer pricked up their ears and fled in panic, and all the other jungle creatures ran for their lives.
One day, the Lion was eating greedily, when a bone stuck in his throat. He swallowed hard and shook his head, but the bone was stuck fast. He roared in pain and anger, and every creature in the jungle ran, flew, swam or slithered away as fast as they could.
The Lion could not eat, he could not sleep, and the bone made his throat swell, so that it was even hard for him to breath. Was this the end of that fierce and cruel Lion?
A day or so after the Lion’s troubles began, a beautiful white Crane was flying over the jungle. He heard the Lion roaring piteously and flew down to see what all the fuss was about. He saw the Lion pacing back and forth, shaking his head, and roaring.
Unafraid, the Crane settled a safe distance away, on the branch of a nearby tree. The other jungle creatures, seeing the fearless Crane, came creeping back to see what would happen.
The Crane watched the Lion for a few minutes and then spoke.
“Oh Friend,” he said, addressing the Lion, “you appear troubled. What is ailing you? Can I be of service?”
The Lion looked to the left. He looked to the right. He turned around one way, and then he turned around the other way.
“Who is speaking? Show yourself,” he said in a rasping voice, for the bone was making it difficult to speak.
“Up here, Friend,” replied the Crane, “Up in the tree. Why are you pacing back and forth and growling like that?”
The Lion, even though he was furious and hungry, said, “I am suffering terribly. The other day, when I was enjoying a meal, a bone became stuck in my throat. Try as I might, I cannot get rid of it. It causes me great discomfort; I cannot eat and I cannot drink. It is making my throat swell and it is getting harder to speak and breath. It causes me great pain, and all I can do is pace back and forth and roar in anger.”
“Oh Friend,” said the Lion piteously, “Trust me. I would not dream of eating you! Only fly down and free me from this terrible plight, and I will surely be grateful.”
So the Crane flew down from the safety of his perch in the tree and fluttered to a halt near the Lion. All the other jungle creatures looked on in amazement, hardly daring to breathe as the Crane walked calmly up to the mighty King of the Jungle.
“Lie down here, my Friend,” said the Crane, “And open your mouth as wide as you can. I will need to look down into your throat to find the bone.”
The Lion did as he was told and lay down as gently as a kitten. He opened his mouth as wide as he could. The Crane saw the two rows of razor-sharp teeth gleaming in the sunlight. So, before he put his head into the Lion’s mouth, he picked up a stick and wedged it between the jaws of the Lion, holding his mouth open.
Only then did the Crane lean down and put his head into the Lion’s mouth. He peered down the Lion’s throat and saw the bone stuck there.
He pecked once. He pecked twice. He pecked a third time. The bone flew from the Lion’s throat.
As the Crane withdrew his head from the Lion’s mouth he gave the stick a sharp rap with his long pointy beak, and it followed the bone out of the Lion’s mouth and landed nearby on the grass. As the Lion’s jaws snapped shut, the Crane flew safely back to his perch in the tree.
The Lion was overjoyed. He roared his delight. All the other jungle creatures scattered once more in fear. The Lion frisked back and forth, and then ran off into the jungle in search of a tasty meal, without so much as a “Thank You” to his kind rescuer.
A few days later the Crane was once again sitting on a tree branch preening his feathers, when he heard the low growling of the Lion not far off in a nearby jungle clearing.
“I will go and test my new friend Mr Lion”, the Crane thought to himself. And he flew off to find the Lion.
He had not flown far when he saw that the Lion had settled down to his meal. So the Crane again landed, out of harm’s way, on a nearby tree branch. The other jungle creatures carefully crept closer to see what would happen this time. The monkeys took up their station among the leafy branches of the trees, right next to the parrots and other colourful birds. The deer peeped from behind thick bushes, anxious to remain hidden, but equally anxious to hear what the Crane would say to the Lion. And all the slithery, slidey, crawly creatures sat on the ground, peeking out from behind rocks and twigs.
“Hello, Old Friend,” said the Crane, “I see you have fully recovered from your sore throat. I wonder, what gift will you give me out of gratitude for the great service that I did for you?”
“Gratitude? Gift? ” growled the Lion, looking up from his food, “Ha!” he roared. “The fact that I did not eat you, the fact that you are still alive, the fact that you once had your head between my gleaming teeth, the fact that you can sit up there on your tree branch speaking nonsense to me, the King of Beasts, is gift enough. Come down here and you’ll soon see what sort of gift I have for you. I have two shining rows of razor-sharp gifts for you, my talkative Friend.”
Hearing these words, the Crane, perching on a tree branch, turned to all the other jungle creatures and delighted them with this poem:
Stay away, stay away
Keep your distance, my Friends,
Of one who pretends,
Run away, run away
From him with no gratitude,
Do no good deed
For one with this attitude!
The Moral of this Tale is:
Avoid those who feel no gratitude for a good deed.