The Ungrateful Sons



The Ungrateful Sons :



What Buddha said… : During the rutting season, the elephant called Dhanapala is uncontrollable. Held in captivity, he eats not a morsel, yearning for his native forest (i.e. longing to look after his parents).

ONCE THERE WAS AN OLD MAN who was very well off, and when his four sons got married, he gave each of them a generous portion of his wealth as a wedding present.

Then his wife died, and although his sons affectionately looked after him after that, they did so with a devious ulterior motive: they wanted to possess the rest of his fortune. And they finally succeeded, leaving their aging father with hardly a cent left to his name.

Unable to manage by himself, the father went to stay at his eldest son’s home. Not more than a few days later, however, he was driven out by his nagging daughter-in-law who did not want to have anything to do with an unwelcomed “burden" in her household. To add insult to injury, his ungrateful son raised no objection to his wife’s doing. The poor old man was to receive the same mean hospitality at the house of each of his other three sons.

Helpless and miserable, the father went to seek solace and advice from the Buddha, with nothing but a staff and a bowl that he could call his own. After the old man recounted how his sons had mistreated him, the Buddha told him how to go about teaching his greedy and ungrateful sons a lesson. The Buddha instructed him to say the following words whenever he found himself in a crowd of people: “My greedy sons are deceitful and unkind. They call me father but do not understand the meaning of the word. Now that I have given them all of my wealth, they have let their wives drive me out of their houses and treat me like a beggar. Alas, I can depend more on this old and crooked staff of mine than I can on my own four sons!"

As advised by the Buddha, the old man went about announcing the cause of his wretched condition whenever he came across an assembly of people. Then one day he came upon a crowd in which his ungrateful sons were also present. When he had finished his plaintive announcement, the people listening to him were filled with pity. Their pity, however, turned into rage once they realized that the very sons the old man was complaining about were among them. The sons had to flee for their lives.

When they were sure they were out of danger, the sons sat down and discussed their poor father’s situation. They ashamedly admitted that they indeed had been ungrateful and disloyal to a father who had always been but good and generous to them. Filled with remorse, they went to look for their father, and finding him, asked for his forgiveness. They also promised that they would look after him and respect and honor him as a father should be. They also warned their wives to take good care of their father or else they would be in great trouble indeed.

One day, the eldest son invited the Buddha to his house for a meal at which time the Buddha gave a sermon on the merits that one gains by tending to the welfare of one’s parents. He included in his sermon the story of Dhanapala, an elephant who cared so much for his parents that when he got caught, was unable to eat because he was so worried about them.

What Buddha said… : During the rutting season, the elephant called Dhanapala is uncontrollable. Held in captivity, he eats not a morsel, yearning for his native forest (i.e. longing to look after his parents).


The Ungrateful Sons


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