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Strange/Amusing/High "huh?" factor Stories from the Canon 🙃

I invite everyone to post a summary of stories from the suttas and vinaya that they find interesting, incongruous, amusing or with a high “huh?” factor.

For example, and to start the ball rolling, there’s this nugget from the Vinaya Vibhanga.

Vibhanga to Paccitiya 22

Story:
It was Venerable Cūḷapanthaka’s turn to again give the nuns their exortation. He gave them the same exortation as he always does so the nuns grumbled among themselves about this.

Venerable Cūḷapanthaka gets wind of the grumbling so he “rose up into the air, walked back and forth in space, and he stood, sat down, and lay down there. He emitted smoke and fire, and he disappeared, all the while speaking the same utterance and many other sayings by the Buddha.” This lasted well into the evening until after dark.

The nuns were very impressed saying "No previous instruction has been as effective as this one from Venerable Cūḷapanthaka!”

However, Venerable Cūḷapanthaka got told off by the Buddha for instructing nuns after sunset.

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Ud 3.2 Nanda Sutta - Very clever :wink:

PS: I struggled to put the link in like @666tomanderson . I hope you all find it and enjoy it :slightly_smiling_face:

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I like the Nanda story! But it starts already at SN 21.8:

SN21.8:1.2: Then Venerable Nanda—the Buddha’s cousin on his mother’s side—dressed in nicely pressed and ironed robes, applied eyeshadow, and took a polished black bowl. He went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side.

Quite an impressive appearance! But the Buddha isn’t that impressed and exhorts Nanda on the appropriate behavior for a monk. At the end of the short Sutta it says:

SN21.8:3.1: Then some time later Venerable Nanda stayed in the wilderness, ate only alms-food, wore rag robes, and lived without concern for sensual pleasures.

The phrase “some time later” does of course give no idea how that change came about. To learn about these circumstances, you have to take the detour to Ud 3.2, as stated above by @Alex70!

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Thanks @Alex70 and @sabbamitta. Nice one! “dove-footed nymphs”??? :dove:

Here’s another one from the Vinaya, this time from the Khandakas (A rich source of all things strange/amusing and huh?)

Ajahn Bramali’s translation of Khandaka 14

The story I’d like to share is about Dabba the Mallian who was enlightened by the age of 7 and was made the assigner of lodgings and meals for the sangha of monks.

Because of one of Venerable Dabba’s psychic gifts, visiting monks would intentionally arrive after the sun had set and asked to be assigned lodgings in remote locations.

The venerable Dabba the Mallian, having attained the condition of heat, went in front of these (monks) with his finger glowing, and they by this light went behind the venerable Dabba the Mallian. The venerable Dabba the Mallian assigned them lodgings … (and) the venerable Dabba the Mallian, having assigned lodgings to these, went back again to the Bamboo Grove.

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I also love AN 8.14 about wild colts:

AN8.14:1.1: “Mendicants, I will teach you about eight wild colts and eight defects in horses, and about eight wild people and eight defects in people.

It’s simply hilarious how the horses are described, and how well the manners of the people correspond to these descriptions. My friend who has a horse stable couldn’t stop laughing: “It’s so realistic!”, she said. And added: “And when seeing certain people now, I totally see which one of the horses they correspond to …”

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mn1 ending

“Mendicants, I will teach you the explanation of the root of all things. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

That is what the Buddha said. But the mendicants were not happy with what the Buddha said.

:rofl:

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Thanks @Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta for reminding us of that unique ending to a discourse by the Buddha. :anjal:

The origin story to the laying down of the second Parajika (offence entailing automatic disrobing) can be found at https://suttacentral.net/pli-tv-bu-vb-pj2/en/brahmali (Ajahn Brahmali’s translation)

It involves Venerable Daniya, a ex-potter who ordained as a bhikkhu and built himself a simple hut out of grass and sticks. While he was on alms round his hut was demolished three different times by women collecting sticks for firewood.

Then Venerable Dhaniya thought: “Three times this has happened. But I am well-trained and experienced in my own craft, the potterʼs craft. Perhaps I should knead mud myself and make a hut consisting of nothing but clay?”
Then Venerable Dhaniya did just that. He then collected grass, wood and cow-dung and baked his hut. It was a beautiful, lovely and charming little hut, and it was red just like a scarlet rain-mite. And (when hit) it sounded just like the sound of a bell.
Then the Master, descending from Mount Vultureʼs Peak with a number of monks, saw the hut. He then addressed the monks:
“Monks, what is this beautiful, lovely and charming thing, which is red like a scarlet rain-mite?” The monks then informed the Master. The Buddha, the Master, was critical, saying:
“It is not suitable, monks, for that foolish man, it is not fit, it is not becoming, it is not worthy of a recluse, it is not allowable, it should not be done. For how could that foolish man make a hut out of nothing but clay? Certainly this foolish man can have no consideration, compassion and mercy for living beings. Go, monks, and demolish this hut. Do not let future generations take up the destruction of living beings. And, monks, a hut consisting of nothing but clay should not be made. If one does, there is an offence of bad conduct.”

The story continues as Venerable Daniya is determined to build a more substantial hut and procures wood for that purpose from the kings store under false pretences. This results in the Parajika rule against theft.

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A running theme I’m always amused by is whenever Mahamogallana proposes to fix a problem with a display of preternatural powers, and the Buddha discourages him. Taking a step back, appreciating the stories as legend, it’s just funny to think of this being having spent countless lifetimes accumulating psychic powers with the payoff being that he (almost) never gets to use them.

I also appreciate the story of Dabba’s death, because it’s an amazingly hilarious example of a nonverbal pun.

I just imagine Ananda hearing the exchange, thinking, “oh yes, I know what’s happening, Dabba is saying he’ll be extinguished without remainder as a metaphor for the passing away of an enlightened being.” And then his jaw drops as he’s caught off guard when Dabba literally is consumed by flame and extinguished without any smoke or ash as remainder.

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Thanks for that story @MinotaurWarrior :slight_smile: I’m a big fan of levitating monks too! One of my favourites is from Khandaka 15 (the link is to Ajahn Brahmali’s translation)

Story:
A prominent merchant had a valuable block of sandalwood carved into a beautiful bowl and had it placed high atop a succession of bamboo poles making it impossible to retrieve the bowl simply by climbing. He made it known that anybody that could collect it using their psychic abilities could have the bowl. After some time …

Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja then rose up in the air, took hold of that bowl, and circled around Rājagaha three times.
Just then that merchant together with his wives and children was standing in his own house with joined palms raised in homage, thinking, “May Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja land right here at our house.” And Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja did just that. The merchant then took the bowl from his hands, filled it with expensive non-staple food, and gave it back to Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja, who then left for the monastery.
People heard that Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja had taken down the merchant’s bowl, and making a great uproar, they followed right behind him.
Hearing all the noise, the Buddha asked Venerable Ānanda what it was, and Ānanda explained to him all that had happened …” (after rebuking Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja) … the Buddha gave a teaching and addressed the monks:
“You should not show a superhuman ability, a wonder of supernormal power, to householders. If you do, you commit an offense of wrong conduct.
Now destroy that wooden bowl and make it into splinters. Give these to the monks to use as scent in ointment.

The Buddha then laid down a rule prohibiting the use of wooden bowls.

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Those that are after Supernatural powers specifically do not make good devotees of their own religions, and in Buddhism there is clearly no need of a separate Dhamma to cultivate such powers. Sure, it may he useful to learn to walk through walls or levitate, and you can if you want to, but it can become a major distraction in Spiritual Life if one throws down the study of the Dhamma and runs away with ascetics and begs them for many years inbetween impersonal meditation to show them how to fly. The Dhamma is the true guide and gift towards Enlightenment, and Omniscience and the natural ability to do miraculous things comes with Buddhahood.

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Another wonderful story from Khandaka 1 (which is mainly concerned about ordination) is about a serpent\dragon\“naga” who wanted to ordain as a monk. Ajahn Brahmali’s translation of the full story can be found at https://suttacentral.net/pli-tv-kd1/en/brahmali

At one time there was a certain dragon who was troubled, ashamed, and disgusted with his existence as a dragon. He thought, “How can I get released from existence as a dragon and quickly become human?” And it occurred to him, “These Sakyan ascetics live according to the Truth. They’re celibate and their conduct is good, and they’re truthful, moral, and have a good character. If I was to go forth with them, I would be released from existence as a dragon and quickly become human.”
Then, taking on the appearance of a young brahmin, that dragon went to the monks and asked for the going forth. The monks gave him the going forth and the full ordination.
Soon afterwards that dragon was sharing the outermost dwelling with a certain monk. After getting up early one morning, that monk walked back and forth outside. When the monk had left, the dragon relaxed and fell asleep, as a result of which the serpent filled the whole dwelling, its coils even coming out of the windows. Just then that monk decided to go back inside. When he opened the door, he saw the serpent filling the whole dwelling, and being terrified, he screamed. Monks came running to and asked him, “Why are you screaming?” And he told them.
The dragon woke up from the noise and sat down on his seat. The monks asked him who he was. He replied, “I’m a dragon.”
“Why did you do this?” And the dragon told them what had happened.

As a result the Buddha laid down the rule that animals are not allowed to be ordained.

Thus to this day, one of the questions that is asked during the ordination ceremony is “Are you a naga?” :snake:

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I wonder if little animals would be able to fit in little Buddhist robes anyway.

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Here’s a jataka type of story from the Bhikkhu Khandaka section of the Vinaya. Ajahn Brahmali’s translation of the full story can be found at https://suttacentral.net/pli-tv-kd16/en/brahmali

The background to the story:

When the Buddha had stayed at Vesālī for as long as he liked, he set out wandering toward Sāvatthī. On that occasion the monks who were the pupils of the monks from the group of six went ahead of the Sangha headed by the Buddha and took possession of dwellings and beds, thinking, “This will be for our preceptors and teachers, and also for ourselves.”

For those who haven’t heard about them, the “group of six monks” was a group of monks who continually misbehaved and caused many of the rules to be laid down. There was also a “group of six nuns” which behaved in a similar way and caused many of the rules for nuns to be laid down. :scream:

Venerable Sāriputta followed behind the Sangha. Being unable to get a bed—the dwellings and beds having all been taken—he sat down at the foot of a tree. After getting up early in the morning, the Buddha cleared his throat. Sāriputta, too, cleared his throat. “Who is there?”
“It’s me, Venerable Sir, Sāriputta.”
“Why are you sitting here?”
Sāriputta told the Buddha what had happened. Soon afterwards the Buddha had the Sangha gathered and questioned the monks: …

The Buddha criticized the behaviour of the pupils of the group of six monks and tells a story to the monks …

… “Once upon a time, monks, there was a great banyan tree on the slope of the Himalayas. Three friends lived near it: a partridge, a monkey, and an elephant. They were disrespectful, undeferential, and rude toward one another. They thought, ‘If only we knew which one of us was the oldest. We would honour, respect, and esteem him, and we would wait for his instructions.’
The partridge and the monkey then asked the elephant, ‘What’s your first memory?’
‘When I was a young, I stepped over this banyan tree, keeping it between my thighs, and the top shoots touched my belly. That’s my first memory.’
The partridge and the elephant asked the monkey, ‘What’s your first memory?’
‘When I was a young, I sat on the ground and ate the top shoots of the banyan tree. That’s my first memory.’
The monkey and the elephant asked the partridge, ‘What’s your first memory?’
‘In such and such a spot there was a great banyan tree. I ate one of its fruits and defecated here. This banyan tree has grown from that. Well then, I must be the oldest one.’
The monkey and the elephant said to the partridge, ‘You’re the oldest of us. We will honour, respect, and esteem you, and we’ll wait for your instructions.’

The Buddha then laid down the rule:

“You should do these things according to seniority: bowing down, standing up, raising your joined palms, doing acts of respect, giving the best seat, giving the best water, and giving the best almsfood." …

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Here’s one from the Suttas that some may not have come across. There are a lot of great similies and stories in DN23 but this one is my favourite. Bhante Sujato’s translation (and the rest of the sutta and this story) can be found here: https://suttacentral.net/dn23/en/sujato

The story:
Two friends went in search of valuables and found some hemp. They each made a bundle and carried as much as they could. As they continued on, they found hemp thread. One of the friends discarded his bundle of hemp and gathered up the (more valuable) hemp thread. The other man said:

‘I’ve already carried this bundle of hemp a long way, and it’s well tied up. It’s good enough for me, you understand.’

As they continued their journey they came across hemp cloth, flax, linen thread, linen cloth, silk, silk thread, silk cloth, iron, copper, tin, lead, silver, and gold abandoned.

… with the one friend swapping the less valuable load for the more valuable but his friend continued to carry the original hemp bundle.

Seeing (the gold), one friend said to the other, ‘This pile of gold is just what we wanted all those other things for! Well then, my friend, let’s abandon our bundles, and both take a bundle of gold and go on.’

However …

Then they returned to their own village. When one friend returned with a bundle of hemp, they didn’t please their parents, their partners and children, or their friends and colleagues. And they got no pleasure and happiness on that account. But when the other friend returned with a bundle of gold, they pleased their parents, their partners and children, and their friends and colleagues. And they got much pleasure and happiness on that account.

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That reminds me of my favorite simile - the man carrying dried dung in the rain.

I don’t have the citation on hand right now, but the mental image is just so viscerally striking I will never forget it. It’s so disgusting everyone would be immediately repulsed, but we’ve all probably carried on while doing something even stupider.

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Hello @MinotaurWarrior . It just so happens that the simile of the dung carrier is also in DN23! The whole sutta is about Venerable Kassapa trying to change the chieftain Pāyāsi’s wrong views and includes the simile of the dung carrier and the simile of the man who carried hemp.

“Master Kassapa, this is my doctrine and view: ‘There’s no afterlife. No beings are reborn spontaneously. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds.’”

Venerable Kassapa gives lots of similes in an attempt to dissuade Pāyāsi from his nihilistic views.

The chieftain Pāyāsi eventually is convinced, goes for refuge and gets his student Uttara to organise a “stingy” sacrifice of “rough gruel”. Subsequently Uttara organised a thoughtful, generous sacrifice.

The chieftain Pāyāsi eventually dies and after his death was reborn as one of the gods in the realm of the Four Great Kings. Venerable Gavampati, in his meditation, visits that realm and meets Pāyāsi and asks him:

“Didn’t you have the view that there’s no afterlife, no beings are reborn spontaneously, and there’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds?”

“It’s true, sir, I did have such a view. But Venerable Kassapa the Prince dissuaded me from that harmful misconception.”

The kicker is that Pāyāsi was reborn into a lower realm than his student Uttara because of the amount of care that went into each sacrifice demonstrating the truth of the fact that there is a “fruit or result of good and bad deeds.” :slightly_smiling_face: :anjal:

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While on the subject of dung … :poop:

There’s the simile of the dung beetle in https://suttacentral.net/sn17.5/en/sujato (Bhante Sujato’s translation) who is infatuated with her pile of dung. The Buddha compares the dung beetle to the mendicant who is infatuated with possessions, honour and popularity.

Suppose there was a dung-eating beetle full of dung, stuffed with dung, and before her was a huge pile of dung. She’d look down on other beetles, thinking: ‘For I am a dung-eating beetle full of dung, stuffed with dung, and before me is a huge pile of dung.’

In the same way, take a certain mendicant whose mind is overcome and overwhelmed by possessions, honour, and popularity. They robe up in the morning and, taking their bowl and robe, enter the village or town for alms. There they eat as much as they like, get invited back tomorrow, and have plenty of alms-food. When they get back to the monastery, they boast in the middle of a group of mendicants: ‘I ate as much as I liked, got invited back tomorrow, and had plenty of alms-food. I get robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick. But these other mendicants have little merit or significance, so they don’t get these things.’ With a mind overcome and overwhelmed by possessions, honour, and popularity, they look down on other good-hearted mendicants. This will be for their lasting harm and suffering.

So brutal are possessions, honour, and popularity. …”

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@666tomanderson
There is a story of 2 monks (spiritual friends) who die. One gets reborn in the heavenly realms and is looking for his friend but can’t find him. Finally he finds him as a Beatle (worm?) who lives happily in the dung. The former monk desperately tries to get him out there and to convince him that the heavenly realm is much better. He also tries to remind him of their past as monks but the Beatle happily jumps back again and again into his dung and the monk has to give up at the end, realising everyone’s own Kamma.
Do you know this story? I found it a great lesson! :bug: :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi @Alex70 That’s a story that Ajahn Brahm likes to tell but I don’t think it’s from the Canon. I know the story well. It was the story that prompted me to ordain with Ajahn Brahm ( I disrobed a few years ago but better to be an ex monk :monastic: than an ex parrot :parrot: :slight_smile: )

There’s a version of the “worm in the dung” story taken from one of Ajahn Brahm’s talks here: https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajahn_Brahm_On_Making_a_Mistake.htm

:anjal:

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Here’s a story I find amusing and informative from the Linked Discourses. Bhante Sujato’s translation can be found at: https://suttacentral.net/sn10.3/en/sujato

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates the names of the non-human beings as the yakkha named Khara and the yakkha Sūciloma (“needle hairs”) Bhante Sujato’s translation is great!

Now at that time the native spirits Shaggy and Spiky were passing by not far from the Buddha.
So Shaggy said to Spiky, “That’s an ascetic.”
“That’s no ascetic, he’s a faker! I’ll soon find out whether he’s an ascetic or a faker.”
Then Spiky went up to the Buddha and leaned up against his body, but the Buddha pulled away.
Then Spiky said to the Buddha, “Are you afraid, ascetic?”
“No, sir, I’m not afraid. But your touch is nasty.”

Spiky then goes on to threaten the Buddha if he can’t answer

“Where do greed and hate come from?
From where do discontent, desire, and terror spring?
Where do the mind’s thoughts originate,
like a crow let loose by boys.”

The Buddha answers without difficulty :slight_smile:

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