This story was delivered by the Buddha while he was living in Jetavana monastery in Savatthi with regard to a disheartened monk who became negligent when it came to meditation.
After meditating for five years in the forest and still not achieving any spiritual results, this monk decided to give up meditation, and he returned to Jetavana monastery to see the Buddha. On seeing him, the Buddha asked the reason for his coming to Jetavanararma and questioned him as to why he gave up meditation in the forest. Further, he said, “In a previous life, by working hard you not only saved your life, but also the lives of your fellows in a caravan of 500 carts when in a sandy desert. So why now have you given up your efforts?”
The monk then asked the Buddha to disclose the ancient story. And the Buddha disclosed it in this way: Once upon a time a certain tradesman Was leading a caravan to another country to sell his goods. Along the Way ! they came to the edge of a severe hot – sand desert. They asked about, and found that during the daytime the sun heats up the fine sand until it’s as hot as charcoal, so no one can Walk on it – not even bullocks or camcels ! So the carrivan leader hired a desert guide, one who could follow the stars, so they could travel only at night when the sand cools down. They began the dangerous nighttime journey across tlie desert.
A couple nights later, after eating their evening meal, and waiting for the stand to cool, they started out again. Later that night the desert guide, who was driving the first cart, Saw from the stars that they were getting close to the other side of the desert. He had also overcaten, so that wlien he relaxed, he dozed off to sleep. Then the bullocks who, of course couldn’ t tell directions by reading the stars, gradually turned to the side and went in a big wide circle until they ended up at the same place they had started from !
By then it was morning, and the people realized they were back at the same Spot they’d camped at the day before, They lost heart and began to cry about their condition. Since the desert crossing Wis Supposed to be over by now, they had no more Water and were afraid they would die of thirst, They even began to blame the caravan leader and the desert guide We can do nothing without water ! ”, they complained.
Then the tradesman thought to himself, If I lose courage now, in the middle of this disastrous Situation, my leadership has no meaning. If I fall to Weeping and regretting this misfortune, and do nothing , all these goods and bullocks and even the lives of the people, including myself. may be lost. must be energetic and face the situation ! So he began walking back and forth, trying to think out a plan to save then all.
Remaining alert, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a small clump of grass. He thought, Without water, no plant could live in this desert. So he called over the most energetic of his fellow travelers and asked them to dig up the ground on that very spot. They dug and dug, and after a while they got down to a large stone. Seeing it they stopped , and began to blame the leader again, saying, This effort is useless, We’re just Wasting our time !” But the tradesman replied, “No, no, my friends, if we give up the effort we will all be ruined and our poor animals will die – let us be encouraged !”
As he said this, he got down into the hole, put his ear to the stone, and heard the sound of flowing Water. Immediately, he called over a boy who had been digging and Said,
“If you give up , we will all perish – so take this heavy hammer and strike the rock.”
Credit: STORIES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT BEING JTAKAS
INTERPRETED BY KURUNEGODA PIYATISSA MAHA THERA
STORIES TOLD BYTODD ANDERSON