I heard an extraordinary story today that I would like to share with you. It is a story told by Ajahn Brahm. If you would like to hear the entire Dharma talk, you can find it here. Start at about minute 48 for this story.
You may know that Buddhism has a history with animals. Many monasteries became sanctuaries for animals. The animals seem to know that they are safe there. At Abhayagiri Monastery in California, there are many deer. And in Thailand there is the famous Tiger monk, where even animals that are natural enemies live together in harmony.
Ajahn Brahm’s story is about a monk who went to live alone in the jungle. After a while, even a human being just becomes part of the scenery. Even I have experienced this here in New Mexico. Especially when you are meditating, animals have no reason to fear you. They will simply go about their business. When I was in India I meditated at Jetavana. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by monkeys and parrots.
So this monk was living in the jungle in his little hut. Sometimes he would leave a little food for the animals. Probably without even knowing it, he earned their trust. They knew that they were safe around him.
One night he heard a knock on the door. Now, you can imagine that he wondered who could possibly be at his hut in the middle of the night. When he opened the door, he saw a female monkey. She was holding a baby in her arms. She offered the baby to the monk, who saw that it was dead. The grief on her face was obvious. But the mother monkey clearly knew that there was something kind and compassionate about the monk. She was looking for comfort. So he held the baby for a while and then gently gave it back to the mother, who took it and disappeared back into the jungle.