The Love of Life

17. The Sami Who Rescued the Ants


A little monk who is not old enough to get ordained is called a ‘sami.’

Once there was a little sami who studied Buddhism with a very wise Teacher. He was a very good student. He was respectful, sincere, and obedient. He learned very quickly.

The Teacher was so wise that he could foretell the future. The Teacher knew from the beginning that his little student could not live very long. One day, he counted and realized that the little student had only seven days left to live. He felt very sad.

The Teacher called the little sami to him. He said, “Hey, little sami, you haven’t seen your mother for a long time. I think you need a vacation. You run on home and visit your mother, and come back eight days from now.” He did this so at least the little sami could die in his own parents’ home.

When the little sami left, the Teacher was very sorry. He thought he would never see his little student again.

Eight days later, who should show up but the little sami! His Teacher was delighted, but he was also puzzled, because the little student looked wonderful. He didn’t look like someone who had been about to die.

Finally, the Teacher decided to find out what had happened. He told the boy,” Son, I have foretold the future many times, and I have never been wrong. I sent you home because you were doomed to die within seven days, but the seven days have already passed. Not only are you still alive, but you look great. The image of death has left you. How did you do it?”

The little sami was thunderstruck. He didn’t have any idea how to answer his Teacher, so the Teacher entered the settled state of meditation. Before long, he understood.

“Son, on the way home, did you save some ants?”

“Yes, Teacher, on the way home I saw a whole bunch of ants trapped by some water. They were about to drown, so I got a piece of wood and rescued them.”

“That’s it, then. Your kind heart has earned you a long life. The wise men of old said, ‘Saving one life earns more merit than building a pagoda of seven stories.’ You have saved hundreds of lives, so you will live a very long time now.

“You have earned a good future, but you still have to keep working to save living creatures. You must spread the message of the Buddha. Teach all people to be merciful. Tell everyone not to kill living creatures. Let animals live in peace.”

The little sami never forgot his Teacher’s words. He worked very hard and became a great monk. He lived for a long, long time.

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