Children hold within them a certain inner spirituality and happiness that we as adults strive to achieve. Over the years, we lose the natural ability to develop inner peace, which is what allows us to feel comfortable with ourselves and with the outside world.
Also, as a society, we disconnect our children from themselves. We tell them not to cry despite their injuries. We tell them not to yell, not to play. Regrettably, we urge children to not to listen to what their inner voice asks of them, but rather to pay attention to what their environment thinks is the most appropriate.
There is a growing awareness of this mistake, which feeds our interest to provide our children with an education which will allow them to grow up healthy and aware of themselves. We have a powerful tool to aid us in this educational task: stories.
Also, the rise of Buddhism and Eastern wisdom is, in turn, helping boost a style of thought that is more consistent with the objective we have laid out. That’s why in this article, we will share with you a few Buddhist tales that you can delight your children with.
Siddharta and the swan
A long time ago in India, there lived a king and a queen. One day the queen had a baby. They called him Prince Siddhartha. The king and the queen were very happy. They invited a wise old man to come to the kingdom to predict the child’s fortune.
–Please, tell us – said the queen to the wise old man.
–What will our son grow up to be?
–Your son will be a special child, – he said, – One day he will become a great king.
–Hurrah!- exclaimed the king.- He will be a king like me.
–But,– said the wise man-, when the child grows up, he might abandon the palace because he wants to help people.
–He will do no such thing!– yelled the king while he yanked the child away from the man. – He will be a great king!
The king watched his son all the time. He made sure that his son always had the best of everything. He wanted Siddhartha to enjoy his life as a prince. He wanted him to become king. When the Prince turned seven years old, his father called him and said to his son:
–Siddhartha, one day you will be king, it is time that you start preparing. There are many things you need to learn. Here are the best professors in the world. They will teach you everything you need to know.
–I will do my best, father – answered the prince.
Siddhartha began his lessons. He didn’t learn to read and write, but rather how to ride a horse. He learned to wield a bow and arrow, and how to fight and use a sword. These were the skills that a brave king might need. Siddhartha learned his lessons well. Like his cousin, Devadatta, because both of the boys were of the same age. All of the time the king had an eye on his son.
–The prince is so strong! How smart. What a quick learner. He will become great and famous!!
When the Prince Siddhartha finished his lessons, he liked to play in the garden of the palace. There lived all kinds of animals: squirrels, rabbits, birds and deer. Siddhartha liked to watch them. He could sit and observe them so quietly and still that they were not afraid of getting close to him. Siddhartha liked playing near the lake. Each year, a pair of beautiful white swans came to nest there. He watched them behind the reeds. He wanted to know how many eggs there were in the nest, because he liked to watch the chicks learn how to swim.
One afternoon Siddhartha was at the lake. Suddenly, he heard a sound above him. He looked up. Three beautiful sans were flying above his head. “More swans”, thought Siddhartha, “I hope they nest in our lake”. But just at that moment one of the swans fell from the sky. “Oh no!” shouted Siddhartha, as he ran towards where the swan fell.
“What happened?” “There is an arrow in your wing”, he said. “Someone has hurt you.” Siddhartha spoke to the bird very softly, so that it wouldn’t be frightened. He started caressing it sweetly. Very delicately he removed the arrow. He took his shirt off and wrapped the swan up carefully. “You’ll be just fine very soon,” he said. “I’ll see you later.”
Right at that moment his cousin Devadatta ran up. “That’s my swan,” he shouted. “I hit it, give it to me”. “It doesn’t belong to you,” said Siddhartha, “it is a wild swan”. “I hit him with my arrow, so it is mine. Give it to me now”. “No,- said Siddhartha– It is wounded and we have to help it”.
The two boys started arguing. “Stop,” said Siddhartha. “In our kingdom, if people can’t come to an agreement on something, they ask the king for help. Let’s look for him now”. The two boys went out looking for the king. “Don’t you see how busy we are? Go play some place else.” “We haven’t come to play, we have come to ask for your help” -said Siddhartha.
“Wait!” exclaimed the king when he heard this. “Don’t turn them away. They are within their right to ask for our help”. He was pleased that Siddhartha knew how to act in such a situation. “Let the boys tell us their story. We will listen and give them our verdict.”
First, Devadatta told his version of the story. “I hurt the swan, it belongs to me.” The ministers nodded in agreement. That was the law of the kingdom. An animal or bird belonged to the person who managed to harm it. Then Siddhartha told his version of the story. “The swan is not dead.” He argued. “He is hurt, but he is still alive.”
The ministers were perplexed. Who did the swan belong to? “I think I can help you,” said a voice. An old man walked through the door. “If this swan could talk,” said the old man, “It would tell us that it wants to fly and swim with the other wild swans. Nobody wants to feel pain or death. The same is felt by the swan. The swan wouldn’t go with he who tried to kill him. He would go with he who tried to help him.”
This whole time Devadatta remained in silence. He had never thought about if animals had feelings, too. He was sorry for having hurt the bird. “Devadatta, you can help me take care of the bird, if you’d like,” said Siddhartha.
Siddhartha cared for the swan until he was well again. One day, when his wing healed, he took him to the river. “It’s time for us to part,” said Siddhartha. Siddhartha and Devadatta watched as the swan swam towards deep waters. In that moment they heard the sound of wings above them. “Look,” said Devadatta, “the others have returned for her.” The swan flew high into the sky and joined her friends. Then they all flew over the lake one last time. “They are saying thank you,” said Siddhartha, as the swans faded into the mountains in the North.
The wisdom of the three crows
In every being’s life comes the day in which they mature and become a member of the community of adults. The crows are no exception to this. One day, three young crows had to undergo a test performed by the older crows who wanted to see if the young crows were mature enough to fly with the adults. The chief of the clan asked the first crow:
“What do you think crows should fear the most in this world?”
The young crow reflected upon the question for a moment and answered: “The most terrifying thing in the world for a crow is an arrow, because it can kill a crow with one strike.” When the old wise men heard this, they found that this was a very good answer. They raised their wings and shouted with glee. “You are right”, said the chief crow. “We welcome you into our community”.
Next, the chief asked the second youngster:
“And what do you think we should fear the most?”
“I think that a good archer is more dangerous than an arrow” said the young crow. “Because only an archer can aim an arrow at its target and shoot it. Thus, without the archer, an arrow is no more than a piece of wood, like the branch I’m standing upon now.” The crows decided that this was the most intelligent answer they had ever heard. The parents of this young crow shouted with glee and looked at their son full of pride. “You speak with great intelligence. We are very happy to be able to welcome you into our community.” Then the leader of the crows asked the third youngster:
“And you? What do you think we should fear the most?”
“None of what has been said until now” said the third bird. “What we should fear the most is an amateur archer”. What a strange answer! the crows were confused, and they felt embarrassed for the young bird. Most of them thought that this bird was not yet wise enough to understand the question. Until the chief asked him again: “What do you mean?”
“My second colleague was right; without an archer, there is no reason to fear an arrow. But, the arrow from the bow of a good archer will go where it needs to go. Therefore, if you hear the swoosh of an arrow leaving a bow, all you have to do is fly right or left in order to dodge the arrow. But, you never know where the arrow of an amateur archer is going. Even if you fly away, the chances of the arrow striking you is just as high. One simply doesn’t know what is best, to move or to stay still.”
When the other crows heard this, they understood that this young crow possessed true wisdom. That he could really see behind and beyond things. They regarded him with respect and admiration. Not long after, they asked him to become the new chief of the group.