The four harmonious Friends
April 16, 2021
The Four Harmonious Friends
These four harmonious animals represent the four terrestrial habitats of the sky (Bird), tree (monkey), ground (elephant), and the underground (hare). The banyan tree is portrayed as a fruit-bearing tree. Buddha related this story to the Tittira Jakata parable of the "Honoring of Age".
"Once, beneath a great banyan tree, there lived three friends, a bird, a monkey, and an elephant. Their mutual respect had diminished. So, in order to determine who was the most senior of all, they began to discuss the age of the banyan tree, where all of them used to dwell. The elephant first told, how he was a baby when the tree was only a small bush. Then the monkey spoke of how the tree was merely a shrub during his infancy. Then the birds told them how he had once swallowed the original seed and that the banyan tree was actually sprung out from his droppings. Hence, it was decided that the bird was the eldest of all, with the monkey and then the elephant in the rank. So, harmony once again prevailed in the animal kingdom.
Buddha revealed that in his previous life, his disciple Maudgalyayana had been the elephant, Shariputra was the monkey while buddha himself was the bird. The hare was included in this legend and known as Buddha's eldest disciple, Ananda. So, Ananda stood second on the rank of seniority as he was the first to see the tree when it was a leafless sapling. Thus, age would confer priority amongst the sangha members."