|Depiction of the Four Friends on the entrance of the Pemayangtse Monastery near Pelling in Sikkim. |
More about the monastery at http://anushankarn.blogspot.in/2015/03/pemayangtse-monastery-of-art-faith-and.html
Long long ago, there lived four animals in a forest – an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit and a pheasant. There arose a question, as to who was to be venerated, and they all agreed that the oldest deserved the most respect. But who among them was the oldest?
The elephant said, “The tree was fully grown when I was young.”
The monkey replied, “I remember seeing this as a small tree.”
The rabbit said, “I have seen this tree as a sapling.”
The pheasant said “I carried the seed from which this tree has grown.”
The animals agreed that the pheasant was the oldest.
Now they were hungry, and the tree was laden with fruits. But how could they reach it? The tree was huge, and the fruits on the highest branches. The elephant’s trunk could reach only the lowest branches, the monkey was old, and couldn’t jump so high, the rabbit was too small, and the pheasant couldn’t fly so high. How then, could they reach the fruits?
The four friends decided that alone, they couldn’t get the fruits. Together, they could. How? The younger would lift the older ones so they would eventually reach the higher branches laden with fruits.
And so, the elephant lifted the monkey on its back, the monkey lifted the rabbit, the rabbit lifted the pheasant, and the pheasant hopped on to the branches to reach the fruits! They ate to their hearts content, and lived together in harmony ever after.
There is also another version of this story…
Long long ago, there was a pheasant, and a small sapling which had grown from a seed he had spit. The sapling grew into a small tree, and bore fruits, which the pheasant ate.
Then, the tree grew bigger, and the pheasant couldn’t reach the fruit.
At that time, a rabbit arrived, and said to the pheasant “Neither of us can reach the fruit. Let me lift you so you can pluck the fruits, and let us share them”. The pheasant agreed, and the two enjoyed the fruits of the tree.
Then, the tree grew bigger, and out of their reach.
A monkey arrived, and agreed to help the rabbit and the pheasant. The monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit the pheasant, and again, they shared the fruits.
Then, the tree grew even bigger.
Now, an elephant arrived, and joined in to help the other three. The elephant lifted the monkey, the monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit lifted the pheasant. Now, however high the tree grew, they could always reach the fruits!
Whichever version you choose to like, the story remains the same – of four friends living in harmony. This is a Buddhist tale, one that is believed to be a tale of good omen, for, it is believed that where there is harmony, there is happiness.