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Story Of Monkeys Who Decided To Observe Ekadashi Fasting

The story of monkeys who decided to observe Ekadashi fasting explains the pitfalls in spiritual life due to overconfidence and by being proud of scriptural knowledge alone.

A group of monkeys dwelt in a forest. One day, the leader declared, “Humans fast on Ekadashi days and thereby obtain Punyam. We too shall fast on Ekadashi.”
So, on the next Ekadashi, all of them assembled and sat on the ground, with their eyes closed.

After some time, one of them said, “We are unsafe sitting motionless on the ground. A herd of elephants passing by may trample us. It is also possible that a passing tiger may maul us. Further, as we are tree-dwellers, remaining continuously on the ground is uncomfortable for us. So, why not we climb the trunks of trees and remain at the start of the branches? We will be safer and yet will not be close to the fruits at the end of the branches.” His suggestion was appreciated by them and they implemented it.

Some time passed. Another monkey said, “A cheetah can attack us here. Were we to go to the end of the branches, we will be better off. Cheetahs cannot come there because the portions concerned will not support their weight. Further, we can easily save ourselves by jumping to the next tree. We can also save ourselves easily from snakes. We could sit facing away from the fruits, keeping a watch on the ground and the tree trunks.” This idea too was liked by all and immediately implemented.

Some more time passed. Then, one monkey said, “Continuously watching the ground is terribly boring. Why not we take turns to spot danger? The rest of us can then feel free to look around and thereby avert boredom. Surely, no fast will get broken even if our eyes were to momentarily fall on a fruit.” “He is right”, felt the others. Soon, they were frequently eying the fruits.

It was not long before a monkey opined, “While we are seated here, we might as well feel the fruits to identify the ripe and juicy ones. That will make our task of foraging easier tomorrow. After all, we will be hungry then and would not like to spend much time picking the right fruits to eat.” There was no voice of dissent. Soon, the monkeys got busy feeling the fruit, with their hands lingering for a while on the good ones.

An aged monkey then said, “Not only will we be hungry tomorrow morning but also weak. Setting out for forage will be difficult. So, let us pluck the good fruits now and keep them ready for eating tomorrow.” “A wise suggestion”, thought the others and began to pluck fruits.

A little later, another aged monkey said, “One cannot pick good fruits merely by feeling them. Smelling them is also necessary. After all, a fruit may be nice to feel but may smell bad. Definitely, we would not like to eat any foul-smelling fruit.” The others agreed. So, all of them began to smell the fruits plucked and to throw away those whose smell was unsatisfactory.

Some time passed. Another aged monkey said, “From experience, I know that even a fruit that is nice to look at, good to feel and pleasant to smell can have a rotten core or worms. Thus, tasting fruits by biting each of them is necessary to confirm that the fruits we will be eating tomorrow morning are truly nice. Surely, we would not want to get a stomach-ache by eating bad fruits in the morning. Our Ekadashi fast will remain unbroken even if each of us were to taste a piece of fruit but take care not to swallow it.” The suggestion was regarded wise and implemented.

In but a few minutes, the monkeys began swallowing the delicious pieces of fruits in their mouths. That was the end of their fast.

Underestimation of the power of the senses to unsettle the mind, flawed self-justification for one’s actions, overconfidence and making of compromises where one should not are among the factors that cause a person to have a moral or spiritual fall.