I’m going to tell two touching true stories about acts of kindness. The heroes and heroines are from the animal kingdom. When I first read them, it reminded me of the Jataka Tales because they are similar to the Buddha’s birth-stories of his past lives while he was cultivating the Bodhisattva Path in different realms of existence.
In 1996, at the Brookfield Zoo in America, a three-year-old boy fell into the gorilla compound. There were seven full-grown gorillas and the boy was unconscious. When a female gorilla approached the boy and picked him up, his mother screamed out saying, “A gorilla’s got my baby!” The crowd of people tensed and watched anxiously. However, the female gorilla kept the other huge gorillas away and carried the boy carefully to the door by the side of the compound. The zookeeper then opened the side door and brought the boy out. That amazing event was videotaped. The kind gorilla became a national hero after rescuing the boy.
The next hero is a German Shepherd, a dog named King. At three o’clock one morning, King kept trying to wake a 16-year old girl up. She sat up to push the dog away and realized that smoke was coming into her room. The house was on fire. She dashed into her parents’ room to wake them up. Her mom told her to quickly go out through her own bedroom window while she helped her husband to escape through their bedroom window. But the husband could not move quickly due to his lung condition. On top of that, their daughter had ended up in the living room where the intensity of the fire was greatest. So the mother rushed towards the daughter and led her to safety. Then, she went in again and found King by her husband’s side. Her husband had collapsed on the floor. She was able to move the husband out of the house only with King’s help.
Thanks to their dog, King, the entire family was saved. King had burnt his paws badly and there was a deep cut on his back. Later, they realized that King’s gums were also pierced with sharp wooden splinters. Actually, when the fire broke out, King could easily have saved himself by running through a door that was left opened for him to go outside. But instead, he chewed and clawed his way through the closed wooden door, through the smoke and fire, in order to save his friends.
That story reminds me of a heartrending scene I saw when I was watching the CNN news on television several years ago: The terrorists had hit the World Trade Center in New York. While people were trying to get out of the burning building as fast as they could, the firefighters were running into the building to save them. I was moved to tears by the firefighters’ selfless courage.
In the Sutra on the Upasaka Precepts, the Buddha says:
“Good son, the Bodhisattva always greatly benefits sentient beings during innumerable kalpas, and earnestly and diligently does all good deeds. Therefore, the Tathagata perfects innumerable virtues. The thirty-two marks are the rewarding result of Great Compassion…”
The Venerable Master gave a wonderful explanation of what kindness means. He said:
“Kindness is the mother-substance of good roots. Without kindness, it would be impossible for good roots to grow…Kindness and compassion are the most important virtues that cultivators must have. If you use a kind heart to practice giving, such giving reaps boundless merit and virtue. If you hold precepts with a kind heart, your precepts carry boundless merit and virtue. If you can cultivate patience with a kind heart, that patience has boundless merit and virtue. If you apply kindness and compassion to the practice of vigor, the merit and virtue of your vigor are boundless. If you cultivate dhyana concentration with a kind and compassionate heart, the merit and virtue of your concentration will soon be realized. If you cultivate the perfection of Prajna wisdom with a kind and compassionate heart, Prajna will constantly manifest its light…
“Kindness is just the Buddha; the Buddha is simply kindness. Kindness is the Great Vehicle Dharma door. The Dharma door of the Great Vehicle does not go beyond kindness. If you have kindness, you are cultivating the Bodhi Path, for the Bodhi Path is just kindness.”