Rabbit on the MoonRabbit on the Moon
A Tale from India

Long ago, three forest friends, monkey, fox, and hare, lived together as great friends. They swore to be friends forever, and they also swore never to kill any living thing.

One day Buddha decided he would test the animals' faith. He wished to understand the true nature of all the creatures in the universe. And so he disguised himself in the form of a Brahmin. He dressed himself in rags, and hobbling upon a cane, he wandered into the forest.

Before long the Brahmin came upon Monkey playing in the forest, swinging from branch to branch. "Hello," Monkey called to the Brahmin. "Can I help you, sir?"

The Brahmin bowed his head. "I am but a poor man," he said, "and I am terribly hungry."

"I can help you," Monkey said, and at once he climbed into the trees to pick some mangoes to offer the Brahmin.

Before long Fox trotted past. Seeing the Brahmin, he stopped to say good day.

"Ah, good day this would be if only I could find something to eat."

"I'll help you," Fox said, and with that he raced toward the river. He had just seen a dozen fish lying upon the shore. Surely these would fill the Brahmin's empty stomach, he thought.

The moment Fox was out of sight, the Brahmin spied Rabbit sprinting toward him. When Rabbit saw the old man he too stopped to offer greetings. "Sir," Rabbit said, "welcome to the forest. Is there anything I can do to make you feel more at ease? Can I help you?" Rabbit asked.

The Brahmin smiled. "I am terribly hungry," he said.

Just at that moment Monkey returned to the spot carrying an armful of fruit, and Fox arrived soon afterwards with plenty of fish.

Poor Rabbit felt helpless. "Sir," he said, "I am so terribly sorry but I eat nothing but grass. I fear that would be of no use or interest to you."

The Brahmin nodded. "That is true."

Then suddenly Rabbit had an idea, and he whispered to his friends, Monkey and Fox. "Help me to collect firewood, won't you?"

The friends agreed, and when they had gathered armloads of wood and kindling, together they built a great fire.

"Now," Rabbit said, "because I have nothing to offer you, poor Brahmin, but myself, I will jump into this fire, and when I am cooked, Brother Monkey, Brother Fox? Will you please give me to this poor man to ease his hunger?"

Monkey and Fox nodded solemnly, but just as Rabbit was about to leap into the fire, the Brahmin tossed off his tattered cloak and threw his walking stick into the fire.

"What's happening?" the animals cried in fright. "Who are you?"

Buddha smiled and said, gently, "Please, do not be afraid. You see I am more than a beggar. And I see you, too. You are truly devoted and kind."

Monkey and Fox bowed. "Thank you," Monkey said.

"That is what all creatures are meant to be," Fox added.

"But Rabbit," Buddha said, turning to face the timid creature. "Your generosity is beyond compare."

"I only wished to ease your hunger," Rabbit said softly.

"But you must learn never to harm yourself," Buddha said, and with those words he lifted Rabbit into his arms and carried him to the Moon for safe keeping. "Here you will shine brightly forever and all will remember your generosity."

And even today if you look closely up at the moon when it is full and bright, you will see Rabbit there where he has lived safely for a very long time.