The Bodhisatta was once an elephant in the Himālaya, head of a herd of eighty thousand. His name was Sīlava. One day he saw a forester of Benares who had lost his way, and, feeling compassion for him, took him to his own dwelling, fed him with all kinds of fruit, and then, taking him to the edge of the forest, set him on his way to Benares. The wretched man noted all the landmarks, and, on reaching the city, entered into an agreement with ivory workers to supply them with Sīlava's tusks. He then returned to the forest and begged Sīlava for a part of his tusks, pleading poverty and lack of livelihood. Sīlava allowed the ends of his tusks to be sawn off. The man returned again and again, until, at last, Sīlava allowed him to dig out the stumps as well. As the man was on his way back to Benares, the earth opened and swallowed him up into the fires of hell. A tree sprite, who had witnessed all this, spoke a stanza illustrating the evils of ingratitude.

The story was related in reference to Devadatta's wickedness; he is identified with the forester and Sāriputta with the tree sprite (J.i.319-22; the story is referred to in the Milinda-Pañha, p.202).

The birth as Sīlava is mentioned among those in which the Bodhisatta practised sīla pāramitā to perfection. E.g., MA.ii.617.

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