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XXI:5 The boy and the spirits
Once in Rajagaha, a wood-cutter went into the forest with his son to cut some firewood. On their return home in the evening, they stopped near a cemetery to have their meal. They also took off the yoke from the two oxen to enable them to graze nearby; but the two oxen went away without being noticed by them. On discovering that the two oxen were missing, the wood-cutter went to look for them, and left his son to guard the firewood. The father went into the city to look for the oxen. By the time he found the oxen it was getting late and the city-gate was closed. Therefore, the young boy had to spend the night alone underneath his cart.
The wood-cutter's son, though young, was always mindful and was in the habit of contemplating on the unique qualities of the Buddha. That night two spirits tried to frighten and to harm him. When one of the spirits pulled the leg of the boy, he cried out, 'I pay homage to the Buddha' (Namo Buddhasa).* Hearing these words from the boy, the spirits became frightened and also felt that they must look after the boy. So, one of them remained near the boy, guarding him from all danger while the other one went to the king's palace and brought the food-tray of King Bimbisara. The two spirits then fed the boy as if he were their own son. The spirit left a written message explaining what he had done to the royal food-tray; and this message was only visible to the king.
In the morning, the king's men discovered that the royal food-tray was missing. They searched everywhere but could not find it. Finally they found it was with the boy, and taking him for the thief, they brought him before King Bimbisara. When the king saw the message written on the food-tray, he questioned the boy, who replied that his parents had come to feed him in the night and that he went to sleep contentedly without any fear after taking his food. The boy knew only that much and nothing more. The king sent for the parents of the boy. When he heard what had happened, he took the boy and his parents to see the Buddha.
The king asked the Buddha, 'Is mindfulness of the unique qualities of the Buddha the only method that gives one protection against evil and danger, or is mindfulness of the unique qualities of the Dhamma equally potent and powerful?' The Buddha replied, 'O king, my disciple! Mindfulness of the Buddha is not the only protection against evil and danger. Mindfulness in any of the six senses is also a good protection against evil and danger.'
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