How the tiger got his stripes

So the other day I was hankering for a wisdom story that included elephants. After surfing around the web a bit, I came across this story at Buddhapadipa.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Once upon a time, in a jungle just around the corner, there lived a furious tiger; he was very proud of himself because he was never defeated. One day he went hunting for food and saw the elephant. He thought, “I am going to eat this elephant”, and he went straight to the elephant. The elephant knew that danger was near, but it was too late to escape, so he calmed down and prepared for the danger. When the tiger approached him, he said, “Hi, tiger where are you going?” The tiger said directly, “I am coming to eat you”. The elephant thought for a while and replied, “Hold on a second, friend, you cannot eat me. Don’t you know I belong to a human being, I am a slave to him”. The tiger said, “I don’t believe you. You are so much bigger than the human. Who dares to do that, in this area, except myself”. “Friend, you would not believe it, friends of mine were chained and forced to work. You have to believe me”, the elephant insisted. The tiger wondered why the humans were so powerful, even though they had no sabre tooth, no claws, only two hands and two legs, so he questioned the elephant more, “What really does make humans so powerful?”

The elephant said, “Yes, right, they don’t have sabre teeth and claws, but they have wisdom”. When the tiger heard of wisdom, which he had never known before, he asked the elephant, furiously, “What does the wisdom of the human look like? If I see wisdom, I will eat it”. The elephant tried to explain that the wisdom was in the human, but the tiger still had no idea. So the elephant said, “You have to go and see for yourself, so that you can understand”. The tiger commanded the elephant to find some human for him. The elephant could not deny him, so they went together. At a certain point, they saw a man walking in the forest with a trap. The tiger said to the elephant, “I am going to eat him”, and then started to attack him, but because of his doubt, he halted and thought, “Why is it so easy to catch him. It is totally different from what the elephant said”. Then he asked the man, “Where is your wisdom?”

When the man heard that, he said, “Hold on Tiger, don’t eat me, I’ll show you my wisdom”. The tiger released him and asked, “Where is it, show me, before you are eaten by me”. “Ok, I am going to show you, but, you know, my wisdom is very frightening to all the animals. I am not sure that when I show you, you will dare to stay to see it or not”. The tiger said with pride that he had never been frightened or defeated, “What can I do so that I can see your wisdom?” The man offered a suggestion, “It is easy. You just let me tie you to the tree and then I’ll show you”. “That is fine, let’s do it then and show me”, the tiger said. And then the man tied the tiger to the tree, firmly, and grabbed the whip and hit the tiger, saying, “This is my wisdom, fool tiger”. The tiger cried, and tried to escape, but he could not. He was hit and his body was striped in the places where the whip hit him (it is a belief, until now, that this is why a tiger is striped). At the same time, the elephant witnessed all the event that had happened, so he laughed at the tiger who was proud of himself and despised the others. Because of human wisdom, he not only survived, but also the man did. He laughed so much that his eyes became very small (this is why the elephant has such small eyes, until now.) When the tiger escaped from the tree, he went for help. But no animals helped him, because he had once bullied them, or killed their friends, or a member of their family. Soon he could not stand the pain, and died.

The moral of this story is: don’t despise others and think that no one can beat us, don’t live a careless life.

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