The Four Animal Friends story is recorded in the Sutra teachings of the Buddha. The Four Animal Friends story tells about Buddha’s earlier life. The Buddha had many lives before becoming a fully enlightened Buddha.
The story occurs in Beneras or Varanasi that is located in India. In one of the forests in Beneras, there were four animals. These four animals were living together. In this area of Beneras, everything was going well and there were not any problems. There were good crops of food, rain was falling on time, and there were no disasters and no famine. All the people in the area were happy.
The King of this area was very curious because areas surrounding his province were having a lot of problems. There were problems such as drought, famine, and fighting in the areas surrounding the King’s province. The King was really surprised that his province was so peaceful and everything was going so easily. The King went to see astrologers to find the reason why his province was so peaceful. The astrologers found that all these good things in the province were because of four animal friends that were living upstream from Sumalti province. The good fortune was not due to the power of the King or any of the people but was due to these four animals.
In this particular forest, there were four animal friends – a bird known as a pheasant, a rabbit, a monkey and an elephant. These four animal friends were living in harmony and they respected each other very much. They respected each other in the tradition of the Dharma. The respect the animals had for each other and their friendship brought all these good things to the province.
One day, the four animals came together to talk about who is more wise and older. There was a big banyan tree where the animals were living. The elephant said that he could remember when the tree was his height. The monkey said to the elephant that he must be older because he could remember when the tree was so small that he could hop over the tree. The rabbit said that he must be older than both of them because he gave the tree manure when the tree was just sprouting up from the ground. The bird said to all of them that he was much wiser and older because he was the one who brought the seed from a different place.
The size and the strength of the bird is small and the size and the strength of the elephant is very big and powerful. The animals were each different but they respected each other. The animals found that the bird was the oldest and the wisest. The rabbit was the next oldest and wisest, followed by the monkey with the elephant being the youngest. The bird, the pheasant, taught the other animals moral conduct. Each of the animals followed the advice of the bird and this helped to increase happiness all around the area.
Each animal respected each other and respected the bird as the oldest and wisest. The four animals had a very good friendship with each other. The power of their friendship with the respect for each other created in all the province a good atmosphere.
This story is recorded in the Sutra called, the Vinayavastu (Foundation of Discipline). In the Vinaya teaching Dulwa Lung and the discourse Do De Na Kyang Lung it is written that these four animal friends were the Buddha himself and his three attendants. Kuengao (Ananda), Sharibhu (Shariputra), and Mougyelghibhu (Maudalyayana) were the three attendants. The bird, the Pheasant, was Buddha, the rabbit was Ananda, the monkey was Shariputra and the elephant was Maudgalyayana.
The Four Friend Animals is found in paintings on paper and canvas as well as wood carvings throughout homes, schools, and other buildings in Bhutan. This story is painted on walls in monasteries. The Four Friend Animals is a beloved and well known story with the people of Bhutan.