All the stories are told by Buddha himself. All the stories are about animals – animals talking – and each story has tremendous significance. If you look in the animal world, for example, the elephant has a memory which is far stronger than any human being. He never forgets; it is just not in his nature to forget anything. The elephant will recognize its master even after thirty years.
It happened…Gautam Buddha’s cousin-brother, Devadatta, was very jealous of Gautam Buddha and his enlightenment, and his thousands of disciples. He was a very intellectual man himself, and he became a disciple of Gautam Buddha in the hope that Gautam Buddha would choose him as his successor. First, he was Gautam Buddha’s cousin-brother, very close; secondly, he was as intelligent as you can hope a person to be – very erudite, very scholarly.
Time went on and Buddha started becoming old. Finally one night Devadatta told him, “It is time you should declare the name of your successor because you are getting old. Without a successor your disciples will break apart into small groups after your death.”
Buddha said, “Do you have somebody in mind?”
Devadatta was in much difficulty. He had not thought that this was going to be the case, but he was very ambitious, so finally – although he was feeling embarrassed – he said, “Yes, I offer myself. I belong to the same family; our blood is the same and I have grasped everything that you have said. I can represent you perfectly well, and I don’t think anybody else can be a competitor to me.”
Buddha said, “The very idea is egoistic. I can only choose someone who has never thought about being chosen, who is so innocent that he could not even think of it. Certainly you cannot be my successor, so forget all about it.”
But Devadatta could not accept this situation, which looked to him like a humiliation. He revolted against Buddha, and took five hundred disciples away with him – but that did not make much difference. Buddha had thousands of disciples, and if five hundred had gone with Devadatta, that did not make even a dent in the great commune that Gautam Buddha had created.
These five hundred were the people who were also ambitious, who wanted position, who wanted to be declared enlightened – although they were not enlightened – and who were jealous of people who were being declared as enlightened. These were the people who had entered the great commune of Gautam Buddha with some egoistic ambition – they left.
But Devadatta could not sit silently; he had not left just to retire to the Himalayas. He started conspiring against Gautam Buddha. He made many efforts to kill him. And that’s what I wanted to tell you about. He had caught a mad elephant, not knowing that that elephant used to be a friend of Gautam Buddha when he was a child. It had belonged to Gautam Buddha’s royal palace, and it was so heartbroken when Gautam Buddha left the palace that it simply escaped to the forest and started behaving in a crazy way – the shock was too much. He had loved him as a child, and they were really great friends. They were always moving together; in the great garden near the river they were always found together.