Reprinted with permission from "How the Children Became Stars" by Aaron Zerah, published by Sorin Books.
The Buddha's people, the Shakyas, and their neighbors, the Kolis, were just about to fight.
A river ran between their two cities and both peoples needed the water from the river to raise crops in their fields. A dam had been built so that everyone got enough. But then, a great drought came and the water almost all dried up. There was very little left and both sides claimed the water was theirs.
The Shakyas and the Kolis in the area started calling each other very bad names and cursing one another as well. Soon the princes of both countries heard of the dispute and of course the stories told made things look much worse than they really were. But the princes were outraged. They both called their armies to battle.
The Shakya and Koli soldiers marched to the river and faced off. Though he was far away, Buddha saw in his mind that the war was just about to begin. He sent himself through the sky and came to the battleground. When they saw him, the Shakyas cast down their swords, for they honored Buddha as the jewel of their people. The Kolis did as well.
In a light manner, Buddha asked them, since they were gathered at the river, "Have you come to celebrate a water festival?"
"No," they told him. "We came to fight."
Buddha asked what caused them to fight. The princes were not really sure, so they asked the generals, who were not sure themselves. The generals in turn asked the other officers and no one really knew until the farmers of the land told Buddha, "We're fighting about this water."
Buddha asked them then about the water and about men--what was the value of each? They said that the value of water was very little, but the value of men was very great indeed. "Why, then, do you prepare to fight and waste the greater for the lesser?" Buddha simply put forth.
The Shakyas and the Kolis called off the war.
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