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WHY THE CAMEL ROLLS IN THE ASHES

A great many years ago, the Buddha began assigning an animal to each of the years of the twelve-year Mongolian calendar. When he had finished assigning eleven animals, the Buddha paused to consider which animal should be allowed the twelfth and final year.

On hearing this, the Camel and the Mouse, neither of whom had been selected, rushed to see the Buddha. Bowing respectfully before the Great Sage, each presented himself as a worthy candidate. The Buddha listened in silence as each animal argued his case.

When the elaborate pleas came to an end, the Wise Buddha, not wishing to offend either of the eager and equally deserving animals, quietly told the Camel and the Mouse that they would have to resolve the matter themselves in a friendly and honest way.

The big Camel and the tiny Mouse, after much discussion and debate, finally agreed that they would settle the issue with a contest. The first to see the light of the new morning sun the very next day would be the winner, and the winner would enter the twelve-year Mongolian calendar for all time.

That night, in the darkness, in the middle of a wide, open plain, the Camel took up a position facing East. The Mouse, who had asked the Camel if he could sit on his hump, fixed his eyes on a faraway, snow-covered mountain to the West. Eyes propped wide open, the two anxious contestants settled down to wait for the critical moment.

At dawn, when the great fiery ball began its slow ascent, one thin early ray glanced off the snowy western mountaintop. The Mouse squealed out: "There it is! I see the sun! I win!"

"What?" cried the Camel, who knew that the sun rose in the East. "Why, you little sneak! You've cheated! You'll pay for this!"

As the terrified Mouse scurried down the Camel's hump to seek safety in a nearby pile of ashes, the Camel charged after him. He threw his heavy body on the ground, and rolled back and forth on the ash pile, hoping to crush the Mouse with his weight.

The Camel didn't squash the Mouse that time, but he's certain that one day he will. Whenever he spies a pile of ashes, he thinks the Mouse must be hiding inside. He snorts, stamps his feet, then lies down and rolls around and around, trying to flatten his tricky little foe.

So it happened that the little Mouse entered the twelve-year Mongolian calendar while the big Camel was excluded.

Feeling sorry for the Camel, the Wise Buddha told him gently that he would never be forgotten. No, in fact the Camel would be represented in the Mongolian calendar by possessing one feature of each of the twelve different animals.

If you look carefully at the Camel, you will see that the Buddha has kept his word, because the Camel has:

the ears of the Mouse
the stomach of the Cow
the paws of the Tiger
the nose of the Hare
the body of the Dragon
the eyes of the Snake
the mane of the Horse
the wool of the Sheep
the hump of the Ape
the head-crest of the Rooster
the crooked back-legs of the Dog
and the tail of the Pig.

This, as you can imagine, makes him a very happy Camel indeed.

happy-baby-mongolian-n-camel

From the Mongolian Folktales (1996)

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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