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The Story of Two Tigers and a Yakan

There is a story from the Buddhist sutras about two ferocious tigers, who were very close to each other and would hunt together every day. They were always followed by a treacherous yakan (a legendary wild fox), which fed on the remains of their prey.

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(Photo credit: PEXELS)

There is a story from the Buddhist sutras about two ferocious tigers which lived deep in the mountains. One was called Shan Ya and the other one was called Shan Bo. The two tigers were very close to each other and would hunt together every day. However, they were always followed by a treacherous yakan (a legendary wild fox), who fed on the remains of their prey. 

Baseless dispute has no place in the minds of the wise

Although the yakan relied on the tigers for survival, he was very afraid of their might. He often pondered, “One tiger is already strong enough. If the two tigers combine their strength, I won’t be able to defend against them. I must find a way to drive a wedge between them, or else, I might lose my life if something were to go wrong.”

One day, the yakan had an idea and said to Shan Ya: "I am telling you something out of goodwill. You mustn’t hurt me after that."

Shan Ya replied, "Why would I hurt you for no reason? Just tell me!”

The yakan whispered to Shan Ya: “Shan Bo appears to be treating you well, but according to many other animals, he always told them that you were no match to him. He said that his body, appearance, fur, strength, etc. were all better than yours.”

And Shan Ya bought the yakan’s story completely.

After some time, the yakan went to Shan Bo and said, “Shan Ya is very disrespectful of you. He said a lot of bad things about you to me. He also said that you were no match to him in many ways.”

And Shan Bo, too, took what the yakan said to heart.

When the two tigers met again, both glared at each other with rage in their eyes. Shan Ya thought, “I should make the first strike and compete (with Shan Bo) to see who is stronger.”

And so, Shan Ya made the first move and struck out at Shan Bo. But Shan Bo did not fight back and chose to retreat and escape instead. Shan Ya was unwilling to give up and started scolding Shan Bo: “How could you tell all the other animals that I was no match to you in every aspect?”

After hearing what Shan Ya had said, though Shan Bo was very angry, he managed to calm down and think, “That’s not right. I have never defamed Shan Ya. What caused his misunderstanding?”

Seeing that Shan Ya was about to hit him again, Shan Bo immediately took a few steps back and said, “Please calm down for a moment. In fact, I have heard from the yakan that you told him that I was no match to you in every aspect, and that you even scolded me with all sorts of vicious words.”

Shan Ya stopped at that instant and said, “That’s strange. What I’ve heard came from the yakan as well, but I have never scolded you behind your back!” 

Shan Bo then said to Shan Ya, “We are the mightiest of all animals in this jungle. There must not be any conflict between us, otherwise, both of us would be badly hurt, and there would not be peace for all. Since both of us have heard from the yakan, there must be something fishy going on within. We should remain calm.”

Tigers are impulsive by nature, but with an ability to think calmly, the tigers in the story were able to resolve their conflict and avoid a turbulent disaster.


It is easy for one to be manipulated by a villain if one does not think carefully. A society will get into chaos if those in power listen to (damaging words about others) spoken by villains, and lack a cool head (and sensible thinking).

The same applies to families and organisations. Whenever there are people who enjoy creating conflict and discord, it would be impossible to create a harmonious atmosphere. Therefore, we must always keep a peaceful heart and mind inwardly. We need to analyse whatever we have heard with wisdom, and let “rumours and allegationsdie down when they reach our ears”.

In life, what we should fear the most is our own mind. When our thought deviates from what is right, a small matter can lead to a major conflict. Hence, we must take good care of our minds, think calmly in the face of any adversity, and exercise wisdom to overcome the issue. If we can do this, we will not only grow in our moral character, but also promote harmony among people, thereby bringing peace and harmony to the society.

Translated by the Tzu Chi Singapore translation team