During the time when Sakyamuni Buddha descended to this world, He gave Dharma talks to all living beings. Only then did worldly people understand the connection of cause and effect (that is, good and bad actions with their corresponding rewards and retributions) and the merits of abstaining from killing and of releasing lives. In the sutra of the Most Supreme King of Golden Light Illumination, there was a story of kindness and compassion which described how the elephants helped relieve the sufferings of other living beings.
In ancient India, there was a virtuous man who was the son of Liu-shui, the Elder. He was very kind in nature. One day, while he was out traveling, he came upon a big pond beside a hill. The pond was nearly dried up because of the scorching summer heat and shortages of rainfall for months. In the pond, there lived thousands of fish, prawns and other living beings. Should the pond dried up further, these living beings would not survive.
On witnessing such pitiful sight, the Elder’s son immediately returned to seek the king’s help. He wanted to borrow 20 elephants to help carry water to the pond to save the living beings. The king who was also a Buddhist and had taken refuge with the Triple Gem, gladly granted the permission to use his elephants. The Elder’s son together with his 2 sons then went to the wine merchant to borrow some leather bags. These large bags were usually used to store wines. Instead, they were filled with water and then carried by the elephants to the pond.
Upon reaching the site, the water was poured into the pond. The elephants made several trips and the pond was eventually filled up. The Elder’s son was extremely joyful when he saw the living beings swimming happily in the pond. He then talked to them on the Dharma of suffering, emptiness and impermanence. When these fish, prawns and other living beings passed away, they were able to attain a rebirth in the Heavens. Such an attainment was possible as they had ‘listened’ through their senses to the Dharma given by the Elder’s son.