Stories from Buddhism: Accepting Alms Only from the Rich

PureInsight | August 20, 2006

[] Buddha's
disciple Subhuti only begged alms from those who were rich.  He
never went to the poor people because he knew that they were already
living in  hardship and it would be difficult for them to offer
alms. When Buddha's disciples left their hut to beg for alms, Subhuti
walked alone.  No matter how far he needed to walk and how hungry
he was, he never once went to beg alms from poor people.

One day, a fellow monk asked him: "Honorable Subhuti, you have been
seeking alms from wealthy people who live far away while ignoring poor
people who live close by. Do you look down upon those poor people?"

Subhuti replied: "Well, I don't ask food from those poor people because
I know they are living in hardship and unable to support
themselves.  Sometimes they may wish to offer us food, but are
unable to do so.  Even if they have a little bit extra food, I am
reluctant to increase their burden.  But it is easy for the
wealthy people to give me food."

The monk laughed at Subhuti: "Are you attached to delicious food from the wealthy people?"

Subhuti kindly explained to him, "I wouldn't have become a monk if I cared about eating good food."

One day, Subhuti asked a fellow disciple of Buddha, Dajaye,  "Your
attitude towards asking food is different from mine.  Please
pardon me for my rudeness if I ask you the reason why you only approach
the poor for food?"

Dajaye explained: "Honorable Subhuti, we are monks and are supported by
food from people. People who provide food for us will be able to
accumulate good fortune and wisdom. I ask food from the poor to offer
them the reward of good fortune in the future.  The rewards will
get those poor people out of poverty in their next lives.  But the
wealthy people have already gotten their good fortune.  Asking
food from them and giving them good fortune in the future is like
adding an extra flower to a flower bouquet."

Subhuti nodded his head upon hearing what Dajaye had said and
commented, "We have different understandings. Everyone should just
follow his own understanding of the  Buddha's teachings."

In reality, Buddha's teaching stated that "the genuine way to ask for
alms is not to distinguish whether a person is poor or rich, whether a
person is clean or dirty. Approach it with seriousness and solemnity.
Visit each household one by one without skipping even one."

In fact, no matter whether a person is rich or poor, as soon as he
arrives in the human world, he is suffering the same bitterness just in
his own way. Cultivating the Buddha Fa is the only way to save a person
from  the bitterness.  

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