Stories from Buddhism: Accepting Alms Only from the Poor

PureInsight | August 20, 2006

[] When Buddha
Sakamuni was alive, he instructed his disciples to go out begging for
alms everyday.  According to his instructions, the disciples had
to approach all the households one by one, successively, no matter
whether those households would offer them alms or not.

Buddha had many disciples.  Subhuti and Dajiaye were two of
them.  They held different attitudes towards asking food from
people.  Dajiaye only begged alms from those who were poor while
Subhuti only begged alms from those who were wealthy. Dajaye believed
that the poor people needed more help to be rescued from their lives of
pain and misery and reach the other shore of salvation, and asking food
from them would build up their virtue. On the other hand, Subhuti
believed that the poor people were already living in difficulty and it
would add burden to them if the monks asked food from them, while it
would be easy for the wealthy people to offer monks food.  

The following story is about Dajiaye. In Wangshe City lived a very poor
old lady.  She was homeless and had no relatives and
children.  She wandered about in the streets during the day and
slept in the corner of a small lane at night. She wore a rag made of
bamboo leaves. One day she fell ill and was unable to get up.  She
was waiting for death.  There were several broken tiles beside
where she laid. A servant who worked in a wealthy family felt sorry for
her and poured some rice water that she used to wash rice on those
broken tiles.  The old lady would drink some of the water when she
was thirsty and hungry.

Dajiaye went to visit her after he learned about her.  Nobody had
visited her since she became ill.  When Dajaye appeared to her,
she managed to get up and saw that it was a dignified monk who was
asking food from her.

"Are you poorer than I am?" the old lady asked. "I am weak, because I
have no food in my stomach and no clothes to cover myself.  I am
living in the dust and waiting for death.  Nobody in this world
can be poorer than I am.  You are more able to support me, but why
you are asking food from me?"

Dajaye kindly told the old lady, "The Buddha is the most honorable and
compassionate in the world.  Those who live under the Buddha's
merciful teaching are the happiest people in the world.  Today the
reason I ask you for food is to help you.  I thought about helping
you financially, but that would make you even much poorer
afterwards.  If you offer me anything you have to build up your
virtue, you will either reborn to a rich family or go to Heaven to
enjoy a longer happiness."  

The old lady was touched by what Dajaye had said. But she could not
find even a small thing to give to him.  She sobbed sadly and
said, "I'll remember your kind teachings, but I have neither food nor
clothes to give to you."

Dajaye said, "The real poor people are those who are rich and wealthy but do not want to give."  

Upon hearing the teaching, the old lady became happy and hopeful. She
held up the tiles with rice water on them with her two hands and gave
them to Dajaye.  Dajaye accepted respectively and drank the water
in front of the old lady.  

Not long after that, the old lady passed away and went to heaven. 
She became a beautiful fairy because of her pious deed of giving rice
water to a monk. When she thought about Dajaye's benevolence and
compassion, she always came to the human world to spread heavenly
blessings and virtues on Dajaye.  

Translated from:

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