Stories from the Buddha School: Escape from the Sea of Bitterness

By Guo Zheng

PureInsight | November 5, 2006

[] In ancient
India, there was a very strict caste system generated by different
distribution of goods among people. The lowest and poorest caste was
the Shoutuoluo ("the untouchables"). People in that caste were looked
down upon by others. Most of them were slaves or servants. They had to
do the most tiring and laborious work and often encountered abusive
treatment as well.

In the city of Shewei, there was a person named Niti who belonged to
the Shoutuoluo caste. His job was to clean out the feces from
outhouses, a job that no one else wanted to do. He was very kind and
honest. He rarely said more words than necessary.

One time Buddha was meditating and saw Niti. He knew that Niti's karma
had already mostly been eliminated and it was time for Niti to escape
from the sea of the bitterness that was the human world.  So
Buddha and Anan (one of Buddha's disciples) went to find Niti. They
came to the entrance of an alley. At that moment, Niti was carrying a
full bucket of feces and walking out of the alley. When he saw Buddha,
due to his lowly caste, he wanted to turn around and avoid Buddha. He
dared not meet face to face with the enlightened Buddha. But the alley
was so narrow that he could not find any place to hide. He became
nervous. The bucket all of sudden broke and Niti was covered with
feces. He was so embarrassed and scared that he didn't know what to do.
He lowered his head as much as he could and dared not look at Buddha.

The Buddha walked up to Niti and asked him, "Niti, are you willing to
become a monk? Do you want to escape from the sea of the bitterness?"

Niti was very embarrassed and said, "Buddha is noble and esteemed. Your
followers are all princes from noble classes. I belong to the very
lowest caste. How could I be compared to them? How would I have the
good fortune of being able to join the temple and to escape from the
sea of the bitterness?"  

The Buddha said: "Buddha's law is like pure water. It can wash away all
the dirty stuff. No matter what it is in the human world, once it is
washed by the pure water, it immediately becomes a brand new item.
Buddha's law is like the fierce fire and it burns everything. No matter
what it is, once it is touched by the sacred fire, it becomes clean and
pure right away. Buddha's law is the most fair and equal law. It
doesn't distinguish rich from poor. Anyone who wishes to believe Buddha
and escape from pain can go to the temple and cultivate diligently.

Buddha's words touched Niti very much. He then followed the Buddha to
the quiet temple in Ziyuan, shaved his hair off, and became a monk. He
concentrated on cultivation and was extremely diligent. He improved
himself very quickly. After he listened to Buddha's lectures, studied
the Buddha Law, and sat in meditation, Niti gradually had his wisdom
enlightened. He became to understand the Buddha's Fa principles, but
also acted accordingly. Not too long he enlightened to the status of

Let's go back to the time when Niti first became a monk. Many snobbish
people in the human world were not happy with it. They thought, "How
could such a low level person become a monk and enjoy the charitable
contribution of the masses?" The more they thought of it, the angrier
they became. So they reported this case to the King and asked the King
to tell the Buddha that he absolutely should not take Niti as his

Thus the King took the carriage and came to the Quiet Temple in Ziyuan to ask the Buddha about it.

The carriage arrived at the front of the door. The King had to get off
and walk through a small forest. At that time, he saw a dignified and
peaceful monk sitting on a big rock. The King said politely to him, "I
would like to meet with the Buddha, would you please go inside and let
him know?" The monk on the stone agreed to so and then disappeared
quickly inside the rock. Very soon he came back and said: "The Buddha
said you may go inside now and meet with him."

The King was amazed to see that the monk could freely get in and out of
the rock that didn't have without any cracks or openings. When he met
the Buddha, after he showed his respect, the King asked, "Buddha, the
monk who passed the message for me a moment ago has magic supernormal
power which is rarely seen. Would you please tell me what his noble
name is?"

The Buddha smiled and said to the King, "The reason that you came to my
place today is to ask me why I had saved a person whom you considered
as a member of the lowest caste. I save people no matter they are rich
or poor. I consider them all equal. The monk that you met just now is
Niti. He has already enlightened to the Arhat status. He is the person
you just saw."

The King was very ashamed of himself.

The Buddha continued, "Whether a person is  rich or poor, noble or
lowly is determined by his Karma. If one is kind-hearted, modest,
respectful to the elderly people and protective of the young, 
able to discipline one's mind and nurture one's virtue, this person
will be born into a noble, high class. In contrast, if one is a brutal,
nasty, arrogant and sinful, he will have the fate of being poor and

The King then asked the Buddha, "Why was Niti born into a poor and lowly caste?"

The Buddha said: "In the past, After Tathagata Dieye left the world,
there was a monk among his 100,000 students who was very arrogant and
looked down upon others. In his everyday life, he treated other people
rudely and showed others no respect. He asked others to do his work.
Sometimes when he didn't feel well, he would get up quite late and go
to bed early. He ordered others to clean his room and forced other
monks to be his messengers. He didn't respect the elder monks. Because
of this, in the following 500 years, he became someone who had to clean
human feces life after life till this life where his karma was finally
eliminated completely and he met Buddha to save him. This is also due
to the predestined relationship that he had developed when he became a
monk to cultivate."

After the King heard those words from the Buddha, he praised the mighty
virtue of Buddha. The Buddha's law is endlessly merciful and helps
people escape from the sea of the bitterness.

Human beings, when you bully, show no respect for other people, and
even say bad words to hurt others without any reason, you will
eventually have to pay for it. Remember Niti had to spend five hundred
years carrying human feces to pay back the karma generated from just
being arrogant!

Translated from:

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