Nagarjuna and the Thief

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The great Buddhist saint Nagarjuna moved around naked except for a loincloth and, incongruously, a golden begging bowl gifted to him by the King, who was his disciple.

One night he was about to lie down to sleep among the ruins of an ancient monastery when he noticed a thief lurking behind one of the columns. “Here, take this,” said Nagarjuna, holding the begging bowl. “That way you won’t disturb me once I have fallen asleep.”

The thief eagerly grabbed the bowl and made off — only to return the next morning with the bowl and a request:

“WHEN YOU GAVE AWAY THIS BOWL SO FREELY LAST NIGHT, YOU MADE ME FEEL VERY POOR. TEACH ME HOW TO ACQUIRE THE RICHES THAT MAKE THIS KIND OF LIGHTHEARTED DETACHMENT POSSIBLE.”

~ From “The Heart of the Enlightened”, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

Best Tea in Japan

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There was a group of elderly gentlemen in Japan who would meet to exchange news and drink tea. One of their diversions was to search for costly varieties of tea and create new blends that would delight the palate.

When it was the turn of the oldest member of the group to entertain the others, he served tea with the greatest ceremony, measuring out the leaves from a golden container. Everyone had the highest praise for the tea and demanded to know by what particular combination he had arrived at this exquisite blend.

The old man smiled and said, “Gentlemen, the tea that you find so delightful is the one that is drunk by the peasants on my farm. The finest things in life are neither costly nor hard to find.”

~ From “The Heart of the Enlightened”, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

Buddha Threatened By Death

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Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimal.

“Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish,” said Buddha. “Cut off the branch of that tree.”

One slash of the sword, and it was done! “What now?” asked the bandit.

Put it back again,” said Buddha.

The bandit laughed. “You must be crazy to think anyone can do that.”

“On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal.”

~ From “The Heart of the Enlightened”, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

Buddha Is Abused

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Buddha seemed quite unruffled by the insults hurled at him by a visitor. When his disciples later asked him what the secret of his serenity was, he said:

“Imagine what would happen if someone placed an offering before you and you did not pick it up. Or someone sent you a letter that you refused to open; you would be unaffected by its contents, would you not? Do this each time you are abused and you will not lose your serenity.”

~ From “The Heart of the Enlightened”, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello

Accept the Inevitable

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A grieving mother approached Buddha, carrying the body of her dead child in her arms. She begged him, I know you can bring him back to life. Buddha replied, Death is inevitable; I cannot restore his life. The woman was devastated, and was not prepared to accept this answer. Seeing her pain, Buddha said, I can bring your child back to life, but only if you bring me mustard seeds from a person who has never had a death in his family.

Hearing these words, a hope was awakened within the grieving mother’s heart. Immediately she rushed out to beg. She knocked at the first door and asked for some mustard seeds. The middle-aged lady answering the door was very kind and asked her to wait a moment. The woman asked, There has not been a death in your family, has there? The lady started crying and said, Six months ago my husband died in his sleep. The mother was disappointed and she moved on.

The second person she approached was a young man, who said that his grandfather had passed away only a few days earlier. The third was an old woman whose grown up son and daughter-in-law had been killed in an accident. One after the other, the woman found that someone or the other had died in every family.

By the time the woman returned to Buddha, she had made peace with her son’s death. She had accepted the inevitable. We should too.