Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Sep 30th
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Home Our Founder Master's Teachings Miscellaneous The Old Monk and the Landowner

The Old Monk and the Landowner

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As we walk the Bodhisattva Path, the Buddha teaches us that we should form good affinities with people. However, we have different affinities with everyone. Some people may naturally like us. However, others may be indifferent; how do we treat everyone with a sense of gratitude and respect?

A long time ago, there was an old monk who left his temple to go into the city. By the time he left the city, the sky was already getting dark. Suddenly, there was thunder and lightning: a storm had arrived. The old monk started running, but seeing that the rain would not stop anytime soon, he decided to seek shelter.

In the heavy rain, he saw that not far from him there was a house that belonged to a wealthy landowner. The old monk was very happy and ran as fast as he could towards the house. When he reached the door, he knocked and a watchman answered, “What’s the matter?”

The old monk replied, “I am going back to my temple but the journey is long, and it is raining heavily. May I come into your house and wait until the rain stops?”

The watchman said, “I’m sorry, but you’d better leave. My master always turns away monks or other kinds of spiritual cultivator who come to our door. He says he has no affinity with spiritual cultivators, so I believe he will not let you stay here.”

The old monk kept pleading. Eventually, the watchman softened and said, “Let me hurry to my master. I can only let you in if he agrees.” While he went to ask, the old monk stood outside and waited in the rain.

After a long time, the watchman finally returned. He apologized, “I’m sorry! I’ve asked my master. After several attempts, he still refused. You cannot stay here. I’m very sorry.”

The old monk felt he had no choice but to look for other shelter. So, he went on. The rain was still pouring and it was dark all around him. Realizing he had no choice, he turned back and asked the watchman again, “Please, I don’t need to come into the house; just let me stand under the eaves of the house to stay out of the rain. Could I please do that?”

The watchman answered, “I don’t think so. My master really doesn’t like monks.”

Seeing that he could not even stay under the eaves of the house, the old monk made up his mind to return to his temple even if it meant getting soaked and travelling at night. By the time he got back to the temple, it was already midnight and it was still raining.

Three years later, the landowner took in a concubine. She was a kind lady and a devoted Buddhist. One day, she expressed her desire of visiting the temple to the landowner. She would like to pray for a son.

The landowner decided to go along. At the temple, as he was looking around, he stumbled upon a spirit tablet* with his name on it. He was very surprised and asked a young novice, “How did my name get on this spirit tablet?”

The novice answered, “Three years ago, my master came back to the temple late at night and all drenched from the rain. I heard him mutter to himself about having no affinity with a man. Afterwards, he wrote this name and put up this spirit tablet. Every day, my master prays for him and hopes to transform bad affinities into good ones.”

Upon hearing this the landowner felt very ashamed. He recalled that, three years earlier, his watchman had told him about an old monk seeking shelter from the rain. He wondered to himself, “Why did I dislike monks so much at that time? I turned the old monk away, yet he did not bear resentment towards me, he even set up a spirit tablet for me, praying for my good health and well-being.” The more he thought about this, the more ashamed he was. He deeply repented. From then on, this landowner became a major supporter of the temple.

This story tells us that we must treat everyone with equal compassion. To those who have helped us, we have to be grateful, and to those who do not help, and to others who even hurt us, we have to harbor gratitude and still be respectful to them. This is the way for us to create good affinities with those with whom we presently have no affinities.

* A spirit tablet can be found in Buddhist temples. It is used to wish for blessings for the person whose name is inscribed on it.

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen's Talks
Compiled into English by the Jing Si Abode English Editorial Team, with the help of Tzu Chi volunteers