Orphan Saya and Anathapindada
As the reddish evening sun was setting behind the mountain, the heart of a little girl named Saya was filled with sad thoughts. Her friends would go back to their houses where their parents would be waiting, but Saya had no one to welcome her with a smile. Her parents had died when she was very little.
The now-orphaned Saya was adopted into the mansion of a wealthy man, Anathapindada, where she now worked. Her daily tasks were taking care of the babies and washing dishes.
Anathapindada: a wealthy man that lived in Kosala, ancient India. He took pity on and often offered clothes and food to orphans, which is why he was called Anathapindada (meaning ‘supporter of the orphans’ in Sanskrit). He was also known as Sudatta.
She thought wistfully that she no longer had a mother to hug her warmly. Her eyes were filled with tears. After her friends who were playing with her went home, she sat down at the side of the path, and before long she was crying aloud. She was only ten.
A monk who was passing by talked to her. “Little girl, what happened? Look, the sunset is so beautiful!” Saya stopped crying. The monk smiled and asked her why she had been crying. “I was thinking of my father and my mother who passed away. I just wanted to see them one more time, and could not hold back my tears…” “Oh… you are all alone. It might be a little difficult for you to understand, but you know, Sakyamuni Buddha teaches that all people are lonely.”
In the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life, Buddha teaches, “We were born alone and die alone; we came alone and will leave alone.”
“I’m not the only one? Then what should I do to get rid of this lonely heart? Can I hear Sakyamuni Buddha’s lessons, too?” Saya asked eagerly. “Anyone can listen to his lessons. Come any time you want.”
The delighted Saya got permission from Anathapindada, and went to listen to Buddha’s sermon.
One day, after dinner, the wealthy man went to walk around his garden when he saw Saya coming with a big tub. “What is she going to do with that?” he wondered. “Here, this is your dinner. Enjoy your meal. Here is your tea…” Saying this, the little girl began sprinkling water on the grass. “What? Dinner…? Tea…? What is she talking about?” The wealthy man called Saya and asked her what she was doing.
“I am donating the water that I used to wash dishes to the grass and to the bugs.” “Is that true? Who taught you such a difficult word as ‘donating’?” “It was Sakyamuni Buddha. He taught me that I must practice good deeds everyday even if it is a little bit, and that I should not do bad things. This is what I have learned. I heard that donating or doing kindness is the best among all the good deeds. It means donating money or things to help the poor or someone in need, and to strive to share the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha to a lot of people. I don’t have anything, so I thought that after I’ve washed out bowls that still had some rice grains stuck in them, I could give this water to the grass and to the bugs.”
“I see, Saya. I didn’t know that you had listened to such a wonderful lecture. On any day when Sakyamuni Buddha is holding a lecture, you don’t need to work. Go there in the morning and listen very carefully. “Really? I’m so happy! Thank you so much!”
A few days went by. The wealthy man noticed that Saya suddenly became very cheerful. She was always working joyfully. The wealthy man decided to call Saya to ask why she was so happy. “Saya, you are always smiling. Did something good happen to you?” “Yes! Even someone that has no money or possessions like me can practice seven kinds of giving if she has a kind heart, Sakyamuni Buddha taught. I am so happy that I can practice kindness, too…”
This is the famous teaching of “seven types of non-material giving” taught in the Sutra of the Repository of Miscellaneous Treasures. It would be hard for Saya, a ten-year-old girl, to explain about this. Here is a simple explanation:
The gift of a kindly gaze: Having a gentle gaze and striving to ease the minds of people around you.
The gift of a peaceful, friendly look: Wearing a gentle smile when interacting with others.
The gift of kind speech: Striving to speak gently to others.
Giving through the body: Devoting oneself to serving others and society; providing service for free.
The gift of the heart: Offering words of sincere thanks.
Giving place to others: Giving up one’s place or seat for others.
The gift of food and shelter: If someone comes to call, you offer them a night’s lodging and a meal in appreciation for all they have been through.
This was taught 2600 years ago in India, and yet one cannot help but think that today is the time that we need this teaching more than ever in this savage world.
Let’s go back to Saya’s story. She kept talking to the wealthy man with a smile on her face. “I feel like I can practice the second one, the gift of a peaceful, friendly look. That is why I am striving to interact with people with a gentle smile.”
“I see. Is smiling that good?” “Yes. If you make a sad and gloomy face, people around you will feel bad, and you feel miserable, too. Even while you are suffering, if you smile, it will ease your feelings. People around you will feel cheerful, too. I decided to keep smiling all the time. Then, the pain that I felt over not having my parents gradually disappeared. Even when I want to cry, I try to smile and then I feel much better.”
The wealthy man was listening quietly to her story, and it brought a lump to his throat. “Saya, what you say is wonderful. I want to listen, too. Take me with you to Sakyamuni Buddha.”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #36 | 2014, Smile Warmly, Your Heart will Ease and People Around Will Be Happy
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