When Shakyamuni Buddha was alive, a beggar woman called Nanda saw people giving lamps as donations to the Buddha and wanted to do the same.
However, she couldn’t even buy oil for one lamp because she was extremely poor.
After thinking long and hard, she cut her long hair and took it to an oil shop. She pleaded, “Please sell oil to me!” The surprised shop owner asked her, “Why would you do that just for oil?” When Nanda told him that she wanted to make a donation to Shakyamuni Buddha, he was moved by her words and willingly gave her oil for one lamp.
The next day, Maudgalyayana, one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples, was walking around putting out the lamps in Gion Temple. However, out of all the lamps there, there was one that he could not put out.
When Maudgalyayana asked Shakyamuni Buddha about this, he answered, “You cannot extinguish that light. It will continue to burn even if you pour all the waters of the ocean onto it.
That is because it was the sincere donation of a beggar woman named Nanda. A pure intention such as hers is vaster and more immense than all the seven seas.”
Even a Huge Tree Starts from a Tiny Seed
A poor woman once gave Sakyamuni Buddha a handful of parched barley flour. He said to her, “This good deed will eventually bring you enlightenment.” However, the woman’s husband turned on Shakyamuni Buddha, saying, “That’s ridiculous! There’s no way such a trivial offering could bring such a great reward.”
Then the Buddha asked him, “What do you think is the rarest thing in the world?” The man answered, “It’s that banyan tree. It’s so big that we can tie more than five hundred carriages to it.”
“Well then, the seed of such a big tree must be as big as a millstone, wouldn’t you say?” “Nothing like it. It’s a quarter of the size of a poppy seed.”
“Indeed, no one believes such a small seed will grow to be such a giant tree.” The man shot back, “Even if no one believes it, I saw it with my own eyes!” Sakyamuni Buddha then solemnly said, “Small good deeds, like parched barley flour, will be helped by a great power and finally lead to enlightenment.”
After this skillful teaching, the couple became the Buddha’s disciples at once.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #62 | 2016, Better the Pauper’s Single Candle Than the Rich Man’s Ten Thousand Candles
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