a time, there was a very rich man living in Benares, in northern
India. When his father died, he inherited even more wealth. He
thought, "Why should I use this treasure for myself alone?
Let my fellow beings also benefit from these riches."
So he built
dining halls at the four gates of the city North, East,
South and West. In these halls he gave food freely to all who
wished it. He became famous for his generosity. It also became
known that he and his followers were practicers of the Five Training
In those days,
there was a Silent Buddha meditating in the forest near Benares.
He was called Buddha because he was enlightened. This means that
he no longer experienced himself, the one called 'I' or 'me',
as being in any way different from all life living itself. So
he was able to experience life as it really is, in every present
with all life, he was filled with compassion and sympathy for
the unhappiness of all beings. So he wished to teach and help
them to be enlightened just as he was. But the time of our story
was a most unfortunate time, a very sad time. It was a time when
no one else was able to understand the Truth, and experience life
as it really is. And since this Buddha knew this, that was why
he was Silent.
in the forest, the Silent Buddha entered into a very high mental
state. His concentration was so great that he remained in one
position for seven days and nights, without eating or drinking.
When he returned
to the ordinary state, he was in danger of dying from starvation.
At the usual time of day, he went to collect alms food at the
mansion of the rich man of Benares.
When the rich
man had just sat down to have lunch, he saw the Silent Buddha
coming with his alms bowl. He rose from his seat respectfully.
He told his servant to go and give alms to him.
Mara, the god of death, had been watching. Mara is the one who
is filled with greed for power over all beings. He can only have
this power because of the fear of death.
Since a Buddha
lives life fully in each moment, he has no desire for future life,
and no fear of future death. Therefore, since Mara could have
no power over the Silent Buddha, he wished to destroy him. When
he saw that he was near death from starvation, he knew that he
had a good chance of succeeding.
servant could place the food in the Silent Buddha's alms bowl,
Mara caused a deep pit of red hot burning coals to appear between
them. It seemed like the entrance to a hell world.
When he saw
this, the servant was frightened to death. He ran back to his
master. The rich man asked him why he returned without giving
the alms food. He replied, "My lord, there is a deep pit
full of red hot burning coals just in front of the Silent Buddha."
The rich man
thought, "This man must be seeing things!" So he sent
another servant with alms food. He also was frightened by the
same pit of fiery coals. Several servants were sent, but all returned
frightened to death.
Then the master
thought, "There is no doubt that Mara, the god of death,
must be trying to prevent my wholesome deed of giving alms food
to the Silent Buddha. Because wholesome deeds are the beginning
of the path to enlightenment, this Mara wishes to stop me at all
costs. But he does not understand my confidence in the Silent
Buddha and my determination to give."
So he himself
took the alms food to the Silent Buddha. He too saw the flames
rising from the fiery pit. Then he looked up and saw the terrible
god of death, floating above in the sky. He asked, "Who are
you.?" Mara replied, I am the god of death!"
you create this pit of fire?" asked the man. "I did,"
said the god. "Why did you do so?" "To keep you
from giving alms food, and in this way to cause the Silent Buddha
to die! Also to prevent your wholesome deed from helping you on
the path to enlightenment, so you will remain in my power!"
The rich man
of Benares said, "Oh Mara, god of death, the evil one, you
cannot kill the Silent Buddha, and you cannot prevent my wholesome
giving! Let us see whose determination is stronger!"
Then he looked
across the raging pit of fire, and said to the calm and gentle
Enlightened One, "Oh Silent Buddha, let the light of Truth
continue to shine as an example to us. Accept this gift of life!"
he forgot himself entirely, and in that moment there was no fear
of death. As he stepped into the burning pit, he felt himself
being lifted up by a beautiful cool lotus blossom. The pollen
from this miraculous flower spread into the air, and covered him
with the glowing colour of gold. While standing in the heart of
the lotus, the Great Being poured the alms food into the bowl
of the Silent Buddha. Mara, god of death, was defeated!
for this wonderful gift, the Silent Buddha raised his hand in
blessing. The rich man bowed in homage, joining his hands above
his head. Then the Silent Buddha departed from Benares, and went
to the Himalayan forests.
Still standing on the wonderful lotus, glowing with the color
of gold, the generous master taught his followers. He told them
that practising the Five Training Steps is necessary to purify
the mind. He told them that with such a pure mind, there is great
merit in giving alms indeed it is truly the gift of life!
When he had
finished teaching, the fiery pit and the lovely cool lotus completely
moral is: Have no fear when doing wholesome