Requesting A Watermelon

One day, Shakyamuni Buddha went for a walk with two of his disciples, Mahakasyapa and Ananda. As noon was approaching, the group of three started to feel thirsty and decided to rest under a tree alongside the road. The Buddha saw that nearby there was a melon patch, and requested Ananda to go up ahead and beg for a watermelon in order to quench their thirst. When Ananda arrived at the melon patch he saw a young woman who was watching guard over the watermelons. Ananda approached the woman and politely spoke, “My teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, has walked over to this place, and he is hungry and thirsty. Would you mind offering one of your watermelons to me, so that I could go back and care for my master?” Before Ananda could even finish speaking, the woman became very angry and refused Ananda’s request. She then, using abusive language, demanded Ananda to immediately get out of her field.

Ananda very discouragingly walked back to the tree and reported the entire sequence of events to the Buddha. The Buddha was not surprised to hear what had happened, and instead smilingly turned towards Mahakasyapa and said, “Mahakasyapa, it’s your turn to go beg for alms!” Ananda thought to himself, “That woman is unwilling to make a donation, how will Mahakasyapa ever have a chance of successfully getting one of her watermelons?”

After hearing about Ananda’s unsuccessful attempt to get a watermelon, Mahakasyapa had very little confidence in himself that he would be able to do any better, but because of the Buddha’s urging, and knowing that the Buddha likely had a deep inner meaning behind his words, Mahakasyapa got up and walked over to the melon patch. He had not expected that, as soon as the woman saw him approaching her field, she would cheerfully stand up and proceed to prostrate to Mahakasyapa, then repeatedly inquire to the sage about where he had come from, where he wanted to go, and whether or not he needed any food to relieve his hunger. Mahakasyapa had not even the chance to make his request for food when the woman on her own accord picked up the largest and sweetest watermelon and offered it to the sage. When Ananda saw Mahakasyapa walking back holding the big watermelon, he became completely baffled. The Buddha thus explained the cause and effect relationship to Ananda and Mahakasyapa so that they could understand the events that had just taken place.

Tens of thousands of eons ago, Mahakasyapa and Ananda at the same time left the home life and joined the monastic order. The two would often go on journeys together to various monasteries to visit the enlightened masters. On one of their trips, with Ananda walking in the front and Mahakasyapa walking behind him, they came along a dead cat lying on the road. Because it was currently the height of summer, the corpse was giving off a very rancid odour of decaying flesh, and the body was full of crawling maggots which were nibbling on the corpse’s rotting flesh. As soon as Ananda saw this cat’s body, he immediately plugged his nose and hastily ran away. Meanwhile, Mahakasyapa, when coming across the sight and stench of this rotting corpse, mercifully proceeded to transmit the three refuges to it, and then dug a hole on the side of the road for the body to be buried in. As he was burying the cat, he wished for it to be soon reborn in a higher realm of existence.

After Shakyamuni Buddha finished speaking of these causal events of their previous lives, he followed by giving a short Dharma talk to his two disciples. “That woman working in the melon patch is the reincarnation of the dead cat from long ago. Due to Mahakasyapa’s blessings and transmitting of the three refuges, that cat was able to be reborn in the human realm. Because of this, as soon as the woman saw Mahakasyapa approaching, she immediately became filled with joy. On the other hand, because Ananda held the thought of disgust and aversion when he saw the dead cat, he was not only refused the watermelon, he was also insulted by the woman.” After hearing the Buddha’s words, the two disciples clearly understood and believed in the indubitable truth of the principle of cause and effect.

We often hear in the Dharma, “Before we attain Buddhahood, we should first cultivate good affinities with all human beings.” If we would like our future to be bright and free of obstacles, we should always make friendly connections with all living beings. Having cultivated the causes and conditions that would benefit others, we can easily attain success in whatever endeavours we ourselves undertake.