A Poor Woman’s Light Offering

During the Buddha’s time, in the city of Sravasti, there lived a poor woman named Nantuo. The only possessions she had were the clothes on her back, and in order to survive, she relied on begging for food or spare change. One day, in the midst of a fiercely cold wind, using her weak, trembling hands, she begged for an entire day, finally receiving one small coin. With this coin, she could afford to buy a small morsel of food to support her life.

At this moment, she heard news about people going to make a light offering to the Buddha. She observed all of the city’s residents devoutly purchasing numerous kinds of exquisite perfumed oils and candles to give as offerings to the Buddha. Seeing this, she couldn’t help but joyously praised all the devotees as the wish to make an offering to the Buddha arose in her mind. She thought, “The manifestation of the Buddha in this world is so rare and precious, I should really take hold of this opportunity to make an offering to the Buddha. But because in my past I did not cultivate any merit, so in this life, I am poor and miserable. Even if I would really like to make an offering, I don’t have anything special to offer, which is so shameful!” As she looked at the lone coin sitting in her hand, she knew that if she didn’t spend it on food for herself she would have to pass another long, endless night in hunger and cold. And yet, her vow to make a light offering to the Buddha remained strong and resolute.

Using that one small coin, she could only afford to buy the smallest amount of the crudest oil, but her sincerity was much brighter than the light emitted from any lamps. When the shopkeeper who was selling the oil saw how Nantou was willing to suffer through another long, cold night in order to make an offering to the Buddha, he became so moved that he couldn’t resist giving her several times more oil than what she had paid for, to help her achieve her dream. As dark descended upon the city, all the townsfolk, from the lords up in the imperial palace down to the commoners on the streets, with their hearts full of sincerity, illuminated their lamps for the Buddha. The lamps dazzled like a sparkling river and lit up the entire city of Sravasti. The penniless Nantuo was in the midst of that crowd, respectfully lighting her oil lamp.

When this very ordinary oil lamp of hers became lit up in the middle of the night, it was as if her own low and insignificant life was also being lit up. At this moment Nantuo experienced an extraordinary feeling of richness and happiness. As she knelt down to give her offering to the Buddha, Nantuo reflected back not only on her life, full of destitution and suffering, but also thought about all the sentient beings wandering about in the endless darkness of the birth and death cycle. Because of this, she made a great wish: “I wish that this light may pervade through the ten directions, guiding every sentient creature out of the miserable sea of birth and death, to the path of supreme peace and happiness.

With the arrival of dawn, an unimaginable thing happened! All the oil lamps, no matter how precious, were extinguished from burning through the night or were blown out by Maudgalyayana, who was in charge of keeping watch on the lamps. But the lamp of the poor Nantuo was still shining brightly. Even after exhausting every type of method for extinguishing the light, Maudgalyayana, who had the greatest supernatural powers out of all Buddha’s disciples, still could not put it out. He was astonished: “Whose lamp is this that is still burning? Even with my supernatural powers, I cannot put it out!”

The Buddha, who was present at the time, pointed to the lamp of the poor girl, and with a smile relieved Maudgalyayana’s uncertainty. “Maudgalyayana, the person who offered this lamp made a great vow to save all sentient beings. Even if you used all the water in the four great oceans, you would still not be able to extinguish this lamp. This candle was lit using a great, compassionate vow, and because she was full of sincerity, the light radiating from this lamp is inexhaustible.”

At this moment, Nantuo once again came to the temple, and devoutly paid her respects by prostrating to the Buddha. The Buddha received her and spoke the Dharma to her: “Twenty kalpas from now, you will become a Buddha who would guide an immeasurable number of sentient beings. Your name would be Lamplight Buddha.” With tears of gratitude falling down from the corners of her eyes, thinking about how rare it is to be able to encounter a Buddha in this world, the poor girl knelt down and brought her palms together, requesting permission to leave home and enter the monastic life. After becoming a nun, she thoroughly dedicated herself to progress on the path and was deeply respected for her diligence and high moral conduct.

The meaning of alms-giving cannot be found within the amount of money donated, but only within the genuine and sincere heart in which it is given with. When our lives are happy and free from worry, it can be difficult for us to bring rise to this fearless mind of giving as well as making firm vows. We should learn from this poor girl Nantuo, that in life we need to diligently cultivate the ways of virtue, and even in our greatest periods of hardship or stress, we still should try to give to the best of our abilities and to make offerings and show our respect towards all sentient beings. With a heart of charity, we can light the bright lanterns not only for ourselves but for all sentient beings.

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.

Tale of A Monkey

Once upon a time in a mountain, there lived a monkey who had great strength and wisdom, and a heart full of kindness. One day, while this monkey was climbing a tree to pick some fruits, he saw a hunter who was trapped in a deep valley and crying for help. The monkey cried, “I made a vow to be a Buddha to assist all sentient beings, if I do not save him immediately, he may die of starvation.”

The monkey climbed along the cliff to reach the bottom of the valley. He carried the hunter, climbed through the rattans and bushes and finally reached safe ground. He directed the hunter how to leave the mountain safely and wished: “I hope you will change your career of killing animals once you leave here.”

The hunter tried to catch his breath while resting, and thought, “I am weak and starving to death. I should just kill this monkey to feed myself.” So he took a rock and hit the monkey in the head. The monkey was shocked by such a sudden attack. He bled profusely and almost fainted next to a tree.

Despite the ungrateful return to his kindness, the monkey still managed to maintain a clear mind free of hatred. Instead, he felt pity and compassion towards the hunter and thought: “Today I cannot help him change his evil ways. Hopefully he will have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or a bodhisattva one day so he can learn to practice Buddhism. I hope he will never generate such evil thoughts in all his future lives.”

The monkey in this story was Buddha’s previous incarnation.


The wise and compassionate always put the well-beings of others ahead of themselves. The ignorant and selfish only seek to satisfy themselves at the expense of others. During his many kalpas of practice, the Buddha had always managed to react to the slanders, insults and injury from the others with calm and tolerance, without a trace of resentment or a thought of revenge. The only thing that concerns the Buddha was if his enemies would one day attain Buddhahood and get ultimate liberation from anger and hatred.

We should always ask ourselves: do we argue profusely with others over the most trivial things? Are we only concerned with our own needs without the slightest care for the others’ feelings and well-being?

The Tale Of The White Elephant

In a forest long ago there was a white elephant king with six tusks who led a herd of 500 elephants. The white elephant took the Three Refuges and vowed to assist all sentient beings to attain enlightenment. He had two wives, one of the wives was jealous of the other receiving more attention from the elephant king. She made a curse to destroy the elephant king in the future. Plagued by jealous and upsetting thoughts she soon passed away and was reborn as a smart and beautiful lady who was soon married to the King.

One day the queen told the king that she had dreamt of a white elephant with 6 spotless tusks, and she would rather die than not owning those tusks. She became so frail from this obsession that the king gathered all the hunters in the kingdom to search for the six-tusked elephant to fulfil the queen’s desire.

One of the hunters followed the queen’s directions and disguised himself as a monk. Seeing the monk, the elephant paid his respect and let down his guard. The hunter then captured the white elephant in a pit, severely wounding him. Before dying the elephant king asked the hunter why he wanted to kill him and was told about the queen’s order.

Although in great pain, understanding their karma, the elephant king told the hunter: “Take the tusks and leave, I vowed to practice the bodhisattva way and I am committed to it.” The hunter retrieved the tusks and followed the instructions from the elephant king to clear his footprint traces so other vengeful elephants wouldn’t hunt him. He then collapsed and died. The white elephant king is one of the Buddha’s previous incarnations.


No matter who or what we are, which realm or world we are in, we can always do something to benefit others. Once we have made the vow to practice the Bodhisattva’s Ways, we must aim to uphold the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts, to practice the Ten Good Deeds and the Six Paramitas (The six practices of the Bodhisattvas) life after life. Only with such unwavering resolve and steadfast determination can we complete the Bodhisattva’s Path and realize supreme Buddhahood.

The Parrot Who Extinguished A Forest Fire

The Buddha was teaching in a village and told the following story. Once a bamboo forest was on fire, and it spread quickly due to the strong and dry wind. The flames swallowed up everywhere in the mountain jungle and were about to wipe away all lives there. A parrot named “Joyful Head” was disheartened to see all the living beings having no way to escape.

So Joyful Head flew to the sea nearby, wet its small wings with the seawater, and flew back to spray the water drops over the flames. It flew back and forth endlessly, despite becoming very weak from the effort. Its determination and sincere, chivalrous act moved the heavenly king Indra.

“Joyful Head, with your tiny body, tell me how are you going to put out this wide and forceful fire?” asked the heavenly king. “My intention is even broader than the fire! If I am not able to extinguish the fire in this life, I vow to continue and put it out in my next life!” replied the parrot.

Indra was so moved by the parrot that he manifested his miraculous power to create a great rain and poured over the forest. Soon, all beings were saved.

The Buddha said, “this parrot was my past life, indeed, and all the birds and beasts in the jungle were none other than the villagers. The former me had rescued them by putting out a fire. In this life, I will extinguish all fires of anger, greed, and ignorance, in order to save them from suffering and attain peace. In their previous lives, the villagers had the remarkable opportunity to take the Five Precepts, therefore, they were able to understand the truth thoroughly today, and attained the sage state of first fruit.


Each of us has an ideal vision of how success can be reached. But success cannot be reached with any ideal short-cuts. Success is the result of the accumulation of each single step we take towards our goal. “There is no such thing as an impossible task. There is only the lack of determination and efforts.” Possibility is a function of our own hard work and perseverance.