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A Poor Person’s One Light Outshines A Millionaire’s 10,000

The Buddha’s wisdom is the lamp which brightens our life.

If we practice his teachings, our daily life will dramatically change.

Last month, we presented an episode in the life of Anathapindika, who devoted himself to the construction of the temple called Jetavana-vihara in Shakyamuni Buddha's era. The story teaches us about the spirit of giving, which comes first among the Six Paramitas (six good deeds that bring us happiness).Giving means doing kind acts such as offering money or materials, showing consideration, doing acts of service, or speaking kind words. He who gives to another bestows on himself. If you practice kindness, then good results (happiness) will surely appear to you. Shakyamuni Buddha teaches us the importance of our mindset when we practice giving through these words: "A poor person’s one light outshines a millionaire’s 10,000." If a rich person with abundant wealth donates many lamps, that is a very precious thing. No matter how wealthy people are, if they do not have deep ties with Buddhism, it is not possible for them to donate for Buddhism. However, Shakyamuni Buddha also says that a poor person’s one light is precious. What does he mean by this? This month, we present to you the original story that this saying came from.

During Shakyamuni Buddha’s time, there was a beggar woman called Nanda. One day she suddenly felt the urge to go and listen to a sermon by Shakyamuni Buddha. She saw many people donating lamps and so she too thought she wanted to offer a lamp to the temple. She spent all of the next day walking around begging. With the small amount of money she got from some kind people, she then visited an oil shop. Nanda asked the shopkeeper, “Please give me oil for one lamp.” He looked at the money she had and frowned. “I can't give you anything for that little money.” Nanda's heart sank, but still she pleaded and pleaded with the shopkeeper to give her something. However, he wouldn’t accept her appeal. Then she remembered that someone once praised her for the beauty of her hair. She swiftly cut off her beautiful hair right then and there. “I will give you this hair. Would you please give me oil?” she pleaded. The puzzled shopkeeper said, “It is said that a woman's hair is the essence of her beauty. Why do you need the oil that much?” She answered, “I want to donate a lamp to Shakyamuni Buddha by all means.” Impressed at this, the shopkeeper finally gave Nanda oil for one light.

Nanda begged the shopkeeper, “Please sell me oil for this hair…”

That night Nanda’s light was shining brightly among the thousands of lights at the site of Shakyamuni Buddha’s lecture. The next morning one of Shakyamuni's disciples, Maudgalyayana, was putting out the lamps when he came across one lamp which would not go out. Surprised, he asked Shakyamuni Buddha about it. He answered, “Indeed. That lamp was donated by a poor woman called Nanda. You completely lack the power to extinguish it. Even if all the water of the ocean was poured upon it, that lamp would keep on shining. Why is this? That is because it was given out of a precious will that is vaster than an ocean. It was donated out of a sincere wish to light the darkness of all people’s minds.”The saying “A poor person’s one light outshines a millionaire’s 10,000” teaches us that what is most important when we practice giving is what's in our hearts.


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