Offering a Hanging Bell to a Temple
The priests of a temple decided to have a hanging bell made for the place. The chief priest of the temple asked the parishioners, “Is there anyone who wants to make a donation?”
A wealthy man came forward, saying, “I would really like to make an offering for it.” Soon, a splendid hanging bell was made. Later, the chief priest of the temple held a dinner party with the parishioners. The rich man who donated all the expenses for the bell sat in the front row. However, the priest didn’t praise the rich man’s donation.
Bristling with discontent, the wealthy man tried using a roundabout way of getting the priest to express gratitude: “Well, sir, I didn’t just donate the bell because I have spare money. How is the toll of the bell?”
Then the priest got to the heart of the issue: “Do you want me to say thank you to you for giving the bell?”
Since he couldn’t just say “Yes”, the rich man bent slightly forward and murmured, “No, that is not what I wanted to say. I just wanted to tell you that I didn’t give spare money for the bell.”
“Are you not misunderstanding what giving is? Actually, I have been waiting for your words of gratitude about the bell.”
“What?! MY words of gratitude?!”
“You donated for the bell. That means you planted good seeds. It’s not for the sake of others. Everything will become your happiness. It is only you who shall reap the good results of your deeds. This is the law of cause and effect. So why should I say words of gratitude to you?”
“Now I see what giving is.”
“Right. It’s just like this: If a farmer plants seeds in a field, he is the one who will reap all the harvest. The field will never take away the harvest. However, if a farmer has no field, he cannot plant seeds even if he wants to do so. I just gave you the field. You planted good seeds there. You are the one who will reap all the harvest. Therefore, I thought that you are the one who should say, ‘Thank you so much for giving me a field.’”
The rich man reflected upon his misunderstanding on giving and apologized.
Expecting Thanks is a Deluded Mindset
The law of cause and effect is the truth that never changes, regardless of time and place. What decides good fortune or bad fortune in life? To this question, Buddhism answers, “Good causes produce good effects. Bad causes produce bad effects. My causes produce my effects.” This is Shakyamuni Buddha’s statement that teaches the causality of happiness: that which we want to know the most.
“Good causes produce good effects” means that good seeds bring good results. “Bad causes produce bad effects” means that bad seeds bring bad results. A bad result will never come from a good seed, just as a good result will never come from a bad seed.
“My causes produce my effects” means that if I plant the seeds, I am the one who must reap the results.
It is taught that we would never reap the results of the seeds planted by others. In the same way, the results of the seeds that I plant would never go to another person. No matter how many times we are taught this great law, when we make offerings, shameful thoughts start rushing forth in our minds. “Now I have less money. The money that I had now belongs to the person to whom I made an offering.”
We think so because we don’t understand the law of cause and effect.
This deluded way of thinking makes us expect thanks from the recipient of our act of giving. The law of cause and effect is the universal truth. Good deeds bring good results and my deeds bring my results. Seeds sown will never fail to grow. The merit of giving brings happiness to the one who gave without fail. That is why Buddhism teaches that we should plant good seeds abundantly.