Let us learn about the Buddha’s wisdom, which brightens and enriches our lives.
Everyday practice will dramatically change your life.
Buddhism teaches that there are six good deeds that can bring us happiness. These are called the “Six Paramitas.” There are many good deeds, but Shakyamuni Buddha summed all of these up into six. They are GIVING, DISCIPLINE, FORBEARANCE, DILIGENCE, CONTEMPLATION, and WISDOM. Shakyamuni encouraged us to choose whichever one suits us most and earnestly put that into practice. You will surely gain good effects according to what you have done and become happy. Let’s learn each of the six good deeds in order.
This time, we are going to focus on the first one, “GIVING.” "Giving" is to be kind to others or willingly give something to others. There is a story that teaches us the mindset we should have towards giving. When Shakyamuni Buddha was alive, an orphan girl named Saya was working at Anathapindika’s* mansion. Her job was taking care of babies and washing the dishes.
One day, Saya found herself thinking about the fact that her dear mother, who used to embrace her so warmly, was not in this world any more. Filled with pain over this, suddenly she sat down by the wayside and began to cry loudly. A monk who happened to be passing by stopped to talk to Saya. She told him about how lonely she felt due to having lost her parents. He comforted her by quoting Shakyamuni Buddha’s words: “Everyone is lonely.”
Saya asked, “Then what should we do to make the loneliness disappear?” The monk said, “Listen to Buddhism.” The girl was delighted at this answer and, with her master Anathapindika’s permission, she began to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha’s lectures.
One day, Anathapindika was walking around in the garden after supper. Saya came into the garden holding a bucket and started to pour water onto the grass, saying, “Here you go—dinner and tea! Enjoy your meal.”
Anathapindika asked Saya what she was doing. She answered that she was “donating” the water used for washing bowls to the grass and insects.
“Oh, is that so! By the way, who taught you such a difficult word as ‘donating’?”
“Shakyamuni Buddha taught me. He also taught me that I should try to do as much good as possible and that I must not do bad things. Among good deeds, donating, or giving, is the most important. This means giving money or things to people in poverty or in need and making an effort to convey Buddha’s teachings to many people. As I have nothing to donate, I thought of giving water to the grass and insects after carefully washing bowls.”
To this, Anathapindika responded,
“Well now, what a good lecture you listened to, Saya! All right then. You don’t have to work on the days when Shakyamuni Buddha gives lectures. You should go in the morning and listen seriously.”
After a few days, Anathapindika noticed that Saya had suddenly become cheerful. She always seemed to be enjoying her work. He called Saya and asked why. She said, “Shakyamuni Buddha said that even people who have no money or fortune, like me, can donate seven things as long as they have consideration for others. I was happy to know I can ‘donate’ something.”
She also told Anathapindika that she was trying hard to keep smiling because through her smile, she could bring joy to others.
“I see. Keeping on smiling is such a good thing?”
“Yes, it is. If I look gloomy and sad, not only will people around me feel gloomy, but I will too.
If I smile brightly even if I have troubles in my life, I can ease my feelings. People around me will feel happy too. After I decided to keep on smiling, I have gradually begun to feel less loneliness and pain than before. Even when I feel like crying, if I try smiling, I start to feel calm.”
Moved by Saya’s story, Anathapindika said, “Saya, I too want to hear a good lecture like this. Please take me to Shakyamuni Buddha.”
In the next volume, Anathapindika will listen to a lecture by Shakyamuni Buddha for the first time.
*Anathapindika: A rich man who lived in a kingdom called Kosala, in ancient India. He took pity on people who were all alone and often offered clothes and food to them.