When Shakyamuni Buddha dwelt at Shravasti in the Jeta Grove in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary, one morning he went into the town with Ananda to make his almsround. On their way, they passed by some children who were playing and using dirt to build palaces, houses, and warehouses. The warehouses were filled with dirt, which represented treasure and grain.
One child, upon seeing the Buddha from afar, was attracted by the Buddha's bright light and inspired by a sense of respect. He brought out the "grain" from his "warehouse" and invited the Buddha to taste it. Although this adorable little boy stood on tiptoes, he still couldn't reach the Buddha. He asked for help from another boy, who squatted down and allowed him to step on his shoulders. The Buddha lowered his head and accepted the dirt. The two children were overjoyed and felt like great donors.
The Buddha asked Ananda to use the dirt to paint his house. There was only enough dirt to cover one corner of the Buddha's house, but Ananda did a decent job. The Buddha told Ananda that one hundred years after he entered Nirvana, the child who offered the dirt would become a king and the child who helped him make the offering would be his minister. This is the story of the previous life of King Asoka, the famous patron of Buddhism.
When I first read this story, I was very touched. A Buddha, who has realized unsurpassed wisdom and can contemplate limitless worlds in the ten directions and understand the causes and effects of the past, present and future, solemnly accepted a bowlful of dirt from some children, while so many rich people competed to make offerings to him. What he manifested were kindness, compassion, equality and benevolence. Everything is a creation of the mind. There are no class distinctions in Buddhism. That is how the Buddha guided living beings.
The child who offered the dirt touched me as well. What an innocent child: it never occurred to him that the “grain” made of dirt was not edible. He did not consider that other people would turn down his offering of dirt. He did not even think of expecting anything in return, the way most adults do. Of course he did not possess the spiritual powers to know that with such an offering he could become a noble a hundred years later. He simply offered what he himself cherished; therefore the dirt in his palm turned to gold. He had an ordinary mind. Had he not treated the Buddha like another child equal to himself, had he been restricted by worldly conventions, how could he have happily placed the filthy dirt into the Buddha's bowl?
The child offered the dirt; the Buddha accepted the dirt. Who felt embarrassed? Who felt inferior? Who thought it was ridiculous? Who was fooled? No one was. They very naturally, with perfect composure and innocence, shined forth with that most touching and beautiful glow.
If we could all have such ingenuous hearts, would there still be people who spend their whole lives scheming and abusing others just to satisfy their own insatiable materialistic desires?
Young friends! Do you know what is the root of being a human? It is the Eight Virtues.They are: filiality, brotherhood, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility, and a sense of shame.
Venerable Master Hua