Once upon a time, there lived a monk in a broken-down temple. One day, this monk made a meal of coarse rice. Because he had no vegetables, he went to a famous restaurant. Standing outside the restaurant door, he inhaled the aroma of the food that wafted from the dishes inside the restaurant, and said, “The chicken, fish, meat and egg in my bowl are simply delicious!” So, singing about the restaurant dishes, he ate his meal of coarse rice in big mouthfuls.
The owner of the restaurant, hearing someone outside singing a song about the restaurant dishes, went to the door to take a look. He saw a poor monk standing outside the door singing about the dishes of his restaurant with gusto and at the same time, eating with relish. He got angry and snatched away the monk’s bowl. Looking into the bowl, he saw that it was filled with coarse rice without a single vegetable. Angrily, he went to file a lawsuit against the monk. He was obsessed with money and wanted to get some money from the Dharma Master.
The verdict of the muddle-headed judge who presided over the case was: “Since this monk has smelled the aroma of the dishes, he has to pay the restaurant a thousand dollars.” The monk laughed and said, “I agree to pay you a thousand dollars, but you will have to wait until twelve noon tomorrow. I will give you the money at a certain public square.”
The next day, at exactly twelve noon, the restaurant owner and the monk arrived at the square. The midday sun was scorching and no breeze blew. The monk held up a dollar bill and said, “The shadow on the ground is exactly one thousand dollars, not a cent more, not a cent less. Go and get it!” The restaurant owner was puzzled and said to the monk, “That’s just a shadow; how can it be used to buy things?”
The monk answered, “The aroma from your restaurant is also like this shadow, empty!” He then said sternly, “You are obsessed with money and harbor evil intentions, yet you refuse to come to your senses. You don’t know how to reflect upon yourself. While you are alive, you may have great wealth, but when you die, you will go empty-handed. No matter how much money you have, when you die, you can’t bring along even a cent. You had better do more good deeds, refrain from bad deeds, and take refuge with the Triple Jewel —the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then your life will truly be meaningful and you will be truly rich.”
When the restaurant owner heard the Dharma Master’s speech, he awakened and took the words to heart. He immediately vowed to repent and reform. Bowing to the Dharma Master, he took refuge with the Triple Jewel. From then on, he understood right and wrong. This story illustrates how the monk used expedient means to transform this person.