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THE MAN WHO WORKED TO GIVE ALMS
ONCE upon a time the Buddha was born as a merchant named Vissaya
(and being endowed with the Five Virtues) he was liberal and
fond of alms-giving. He had alms halls built at the four city
gates, in the heart of the city, and at the door of his own
house. At these points he set on foot alms-giving and every
day 600,000 men went forth to beg and the food of the beggar
and the merchant was exactly the same. And as he thus stirred
up the people of India by his gifts, Sakka, the King of the
gods, grew suspicious and thought, "This Vissaya gives alms
and by scattering his gifts everywhere is stirring up all
India. By means of his alms-giving, methinks he will dethrone
me and himself become Sakka. I will destroy his wealth, and
make him a poor man, and so bring it about that he shall no
longer give alms." So Sakka caused his oil, honey, molasses
and the like, and all his treasure of grain to disappear, as
well as his slaves and work people. Those who were deprived
of his gifts came and said, "My Lord, the alms hall has
disappeared. We do not find anything in the various places
set up by you." "Take money hence," he said. "Do not cut off
the giving of alms." And calling his wife, he bade her keep
up her charity. She searched the whole house, and not finding
a single bit of money, she said, "My Lord, except the clothes
we wear, I see nothing. The whole house is empty." Opening the
seven jewel treasuries they found nothing,and save the merchant
and his wife no one else was seen, neither slaves nor hirelings.
The merchant, again addressing his wife, said, "My dear, we
cannot possibly cut off our charities. Search the whole house
till you find something."
At that moment a certain grass-mower threw down his sickle
and pole and the rope for binding the grass in the doorway,
and ran away. The merchantís wife found them and said: "My
Lord, this is all I see," and brought and gave them to him.
Said he: "All these years I have never mown grass before,
but today I will mow grass, and take and sell it, and by
this means dispense the fitting alms."
So, through fear of having to cut off his charities, he took
the sickle, and the pole and the rope, and going forth from
the city came to a place of much grass, and mowing it, tied
it up in two bundles, saying, "One shall belong to us, and
with the other I will give alms."
This he did for six days, and because there was not enough to
feed all who came for alms, on the seventh day, he and his
wife went fasting. Then his strength gave out. No sooner
did the heat of the sun strike upon his head than his eyes
began to swim in his head, and he became unconscious and
falling down he scattered the grass. Sakka was moving about,
observing what the merchant did. And that god, standing in
mid-air, cried: "Refrain from giving, and thou shalt have
joy for ever."
"Who art thou?" cried the merchant.
"I am Sakka."
And the merchant said:
"Sakka reached his high office by taking upon himself moral
duties, and giving alms."
"Why dost thou give alms?" asked Sakka, still wishing to
"It is not because I desire Sakkahood nor Brahmaship, but
through giving there cometh knowledge of all things."
"Great merchant," cried Sakka, "henceforth do thou every
day give alms." And all his wealth was restored to him.