Selling Poverty Away


Translated By Tara Lau

When Shakyamuni Buddha was still alive, one day, after his disciple Kaccanyana was out promoting Buddhist dharma, on his way back, he saw a woman holding a water bottle, sitting by the river and weeping. When Kaccanyana saw this, he couldn’t help but feel pity for her. He was worried that the woman would drown herself in the river because she couldn’t stand her frustration.
So he stepped forward and asked the woman, “why are you crying here?”
The woman glanced at him and said while crying: “You are just a monk. What’s the use of telling you?”
“I am a disciple of Buddha. I can help you to relieve your suffering.”
The woman said, “This world is too unfair. There is such a great disparity between the rich and the poor. I am a poor fellow who lives alone and suffers all my life. I am tortured by the pain of poverty to the point where I really don’t want to live anymore!” After a moment the woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the river.
Kaccanyana quickly stepped forward and grabbed her, and tried to enlighten her: “Don’t act on the spur of the moment! There are many poor people in the world, and you are not the only one. At the same time, poverty does not equal to suffering; and being wealthy does not always bring happiness. As long as you live a healthy life, why should you be sad being poor and try to drown yourself in a river?”

The woman replied impatiently: “You are a monk. You can see through the worldly situation, but I can’t. I am the slave of the rich man in this village. I have been enslaved for many years in poverty, without food and clothing, and no freedom. My ill-minded master is greedy, violent and evil, and without any compassion. If we make any mistakes, we will be beaten and scolded, making it impossible for us to live in a humane way. Think about all the pain caused by my poverty. How can I not grieve over being poor?”
Venerable Kaccanyana continued: “Don’t be sad, I will tell you a way to escape poverty and get rich.”
The woman wiped away her tears, looked at Kaccanyana and said, “Now show me the way to be rid of poverty?”
“It is very simple. You suffer because of poverty, you can sell poverty away to others.”
“Can poverty be sold to others?” the woman exclaimed, “You are a monk, you are not allowed to talk nonsense. If poverty can be sold to others, then there will be no poor people in the world. Who would buy poverty?”

“You can sell it to me, I am willing to buy it.” Kaccanyana replied, and continued:

“The way to sell poverty is to give alms! You have to know that poverty and wealth in life have their own causes. The reason why poor people are poor is because they were greedy and stingy in their previous lives, did not give and did not do good deeds. The reason why rich people are rich in this life is because they were generous and were willing to give in their previous lives. You can gain blessings by selling poverty, and it is the best way to get rid of poverty. “

After hearing this, the woman suddenly became enlightened and replied happily: “Honorable Venerable, you are right. I have leaned that giving is the best way to escape poverty. However, I am so poor and have nothing to give, even the water bottle in my hand belonged to my master.” The venerable handed one of his alms bowls to the woman and said, “Almsgiving does not necessarily require money. You can take the water bottle in your hand and fill it with some clean water. Pour the water into my alms bowl and offer to me. I’ll drink it and it is a gift from you to a monk and it gives you great merit!”

From then on, the woman became wiser and  grasped the meaning of giving. She respectfully gave a bottle of water to Venerable Kaccanyana and the Venerable blessed the woman. Since then the woman started offering water to the monks and brought merits to her family. She followed the advice of the Venerable to give alms, observed the precepts, and practised everyday. After her death, she was reborn in the Trayastika heaven and was freed from poverty and pain of this saha world.

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