From the book; "Buddha, His Life Retold", by Robert Allen Mitchell. 

Butter and Stones

    At the time, priests of a religion were charging money for a ritual prayer that promised to release a dead relative's soul from hell so he could go to heaven. At one point in the prayer they struck an urn full of stones with a ritual hammer. If the urn broke, and the stones were released, it was a sign that the soul was also released, according to their teaching. Of course, the brittle clay could not withstand the blow of the heavy metal hammer.
    A young man, distraught over his uncle's death, went to the Buddha, believing that the Buddha's teaching was a newer, greater form of religion, and asked him for a ritual which would release his uncle's soul. The Buddha told him to obtain two of the ritual urns from the priests, and fill one with butter and and one with stones.
    The young man, believing he was about to get a more powerful ritual, was very happy and did as the Buddha said. When he returned, the Buddha told him to place the urns carefully in the river, so that the rim of the urn was just below the surface. Then he instructed him to recite the usual prayer of the priests, and strike both urns under the water with the hammer, at the usual point in the prayer, then come back and describe what happened.
    The young man, very excited to be the first person to be given this wonderful new ritual, more effective than the old, did exactly as he was told. On his return, the Buddha asked him to describe what he saw. The young man replied "I saw nothing unusual. When I smashed the urns, the stones sank to the bottom of the river and the butter was washed away on the surface of the river."
    The Buddha said "Then you must ask your priests to pray that the butter will sink and the stones will float to the surface!" The young man, shocked by the obvious ridiculousness of this request said "But no matter how much the priests pray, the stones will never float and the butter will not sink."
    The Buddha replied, "Exactly so.  And, it is the same with your uncle. Whatever good, loving actions he has done during his life will make him rise towards heaven, and whatever bad, selfish actions he has done will make him sink towards hell. And there is not a thing that all the prayers and rituals of the priests can do to alter even a tiny part of the results of his actions!"

 

The Bandit

    Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimal. 

    "Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish," said Buddha. "Cut off the branch of that tree."
    One slash of the sword, and it was done!  "What now?" asked the bandit.
    "Put it back again," said Buddha.
    The bandit laughed. "You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that."
    "On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal."

 

Krsa Gautami and the Mustard Seed

    On day, when the rainy season had ended, Krsa Gautami, the wife of a rich man, was plunged deep into grief by the loss of her only son, a baby boy who had died just when he was old enough to run about.

    In her grief Krsa carried the dead child to all her neighbors in Kapilavastu, asking them for medicine.  Seeing her, the people shook their heads sadly out of pity.

    "Poor woman!  She has lost her senses from grief.  The boy is beyond the help of medicine."

    Unable to accept the fact of her son's death, Krsa then wandered through the streets of the city beseeching for help everyone she met.

    "Please, sir," she said to a certain man, "give me medicine that will cure my boy!"

    The stranger looked at the child's eyes and saw that the boy was dead.  "Alas, I have no medicine for your child," he said, "but I know of a physician who can give what you require."

    "Pray tell me, sir, where I can find this physician."

    "Go, dear woman, to Sakyamuni, the Buddha, just now residing in Banyan Park."

    Krsa went in haste to the Nigrodharama; and she was brought by the monks to Buddha.

    "Reverend Lord," she cried, "give me the medicine that will cure my boy!"

    Lord Buddha, Ocean of Infinite Compassion, looked upon the grief-stricken mother with pity.

    "You have done well to come here for medicine, Krsa Gautami.  Go into the city and get a handful of mustard seed."  And then the Perfect One added: "The mustard seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend."

    "Yes, Lord!" exclaimed Krsa, greatly cheered.  "I shall procure the mustard seed at once!"

    Poor Krsa then went from house to house with her request; and the people pitied her, saying: "Here is the mustard seed: please take all you want of it."

    Then Krsa would ask: "Did a son or daughter, father or mother, die in your family?"

    "Alas!  The living are few, but the dead are many.  Do not remind us of our deepest grief!"

    And there was no house but that some relative, some dear one, had died in it.

    Weary and with hope gone, Krsa sat down by the wayside, sorrowfully watching the lights of the city as they flickered up and were extinguished again,  And at last the deep shadows of night plunged the world into darkness.

    Considering the fate of human beings, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished again, the bereft mother suddenly realized that Buddha, in his compassion, had sent her forth to learn the truth.

    "How selfish am I in my grief!" she thought.  "Death is universal: yet even in this valley of death there is a Path that leads to Deathlessness [for] him who has surrendered all thought of self!"

    Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Krsa Gautami went to the edge of a forest and tenderly laid the dead body in a drift of wildflowers.

    "Little son," she said, taking the child by the hand, "I thought that death had happened to you alone; but it is not to you alone, it is common to all people."

    There she left him; and when dawn brightened the eastern sky, she returned to the Perfect One.

    "Krsa Gautami," said the Tathagata, "did you get a handful of mustard seed from a house in which no one has ever lost kith or kin?"

    "That, Lord, is now past and gone," she said.  "Grant me support."

    "Dear girl, the life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and inseparable from suffering," declared Buddha, "for there is not any means, nor will there ever be, by which those that have been born can avoid dying.  All living beings are of such a nature that they must die whether they reach old age or not.

    "As early-ripening fruits are in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of dying.  Just as the earthen vessels made by the potter end in shards, so is the life of mortals.  Both young and old, both those who are foolish and those who are wise - all fall into the power of death, all are subject to death.

    Of those who depart from this life, overcome by death, a father cannot save his son, nor relatives their kinsfolk.  While relatives are looking on and lamenting, one by one the mortals are carried off like oxen to the slaughter.  People die, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds.  Such are the terms of the world.

    "Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind.  On the contrary, his pain will be all the greater, and he will ruin his health.  He will make himself sick and pale; but dead bodies cannot be restored by his lamentation.

    "Now that you have heard the Tathagata, Krsa, reject grief, do not allow it to enter your mind.  Seeing one dead, know for sure: 'I shall never see him again in this existence.'  And just as the fire of a burning house is quenched, so does the contemplative wise person scatter grief's power, expertly, swiftly, even as the wind scatters cotton seed.

    "He who seeks peace should pull out the arrow lamentations, useless longings, and the self-made pangs of grief.  He who has removed this unwholesome arrow and has calmed himself will obtain peace of mind.  Verily, he who has conquered grief will always be free from grief - sane and immune - confident, happy, and close to Nirvana, I say."

    Then Krsa Gautami won the stage of Entering-the-Stream, and shortly afterwards she became an Arhat [found Nirvana for herself].  She was the first woman to have attained Nirvana under the dispensation of Sakyamuni Buddha.

 

To Householders

    And once upon a time a certain householder approached the Perfect One and declared that he, aspiring to live the religious life, had renounced all worldly practices.
    "What you, O householder, call 'worldly practice' is one thing," said the Master, "but what is meant by 'worldly practice' in the Āryan discipline is another thing.
    "These eight Precepts in the Āryan discipline conduce to the renunciation of worldly practices: 1) Through making no onslaught on living beings, harming is renounced, 2) through taking only what is voluntarily given, pilfering is renounced, 3) through speaking truthfully, deceit is renounced, 4) through gracious speech, malicious speech is renounced, 5) through the absence of coveting, greed is renounced, 5) through the absence of invective, angry blame is renounced, 7) through the absence of vindictiveness, wrathful rage is renounced, and 8) through humility, self-conceit is renounced.
    "When I say that through making no onslaught on living beings harming is renounced, I mean that an Āryan disciple considers the matter this way:

    " 'I am attaining the renunciation of those fetters because of which I was one who made onslaught on living beings.  Verily, if I were to harm living beings, conscience would upbraid me; intelligent persons, having found me out, would censure me; and at the dissolution of my body at death, I should arise in a world of woe.  But those painful mind-and-body aggregates which would arise because of onslaught on living beings come not to be when onslaught on living beings is renounced.'

    "And in like manner the Āryan disciple reasons concerning the other seven rules.

    "O householder, it is like a hungry dog, weak from starvation, who might find his way to a slaughter-yard.  Suppose the butcher flings that dog a bare bone with only a trace of blood on it.  Do you think that the dog's hunger would be allayed by such a bare bone?

    "In the same way, householder, an Āryan disciple reflects, 'Sensual pleasure has been likened by the Master to a bare bone, of great suffering, of great tribulation, which is only the beginning of a long series of sufferings,' and having by higher insight penetrated the truth of the matter, and having laid aside that indifference which is based upon diversity, he develops only that indifference whish is based upon unity, and in which all hankering after worldly things is brought to an end."

 

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