Sunday, November 29, 2020

77 - Steps of Life


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

77 - Steps of Life Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived two brothers, Mark and Jayden. As entrepreneurs, they invested in a hotel downtown, using the penthouses on the 80th floor as their homes. Mark and Jayden enjoyed hiking and recently decided to take on the Pacific Crest Trail hiking challenge, which spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to the United States and ending up in Canada. So, they began to train every weekend to prepare themselves physically as well as mentally.

One day, they had just returned from training. When they got to the elevator, there was a sign that said, “The elevators are currently out of order. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Jayden sighed and said, “You must be kidding…”

“Are you up for a challenge?” Mark asked.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Jayden replied.

Mark nodded and began running towards the stairs.

Jayden yelled, “Wait for me!” And then ran after his brother.

Since they had been training, they ran up to the 20th floor with ease. However, when they reached the 40th floor, their legs began to shake. Their heavy backpacks, filled with all their equipment, were weighing them down. Feeling tired, they sat on the stairs.

Jayden whined, “Seems like it was a bad idea to take on this challenge.”

“It’s not that bad,” Mark replied.

“My legs hurt, and my backpack is too heavy!” Jayden exclaimed.

“Imagine us in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail, what would we do then? This is why we’re training. Come on! Don’t give up so easily. Always think positive.” Mark replied.

“Don’t lecture me! You keep going if you want! I’m going to sit here for a bit.” Jayden said.

“Okay, taking time to rest is also important when hiking. If we need to rest, then let’s rest, but let’s not give up.” Mark replied. He fished in his backpack for some snacks. Finding some cheese crackers, he offered them to Jayden.

Now feeling slightly better, Jayden came up with an idea, he suggested, “I know! Let’s leave our backpacks here, and come pick them up when the elevators are working again. What do you think?” 

“I’m going to continue with my backpack. If I was doing the challenge, I couldn’t just leave my backpack behind. So, I’m keeping mine on my back.” Mark replied.

Jayden shrugged and said, “Alright fine! I’m leaving mine here.”

Without his heavy backpack, Jayden ran up the stairs, soon leaving Mark behind. Struggling to keep up with Jayden, huffing, and puffing, Mark yelled, “Let’s take another rest here.”

When they both looked up, they realized they were on the 60th floor.

“See! You should have listened to me on the 40th floor and left your backpack.” Jayden said smugly.

Mark sat down on the stairs and began sipping his water. It was then Jayden realized that he did not have his water with him. Mark smiled and said, “Want some?” Jayden nodded.

Resting his head on his knees, Jayden looked at Mark and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

“You just did, so go ahead!” replied Mark.

“Why did you and Julia divorce? It seemed you were going to be together forever. What happened?” Jayden asked.

Mark sighed and said, “Sometimes, we don’t realize how important someone is until we lose them. I didn’t realize how little time I spent with her. I guess she felt I loved my career more than her because I was working 24/7. It was my fault for not being there for her. I thought I needed to provide her a comfortable life by focusing on my career, but all she wanted was for me to spend time with her. I was selfish and couldn’t see things from her perspective.”

“I see. Would you do things differently if you had another chance?” Jayden asked.

“Definitely! I would consider the pros and cons carefully. Honestly, I was too immature back then when we got married.” Mark replied.

“I’m sure you’ll meet someone again,” Jayden said.

“Thanks. Shall we continue with the remaining 20 floors?” Mark replied.

“Sure! We can’t give up now, we've made it this far!” Jayden said as he stood, ready to go.

Up the last 20 floors, they really struggled, tired and out of breath, but they persisted. When they finally reached the 80th floor, they were completely exhausted.

Catching his breath, Jayden exclaimed, “Finally! We’re home!” He rushed to the door of his penthouse, rummaging around for his keys, and then he yelled, “Oh no! My keys, they’re in my backpack!”

At that moment, Mark smugly waved his keys and opened the door to his penthouse. Realizing he had not weighed the pros and cons when he left his backpack on the 40th floor, Jayden, now alone in the corridor, fell to the floor like a deflated balloon.

This story illustrates the span of one’s lifetime. The 80 floors represent a life of 80 years.

The first 20 floors depict our youth. When we are young and full of energy, we’re quick on our feet, willing to innovate, and be fast learners. We see the world with fresh eyes full of wonder and yearn for adventure. We’re a force of nature in human form ready to go full-out.

As we reach 40 years old, or the 40th floor, life is now more focused on the important choices we make. This period is considered to be the peak of one’s career, where we are working our hardest to realize our dreams, making ends meet, and dealing with important life-changing decisions. The heavy backpacks in this story represent all the things that potentially weigh us down, whether it be career, marriage, family, or health.


As we now reach the 60th floor, aged 60, our physical strength is in decline. Having experienced all the joys and sorrows of life, we see life differently. Some only now begin to live life with enjoyment and contentment.

Finally, when we reach the 80th floor, aged 80, we discover that our body is old. Our teeth are no longer as white or strong, our hair is grey and white, and we feel rather fragile. 

In this story, Jayden decided to let go of his backpack that was filled with everything important to him. However, when we seek to open the various doors throughout our lives, we find that the key to our happiness was in that “heavy backpack” we left behind. Each of us carries different things in our backpacks. It may be our aging parents, our healthy body, our happy family, our travels, and so on. As we age, and climb up the stairs of our lives, to reduce the weight of our “heavy backpack,” we may put down our perceived burdens one at a time. However, when we are old and fragile, looking back, we realize that we no longer have the strength to bring back true happiness. Therefore, it is important to consider carefully when making decisions, so that we can seize each opportunity that comes our way.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,

“Everything has its pros and cons, 

simply understand how to weigh them.

Always keep sight of what is possible,

for even dry stone and rotten wood can be used as medicine.”

---------------------------- 《星雲說喻》英文有聲書 Storyteller:妙光法師 點此聆聽:








Monday, November 23, 2020

76 - The Prison of the Mind


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

76 - The Prison of the Mind Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived a prisoner named John, who grew up without a father. Since he was young, he was always angry about everything. As he grew into an adult, his anger got worse. Once, John got into an argument with someone, feeling that he was being judged and slighted. Unable to control his anger, he punched that person in the head and knocked him down. The person ended up with brain damage and John was sent to jail over his actions. In prison, John was put in a cell measuring 2 square feet. With such limited space, he didn’t have much room to move around. Every day, he grew even more bitter and resentful. He felt it was wrong and unfair that he was locked up, as he still believed that the person he had punched deserved it. Now stuck in his tiny prison cell, he had only his own resentment as a daily companion. One day, lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling, John noticed a fly. The fly flew towards him and buzzed around his head. Getting angry, he yelled, “How dare you come into my space? This cell is MY SPACE! It has only space for one, you’re not welcome! Get out of here!” Determined to get rid of the fly, he chased it around his cell like a madman. When the fly flew towards the door, John jumped towards the door. When the fly flew towards the wall, he jumped to the wall. Now breathing heavily, he pointed at the fly and said, “You think you are better than me?! Just wait till I catch you!” The fly responded by landing on his face. John could feel it and with all his strength, he slapped his own face. Even though the impact was painful, he was so focused on getting the fly, he didn’t care. The fly was now buzzing around the room again, and he tried to punch it out of the air with no success. Now, exhausted, he sat on the floor. Staring at the fly, he began talking to it, “Why is it that I can’t catch you? I was so close but you so easily get away! This cell is so tiny, too small for even one person, but trying to catch you, it feels like this room is now so huge. It was at that moment, John realized that the cell he had always complained about was actually not that small after all. At the very least, it was big enough to make him see things from a new perspective. This story explores the nature of our minds. With a discriminating mind, we will never find peace. Just like John, who resented his small cell, the issue isn’t about the size of his cell; it is actually about his mind. Whether big or small, it was his mind that made all the difference. As the saying goes, “A mind full of worries lives in a narrow world. A mind free of worries sleeps on a broader bed.” In other words, the size of the world is not important, what is important is our inner world. Is it big or small? Ultimately, the world we perceive is a reflection of our own mind. If we can turn situations around with our minds, then, even a small prison cell can become as vast as the universe. If we have a discriminating mind, even if we lived in a huge mansion, we may not enjoy it. Over time, we may find ourselves getting bored, feeling empty, restless, and stuck. Therefore, one should not solely focus on the good or bad of a given situation, but instead, focus on our mind. How well we live each day depends on the nature of our mind, as well as how tolerant we are. Just like the Buddha taught, everything in this world is interpreted as manifestations of our minds. Master Wumen (無門和尚) once said, “Spring has its blossoms and autumn its moon, Summer has its breezes and winter its snow; If one has nothing to be concerned about, Then any time is a good time in life.” Regardless of whether the flowers bloom in spring, a cool breeze blows in summer, the autumn moon is bright, or the snow falls in winter, as long as the mind is not unsettled by the outside world, and does not cling to right and wrong, gains and losses, prosperity and wealth, every day is a good season, and your mind will be calm and at ease. Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says, Free of delusion, you happily get along with people. Free of discrimination, you peacefully accept your surroundings. Free of attachment, you cheerfully carry on. Free of the five desires, your mind will be joyful.












Sunday, November 15, 2020

75 - The Value of Stone


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

75 - The Value of Stone Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived a monastic named Suddha. He and his master lived in a monastery in the mountains. Suddha's parents could not afford to raise him, so he became a monastic when only a young child.

Suddha was a deep thinker and often thought about the meaning and purpose of life.

One day, Suddha asked his master, “What is the value of life?”

His master did not answer him. Instead, he took out a stone and said, “Suddha, if you want to find the answer to your question, you must do as I say.”

“Yes, master,” Suddha replied.

His master continued, “Take this stone and go to the market. You are not to sell the stone under any circumstance. No matter how much money people offer you to buy it, you must not sell it.”

“Understood,” Suddha said.

Unable to understand his master’s reasoning, Suddha nevertheless headed to the market. When he arrived, he found a spot and sat down with the stone on display in front of him. 

A passerby was curious and asked, “How much for the rock?”

Suddha shook his head and replied, “It’s not for sale.”

The passerby tried to make him an offer, “How about you sell it to me for $2?”

Suddha again shook his head and said, “It’s not for sale.”

As he sat there with the stone, more people came by and made him offers. A few offered him $5 for the stone. By the end of the day, the highest offer was for $10.

When Suddha returned to the monastery, his master asked, “How did it go today?”

“A few people were curious about the stone. I had offers of $2, $5, and even $10. But I did as you instructed, I told them the stone wasn’t for sale.” Suddha shared.

The master instructed him, “Very well, tomorrow I want you to go to the gold market. Do exactly as you did today, just let others offer to buy it from you.” 

The next day, after finishing his chores, Suddha went to the gold market with the stone. Again, he sat and put the stone on display. A thought popped in his mind, “I wonder how much they’ll offer me here.”

“Excuse me, how much for this stone?” Someone asked.

“It’s not for sale,” Suddha said.

“Why not? I’m willing to offer you $1000. Will you consider selling it?” The person asked.

Overhearing the conversation, another person came over and said, “No, sell it to me, I will offer you ten times more.”

Suddha thought, “Wow, $10K is a lot of money.” But, he remembered his master’s instruction, and replied, “I’m not selling it.”

People began to gather around Suddha. Soon, a crowd formed with everyone talking about how they deserved to buy the stone. While the crowd kept arguing,  Suddha slowly made his way out. He left the crowd behind and ran back to the monastery.

As Suddha reached the monastery gate, he yelled, “Master! Master! I can’t believe it, someone offered to buy the stone for $10K!”

The master replied, “Excellent! Don’t get too excited because tomorrow I want you to go to one last place.” 

“Where am I going tomorrow?” Suddha asked excitedly.

“To the jewelry market. Remember, you are not to sell it and just let people make their offer.” The master said.

The following day, Suddha woke up earlier than usual, finished his chores, and headed out.

Excited, Suddha arrived at the jewelry market, sat down, and displayed the stone.

Within ten minutes, someone approached him and made him an offer, “I will give you $20K for this stone.”

Suddha shook his head and said, “I’m not selling.”

Another person approached him and said, “This stone looks interesting. I will pay you $50K for this.”

Suddha shook his head and said, “I am not selling the stone.”

Soon after, more and more people tried to buy the stone. The highest offer he received that day was $10 million dollars. By the end, he really didn’t know how to refuse the potential buyers anymore and resorted to saying, “I don’t know why I cannot sell this stone, I only follow my master’s instruction. He told me that the stone is not for sale.”

He then picked up the stone and headed back to the monastery.

When Suddha saw his master, he yelled “Master, it was amazing! I am amazed. People were offering me lots of money for this stone. Today, I had an offer of 10 million dollars! But, I still don’t understand how not selling the stone will tell what the value of life is.”

The master took the stone and replied, “Suddha, this stone’s value changes depending on the place. When it was at the market, its value was $10 at most. However, when it was at the gold market and jewelry market, its value kept changing. This is because people have different perspectives and different standards. When you asked me what is the value of life, I simply cannot tell you for it depends on how you see your own life.”

Suddha nodded and thanked his master for this great lesson.

This story highlights that there is no definite value on any life. Its worth depends on one’s perspectives, and what value you infuse into it.

Like most people, every day from 9am to 5pm, we are either working, studying or socializing, starting a family or business, traveling, doing charity, and so on. We seek answers and find motivation through these different lifestyles and goals. After a lifetime spent searching, how many people truly realize the value of their own life and that of others?

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,

Time is life: using time well is saving a life. 

Life is time: squandering time is wasting life.

---------------------------- 《星雲說喻》英文有聲書 Storyteller:妙光法師 點此聆聽:














Sunday, November 8, 2020

74 - My Head


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

74 - My Head Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived a young lady named Pudatta. As the eldest of her siblings, she was in charge of doing the family laundry.

One morning, after she had finished with the laundry, she was tired and decided to take a nap under a tree. Pudatta fell asleep and had a nightmare that she was being chased by someone. Suddenly she woke up in a cold sweat, and thought, “Thank goodness it was just a dream.”

She then went to the river to wash her face and clear her mind. When Pudatta saw her reflection in the river, she cried out in shock. “Where is my head?” She panicked and grabbed the laundry basket and left the river.

Ever since that day, Pudatta lived as if she had lost all logic. She truly believed that she really was a headless person.  Whenever she met someone, she would beg them, “Do you know where my head is? Can you please help me find it?”

When she was home, she would keep retelling the story of how she had a nightmare and that when she awoke, her head was gone. Frustrated at not knowing where her head was, she became bitter towards her family, blaming them for not supporting or helping her.

Thinking she couldn’t count on her family’s support, she turned to her friends for help in finding her head. Her friends tried to help her but gradually distanced themselves as they thought her mental state was worsening.

Believing that she was now alone, Pudatta’s anger and frustration grew as the days passed.

One day, she passed by a monastery and saw a monk sweeping the ground. Pudatta went up to him and asked, “Excuse me! I need your help. I have lost my head. My friends and family have abandoned me. No one will help me! Please help me!”

The monastic shook his head and continued sweeping. Everyone in the monastery had heard of Pudatta.

“Why is everyone ignoring me? I just want to find my head...” Pudatta cried.

At that moment, the Abbot of the monastery appeared and, without saying a word, slapped Pudatta in the face.

Shocked, Pudatta said, “Why did you slap me?!”

“Can you tell me where I slapped you?” The Abbot asked.

“You slapped me in my face!”  Pudatta shouted.

“If you know you have a face, why are you asking where your head is? " The Abbot replied.

As if she had been struck by lightning, Pudatta finally woke up from her delusion.

This story highlights the nature of our minds. Pudatta did not truly understand her problem. If she had thought about her problem by the riverside for a few moments, she would have noticed that a branch from a nearby tree cast a long shadow over her, giving her the impression that her head was missing. How often do we find ourselves in similar situations where we treat the symptoms instead of looking for the actual cause?

Moreover, Pudatta expected others to return her missing head. Often, we expect others to help us, be compassionate to us, provide us what we need, and so on. However, we must also think about what we must do not only for ourselves but also for others.

In Pudatta’s case, she had never actually lost her head. It was simply a delusion resulting from her being unable to think logically. This is similar to many of us who search for external wealth. To gain that wealth, we may become lost and confused. We cross thousands of miles seeking that wealth. As a result, we are blind to true wealth, that the ultimate treasure is within us all. The whole universe is within our minds. All we need is to stop and look within ourselves to find our innate potential. We will then realize that this boundless treasure is right here, right now, within us.

In other words, we should seek within, not without; we should first entreat with ourselves instead of others; we should seize each moment and not succumb to delusions. Having wealth, a good career, and possessions are not, in themselves, evil or immoral. But these are transient, and we may one day lose everything we have. That is why it is important to remember that our pure mind is innately content.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
In self-observation, look within.
In self-renewal, purify self continuously.
In self-practice, don't search without.
In self-detachment, don't differentiate.
















Sunday, November 1, 2020

73 - The Queen's Ring


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

73 - The Queen's Ring Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived in India King Prasenajit. One day, while having a meal, he said to his wife, Mallika, “My Queen, you are loved and respected by the people. Everything good that has ever happened to you is because of me. If it weren’t for me, you would not have what you have now, including your crown, jewelry, and everything else.”

Hearing this, Queen Mallika replied, “Your majesty, it is actually due to many causes and conditions that we are husband and wife in this life.”

Annoyed, the King said, “What causes and conditions? Nonsense, it’s only because I’m King.”

“My dear King, do you remember how we met?” The Queen asked.

“Yes of course! I remember it was right after my defeat in battle with King Ajatashastru. On my way back, I was feeling miserable. Then you appeared, I was enchanted by your beautiful singing voice. When I saw you, your beauty dazzled me. When I asked if you were married, I was so happy when you told me you were not. I remember how comfortable I felt around you, and so I confided in you about my defeat. You consoled me with kind words and care. I knew then I wanted to bring you home.” The King said.

“My dear king, what if that day, I had decided not to sing? What if you had thought my words were unkind? Do you think you would have taken me home then?”

The King thought for a while and quietly said, “Probably not.”

The Queen continued, “Many causes and conditions came together for our encounter. Such causes and conditions are mutual and harmonized. That means you rely on me, and I rely on you. Therefore, my honor and merit have come about because of you and me, not only because of you alone.”

“If I’m not King, You would not be Queen.” Exclaimed the King.

“Even if I am not Queen, I will have my own merit and virtue.” The Queen replied.

Feeling unappreciated and belittled by his wife, the King was furious, “If I never crowned you Queen, do you think people would respect you? Your merit and virtue come from me!”

The King’s ego was hurt and he was outraged. He saw the ring on the Queen’s finger and said to his minister, “Remove the Queen’s ring at once! Throw it into the river. I never want to see it again!” He turned to the Queen and said, “Since you do not appreciate what I have given you, I shall take all that I have given you back!”

The Queen kept silent as she knew the King was too angry to listen to anything she had to say.

After their argument, the Queen reflected on the conversation. She recalled the Buddha’s teachings and how she resolved to practice compassion and patience. She did not feel angry towards the King. Every day, she continued to do her daily Buddhist practices as well as her duties as a wife.

A week passed and the King was still angry with his Queen. The Queen decided to ask the chef to cook the King’s favorite dishes. Knowing that the King liked to eat fish, the chef thought to prepare a big fish he recently caught. When he cut open the fish, something dropped to the ground. As he picked it up, he saw that it was a ring. He thought, “Why would there be a ring inside a fish?” After preparing the dishes, the chef reported the ring to the minister. Upon seeing the ring, the minister kept quiet, grabbed the ring, and went to see the King.

Both the King and Queen were already seated at the table, ready for their meal. The Queen smiled and said, “My dear King, I’m grateful for everything you have done for me. So everything here has been prepared especially for you.”

The King, now happier, smiled and nodded.

At that moment, the minister came forward and presented the ring to the King. When everyone saw the ring, they all recognized it as the Queen’s ring.

The minister explained to his King, “Your majesty, this ring was found inside the big fish being served today. It appears that the ring you had ordered to be thrown in the river was swallowed by this fish. After the fish was caught, it was brought to the palace to be made ready for your special meal.”

Astonished, the King finally understood what the Queen meant about causes and conditions coming together. He then returned the ring to his Queen. She happily put the ring back on and said smugly, “Whatever is meant to be mine will still be mine.” They both laughed and began eating.

After this experience, King Prasenajit realized that every person has their own merit. It cannot be taken away by anyone. For every action, there is a consequence. 

This story draws on the proverb, “we reap what we sow.” In other words, depending on how much we have sowed, it is what we can expect to harvest. But, we must also understand the concept of causes and conditions. Everything in this world arises dependent on other conditions, and nothing is possible without existing in a web of causes and conditions. 

For example, let us take a seed of a flower. The seed is the cause and the flower is the effect. Between that seed being planted and becoming a flower, many conditions are required. These conditions are water, soil, air, sunlight, and so on. Without any of these elements, the seed will not be able to grow into a flower. Therefore, we can also see that the seed coexists with the required conditions, and there is a mutual relationship between them.

This concept can also be applied to this story. The relationship between King Prasenajit and Queen Mallika is one of coexistence. They rely on each other, and there are many causes and conditions for the relationship to work. Though it may be true that without the King’s decision to crown Mallika as Queen, her life would be very different. On the other hand, the Queen’s virtues and merits were due to her efforts in practicing generosity, compassion, and patience. Her ring coming back to her through being swallowed by a fish represents her merits. As the saying goes, “Life’s disasters and fortunes are incurred by one’s actions.” Ultimately, we are in charge of our destiny based on the merits that we accumulate.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
Good or bad fruit comes from good or bad causes and conditions; 
You are your own gardener. 
Good or bad karmic justice comes from good or ill will; 
You are the master of your own will.















Sunday, October 25, 2020

72 - Two Wives


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

72 - Two Wives Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time in the 19th century, there lived a man named Harold. At that time, polygamy was rather common. So, Harold had two wives, Josephine and Priscilla.

Josephine, a successful businesswoman, met Harold through work. Harold had always wanted many children. But, sadly, Josephine had fertility issues that strained their relationship. After long discussions, she agreed for Harold to marry a second time.
Priscilla was introduced to Harold through a friend. She was young and beautiful, with a sense of humor that Harold admired. Both women had their strengths and Harold loved them equally for who they were.

The three of them had an agreement. As Harold’s first wife, Josephine had the right to make all decisions regarding the family. Priscilla, as the second wife, had to help with the house chores.

At first, as they were adjusting to this new lifestyle, family life was peaceful and harmonious. They got along well with each other.

One month after they all moved in together, it was Josephine’s 35th birthday. Harold bought her a golden necklace to celebrate; but Priscilla became jealous and said to Harold, “That’s sweet. But I prefer a diamond necklace. Will you promise to get me one for my birthday?” 

Before Harold could reply, Josephine said, “Priscilla, there’s no need to talk about your birthday right now. It’s MY birthday, so I deserve the attention today!” Josephine grabbed Harold’s arm and continued, “Harold, remember our deal when you took a second wife. I only agreed if I could be in charge of all the decisions in this household.”

“Yes, I remember our agreement,” Harold replied.

Priscilla was very unhappy but decided not to push further as it was Josephine’s birthday. From that day on, both wives would constantly compete for Harold’s attention. Over time, Harold thought, “If only they could see that I love them both equally. All I wish for is some peace and quiet in this house.”

The rift between Josephine and Priscilla worsened when Priscilla became pregnant. One evening, Priscilla boasted to Josephine, “When I give birth to my child, Harold will be thrilled, and he’ll care more for me than you! How do you feel about that?”
Angry, Josephine replied, “That doesn’t bother me at all! Even if you have a child, I’m still in charge. Remember, your child will have to obey me and follow my rules.”

Priscilla cried out, “Harold...this is unfair! Why should she be in charge of MY children?!?”
“All right, stop arguing! I can’t take this anymore!” Harold said with a firm voice.
Seeing how his two wives fought for his attention, he suggested, “To make sure you both equally receive my attention, from now on, the three of us will share the same bed. Josephine, you will sleep on my right, and Priscilla, you will sleep on my left. Is this fair enough?”
“Yes, I’m okay with this rule, but only if you don’t toss and turn,” Josephine replied.

“I guess if you’re in the middle, then that’s fair,” Priscilla replied.
With this new arrangement, Josephine and Priscilla had fewer arguments in getting Harold’s attention. Harold seemed to have found the peace and quiet he wished for.

One night, a violent storm brought torrential rain. After three days of non-stop rain, the roof of the house began to leak. As the house was rather old and in need of repairs, mud began to seep into the house along with the rain. Harold, sleeping in the middle, woke up in the middle of the night with his face drenched in muddy water. Feeling uncomfortable, he turned to his right, thinking to ask Josephine to help him. But his movement woke Priscilla. She whispered to him, “Why is Josephine getting your attention?”

Harold turned to Priscilla and tried to explain, “The rain...and the mud…” But before he could finish, Josephine was now awake and said, “I thought you agreed not to toss and turn. Why are you now facing Priscilla and not me?” 

Unable to make both Priscilla and Josephine happy, Harold had no choice but to keep sleeping on his back, meaning that the muddy water continued to drip into his eyes the whole night. This caused a severe infection. With the risk of long-term damage to his vision, Harold underwent treatment.

It was only then that both Josephine and Priscilla realized their constant bickering for Harold’s attention had caused their husband’s eye infection.

Feeling contrite, Josephine said, “Oh my dear husband, I’m so sorry. I should have tried to see things from your perspective. I had no idea how difficult it was for you to keep both Priscilla and me happy.”

“Yes, I was being so childish, demanding the same attention from you all the time. Please forgive me,” Priscilla said. 

Embracing both his wives, Harold said, “I love you both very much and I just wish for us to live in harmony and peace. If it means being blind for you both to stop bickering, I am willing to trade my eyesight for it.”

Both Josephine and Priscilla shook their heads and said, “No, please don’t. Harold, we love you very much.” Josephine then said to Priscilla, “I’m so sorry.” They embraced each other and made peace.

This story highlights a dilemma faced by many. Having two wives seemed like a blessing for Harold, but it created disharmony in his household. 
Just like when you bump into a friend when shopping. You may invite them to your house for tea. But when you meet another friend, you may choose to go to a cafe with them instead. Sometimes, you greet a friend with “hello,” but greet other friends with “good morning.” This illustrates that we can be flexible when we encounter identical situations with different people. There is no need to be rigid when considering how to be fair towards others.

True wisdom is to conduct ourselves and approach situations with skillful and expedient means. Being strictly bound by conventions is not a true act of fairness. For example, if a friend enjoys eating rice and vegetables, then we would cook them a nice meal featuring rice and vegetables. But if another friend enjoys eating noodles, then we would be inclined to cook them a bowl of noodles instead. 

Everyone has their needs and strengths. We are all unique. Even animals have their differences. For example, cows and horses eat grass, but we cannot expect dogs and pigs to eat grass as well. Some animals are carnivores and others omnivores, each has their diet.  

We should not always seek to please everyone in everything we do, nor should we be reluctant to change or be flexible. Every situation is different and we should act according to the causes and conditions of that particular situation, at that particular moment. Being flexible requires true wisdom and applying expedient means is true fairness.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
To act according to causes and conditions means to act in the interests of others. 
To act according to principles means to choose what is right and stick to it, not just adhering to old rules.












Sunday, October 18, 2020

71 - This Little Piggy


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

71 - This Little Piggy Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived a couple, Don and Sandra, who owned a butcher shop in a small town. Sandra had recently given birth to a baby girl, named Ashley. Don ran the butcher shop alone while Sandra stayed home to look after the baby.

Each morning, a nearby monastery would sound a gong to wake everyone in the monastery. Living close by, Don could hear the gong every morning. Eventually, the sound of the morning gong became Don’s alarm clock. Once he heard the gong, he knew it was time to get up and get ready for work.

Don’s routine each morning was to slaughter and prepare a single pig. Usually, by the time he finished, the morning sun would already be shining up high. It was the perfect time to bring the pork meat to the market as everyone would already be up and headed to the market for their daily shopping.

One afternoon, Don came home earlier as he’d sold everything. Pleased to see Don home early, Sandra said, “You’re home early! How about we eat out tonight?”

“Yes! It’s been a while, we have not eaten out since Ashley was born.” Don replied.

“Speaking of Ashley, I noticed something rather strange. Every morning, right after the gong sounds, she won’t stop crying. I’ve tried everything, feeding her, changing her nappy, but nothing worked.”

“That is strange…Is it the gong that’s bothering her?” Don replied.

“That’s what I first thought as well, but when the gong rings she still seemed all right. It’s more obvious when the gong stops ringing.” Sandra said.

“I see…Well after the gong, I am busy preparing the meat for the market. But, I’ll try to help you with her.” Don replied.

“It’s okay. Getting to the market early is important. I’ll just bring it up at the next mother’s group meeting, see if anyone has any suggestions.” Sandra said.

“All right,” Don replied.

That evening, Don and Sandra had a nice dinner. When they got back home, Don prepared his tools for the next morning, and then went to bed.

The next day, when Don woke up, it was already bright and sunny. He thought, “Oh no! I’ve overslept! But...the come I didn’t hear it?”

He looked over to Sandra who was still sound asleep, and Ashley was up but not crying, just babbling. He got up and picked up Ashley. She smiled in his arms and Don thought, “This is the first time she smiles at me, usually, she’s either crying or cranky when I hold her.” Sandra woke up, and seeing Don with Ashley, smiled, and said, “Good morning!”

Don explained to her how he missed the morning gong and he may as well take the day off now. Sandra agreed.

However, all morning, Don couldn't stop thinking about why the morning gong did not sound. By lunchtime, Sandra suggested to Don that he go find out why as the mystery was clearly bothering him.

When Don arrived at the monastery, he was greeted by a monastic. Don joined his palms and said, “Hello! My name is Don, I live just down the road.”

“Nice to meet you, Don. What brings you here today?” The monastic said.

Don explained, “I usually hear the gong every morning. But this morning, I didn’t hear it. I was just wondering why today, was there a particular reason?”

“Yes, you are right. Sounding the gong is a daily ritual at our monastery. However, last night I had a dream. There were eleven piglets, all of them kneeling before me. One piglet had black spots on his back. It came up to me and begged me to save them all. I could not make sense of it. Each piglet told me that as long as I didn’t ring the gong in the morning, they would all be saved. Then I woke up. This dream felt so real. If you had seen their faces, you would know what I mean. I did not want to take the risk, I could not bear to see the piglets suffer if the dream was true. So, this morning, I decided to skip the morning gong signal and bowed to the Buddha for forgiveness.” The monastic said.

“I see. Thank you for your time. I should probably head home now.” Don replied.

On his way home, he thought about the conversation he had with the monastic. Then, a thought suddenly burst into his mind, “A mother pig...Could it be…?” He rushed home.

As soon as he reached the yard, he looked on in utter shock. The pig that was meant to be slaughtered and prepared that very morning had given birth to piglets. Even more shocking to Don, he counted eleven little piglets in total. One of the piglets, with black spots on his back, came up and nudged him. He knelt to pick up the piglet and when their eyes met, his heart melted. He now knew exactly what the monastic meant. He too could not bear to see the piglets suffer. At that moment, Sandra walked in holding their baby girl. Seeing both families made whole, Don knew that he no longer wanted to be a butcher.

This story highlights how an act of compassion can have a great impact on others, and can even save a life. The monastic sensed the suffering of the piglets and, out of compassion, fulfilled their request of not ringing the gong in the morning. This was not only an act of compassion, but also a demonstration of expedient means. In Buddhism, bodhisattvas are often said to use expedient means, meaning they apply suitable and practical skills tailored to help sentient beings according to their disposition.

The monastic’s act of compassion ultimately changed the lives of the eleven piglets. Moreover, Don came to realize the cruelty of slaughtering animals. If the monastic had stuck to a strict rule that must always be followed, in this case sounding the gong that morning, the outcome for the little piglets would have been far different. Instead, the monastic’s kind thought also influenced Don’s actions and led him to change his lifestyle.

The actions of both the monastic and Don illustrate their ability to adapt according to the situation at hand. When adapting with kindness and compassion, the resulting effects are immeasurable. A wise person who adapts to circumstances is like water that shapes itself to the vessel that holds it. Learning to adapt requires acceptance of any given situation. Following acceptance, we can then determine a way forward.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“You do not have to believe in the Buddha, 
but you must believe in the law of causality. 
You can do without Buddhism, 
but you can never do without compassion.”














Sunday, October 11, 2020

Praying for Wealth


The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

70 - Praying for Wealth Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.) 

Once upon a time, there lived two brothers in a small town. The eldest was called Ian and the younger brother was called Lucas. After their parents retired, Ian and Lucas took care of the farm. The life of the family had always been difficult.

One day, Ian said to Lucas, “Did you hear about Ken?”

“Our neighbor? What happened?” Lucas asked.

“He got rich. I heard that not long ago, he began praying to the Heavenly God. Now, he no longer needs to work.” Ian said.

“Are you sure?” Lucas replied with a frown.

“Yes, I’m sure. We’ve always wanted an easier and better life, I think we should pray as he did.” Ian said.

Lucas grunted and replied, “I’m not so sure, it sounds too good to be true.  Even if it is true, I think someone should still cultivate our field.”

“I have an idea, how about you continue to work in the field and I will pray for the both of us?” Ian proposed.

Lucas was still hesitant, but Ian insisted, “Come on! It’s worth trying. I’m already excited just thinking about buying a new house.”

Lucas nodded and said, “Ok. I'll focus on the field.”

“It’s a deal!” Ian said with a big grin.

From that day on, Ian prayed diligently. Day and night he prayed, “Dear Heavenly God, our family begs for your kindness, please give us wealth and honor. We promise to repay you!”

One month passed, and Ian was still praying without any sign of success.

However, Ian’s diligence and sincerity touched the Heavenly God, who decided to help. The Heavenly God disguised himself as Lucas and met with Ian.

When Ian saw Lucas, he asked, “Why are you here? You’re supposed to be working on the field?”

“I feel I should follow your lead and pray instead. Maybe with the two of us praying, the Heavenly God would hear us and help both of us become rich faster.” Lucas said.

Annoyed, Ian said, “We had an agreement! You were supposed to cultivate the field. It’s a crucial time now, the field needs water and fertilizer! Otherwise, how will we have a good harvest in a couple of months?”

Still disguised as Lucas, the Heavenly God asked, “Must we do the planting, watering, and fertilizing for a fruitful harvest?”

“Yes, of course! I thought you knew that!” Ian exclaimed.

“My dear brother, what kind of seeds have you planted?” Lucas asked.

Ian was stunned into silence. The Heavenly God transformed himself back to his true form, and said to Ian, “I am the Heavenly God you’ve been praying to day and night. You must know that although others can support you to gain wealth and honor, you must do the hard work yourself. Do you know why you are so poor in this life?”

Ian shook his head, and replied softly, “I don’t know…”

The Heavenly God continued, “In your past lives, you did not practice generosity, and you were stingy. Therefore, you have only planted the seeds of stinginess. This is why you are poor in this life. Now, even though you diligently pray to me every day, you still reap the seeds, that is the causes and effects of your past lives. In the same way, if you wish to harvest apples during the winter, praying to countless Heavenly Gods does not mean your wish will be granted. You need to plant the seeds first to harvest the fruits later. Therefore, from today on, you should focus on practicing generosity. Only then will you be wealthy in the future.”

Ian realized that it was pointless to simply pray without any action. After that experience with the Heavenly God, he joined Lucas in cultivating their field. Later that year, they reaped a good harvest and shared it with the townspeople. The following year, the harvest was even better than the previous one. With a continuous run of good harvests, Ian and Lucas were eventually able to earn enough money to buy a new house.

This story highlights that practicing generosity leads us to a path of wealth. However, most people think that giving only benefits the one who receives. Also, how does giving bring wealth to the giver? Generosity is like planting seeds in a field. Once you have planted seeds, then you will surely have a harvest.

At the beginning of this story, Ian was not willing to put in the effort. Instead, he thought that simply praying would yield good results. How often do we wish for something to happen without wanting to put in the effort to make it happen? With the help of the Heavenly God, he realized that he must plant the right seeds to reap a good harvest. More importantly, sharing the harvest with others produced even better harvests in the following years.
Generosity does not only mean giving money. For example, we can speak good words, which is another form of generosity. Our words can deeply affect others and so it is important that when talking with anyone, we do so with positivity and encouragement. Even if you do not know how to speak good words, you can offer others your strength. If you don’t speak good words or have no strength to offer, it doesn’t really matter, because what is most important are your good intentions towards other people. 

Good intentions are another form of generosity. When you see others speaking good words, or doing good deeds, you can rejoice and feel happy for them. This kind of generosity generates good merits to the giver. Therefore, by having a joyous heart and mind, we can practice generosity in our daily lives.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“Generosity leads to a rich life, while stinginess leads to a poor life.”









哥哥聽了很生氣,說:「你不去耕地、播種、澆水、鋤草、施肥,又怎能期待農作物會有收成 呢?」