A Huge Lump of Gold – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this story while in Sāvatthi with
regard to a certain monk who was overwhelmed by his
teacher’s instructions.
There was a young layman who was pleased by the
Buddha’s teachings and who decided to become a monk. But
on hearing all the details of the various precepts on morality
[sīla], he became overwhelmed and decided that he would
not be able to observe them all. So he decided to go back to
his wife and children. The Buddha heard of this, and
summoned him. The Buddha told him that the rules of
morality were very difficult to follow. But if he were only to
follow three rules, to guard his voice, body and mind, and not
to do evil whether in word, thought or deed, he would be
successful in his meditation. Shortly thereafter, the monk
gained sainthood [Arahant-ship].
The monks were talking about this in the preaching hall
one day, when the Buddha entered. On hearing what they
were discussing, the Buddha said, “Even a heavy burden
becomes light, if taken bit by bit. So it was, as well, with the
wise and good in past times.” And on the invitation of the
monks, the Buddha told this story of the past:
Once upon a time there was a rich village. The
wealthiest of the villagers decided to hide a huge lump of
gold to protect it from bandits and robbers. So he buried it in
a nearby rice field.
Many years later, the village was no longer rich, and the
rice field was abandoned and unused. A poor farmer decided
to plow the field. After some time plowing, it just so
happened that his plow struck the long-forgotten buried
At first he thought it must be a very hard tree root. But
when he uncovered it, he saw that it was beautiful shining
gold. Since it was daytime he was afraid to try and take it
with him. So he covered it up again and waited for nightfall.
The poor farmer returned in the middle of the night.
Again he uncovered the golden treasure. He tried to lift it, but
it was far too heavy. He tied ropes around it and tried to drag
it. But it was so huge he couldn’t budge it an inch. He
became frustrated, thinking he was lucky to find a treasure,
and unlucky to not be able to take it with him. He even tried
kicking the huge lump of gold. But again it wouldn’t budge
an inch!
Then he sat down and began to consider the situation.
He decided the only thing to do was to break the lump of
gold into four smaller lumps. Then he could carry home one
piece at a time.
He thought, “One lump I will use for ordinary day-to-
day living. The second lump I will save for a rainy day. The
third lump I will invest in my farming business. And I will
gain merit with the fourth lump by giving it to the poor and
needy and for other good works.”
With a calm mind he divided the huge lump of gold
into these four smaller lumps. Then it was easy to carry them
home on four separate trips.
Afterwards he lived happily.
The Buddha then identified the birth:
“The poor farmer in the past was I who am today the
The moral: “‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew.’”

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