Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this story while living at Jetavana
monastery with regard to the millionaire Anāthapi ika and a
country merchant with whom Anāthapi ika corresponded,
but the two of whom had never met.
An exactly similar situation as happened to the Benares
merchant and a country merchant in the Jātaka story,
happened to Anāthapi ika with this country merchant.
When Anāthapi ika, thinking this would be a good
story to tell the Buddha, told him the whole story, the Buddha
said, “This is not the first time, sir, that this country merchant
has acted in this way. He was just the same in the past.”
And at Anāthapi ika’s request, the Buddha told the story of
Once upon a time there were two merchants who wrote
letters back and forth to each other. They never met face to
face. One lived in Benares and the other lived in a remote
The country merchant sent a large caravan to Benares.
It had 500 carts loaded with fruits and vegetables and other
products. He told his workers to trade all these goods with
the help of the Benares merchant.
When they arrived in the big city they went directly to
the merchant. They gave him the gifts they had brought. He
was pleased and invited them to stay in his own home. He
even gave them money for their living expenses. He treated
them with the very best hospitality. He asked about the well
being of the country merchant and gave them gifts to take
back to him. Since it is easier for a local person to get a good
price, he saw to it that all their goods were fairly traded. They
returned home and told their master all that had happened.
Later on, the Benares merchant sent a caravan of 500
carts to the border village. His workers also took gifts to the
country merchant. When they arrived he asked, “Where do
you come from?” They said they came from the Benares
merchant, the one who wrote him letters.
Taking the gifts, the country merchant laughed in a very
discourteous way and said, “Anyone could say they came
from the Benares merchant!” Then he sent them away, giving
them no place to stay, no gifts, and no help at all.
The caravan workers went downtown to the
marketplace and did the best they could trading without local
help. They returned to Benares and told their master all that
Before too long, the country merchant sent another
caravan of 500 carts to Benares. Again his workers took gifts
to the same merchant. When his workers saw them coming,
they said to him, “We know just how to provide suitable
lodgings, food and expense money for these people.”
They took them outside the city walls to a good place to
camp for the night. They said they would return to Benares
and prepare food and get expense money for them.
Instead they rounded up all their fellow workers and
returned to the campsite in the middle of the night. They
robbed all 500 carts, including the workers’ outer garments.
They chased away the bullocks, and removed and carried off
The villagers were terrified. They ran back home as fast
as their legs could carry them.
The city merchant’s workers told him all they had done.
He said, “Those who forget gratitude and ignore simple
hospitality wind up getting what they deserve. Those who do
not appreciate the help they have received soon find that no
one will help them anymore.”
At the conclusion of this story, the Buddha identified
“The country merchant of the past was this country
merchant today. And the merchant of Benares was I who am
today the Buddha.”
The moral: “If you don’t help others, you can’t expect them
to help you.”
Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old