The Silent Buddha – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Generosity]
Once upon a time, there was a very rich
man living in Benares, in northern India. When
his father died, he inherited even more wealth. He
thought, “Why should I use this treasure for my-
self alone? Let my fellow beings also benefit from
these riches.”
So he built dining halls at the four gates of
the city – North, East, South and West. In these
halls he gave food freely to all who wished it. He
became famous for his generosity. It also became
known that he and his followers were practisers of
the Five Training Steps.
In those days, there was a Silent Buddha
meditating in the forest near Benares.
He was called Buddha because he was
enlightened. This means that he no longer experi-
enced himself, the one called ‘I’ or ‘me’, as being
in any way different from all life living itself. So
he was able to experience life as it really is, in
every present moment.
Being one with all life, he was filled with
compassion and sympathy for the unhappiness of
all beings. So he wished to teach and help them to
be enlightened just as he was. But the time of our
story was a most unfortunate time, a very sad
time. It was a time when no one else was able to
understand the Truth, and experience life as it
really is. And since this Buddha knew this, that
was why he was Silent.
While meditating in the forest, the Silent
Buddha entered into a very high mental state. His
concentration was so great that he remained in
one position for seven days and nights, without
eating or drinking.
When he returned to the ordinary state, he
was in danger of dying from starvation. At the
usual time of day, he went to collect alms food at
the mansion of the rich man of Benares.
When the rich man had just sat down to
have lunch, he saw the Silent Buddha coming
with his alms bowl. He rose from his seat respect-
fully. He told his servant to go and give alms to
him.
Meanwhile, Mara, the god of death, had
been watching. Mara is the one who is filled with
greed for power over all beings. He can only have
this power because of the fear of death.
Since a Buddha lives life fully in each mo-
ment, he has no desire for future life, and no fear
of future death. Therefore, since Mara could have
no power over the Silent Buddha, he wished to
destroy him. When he saw that he was near death
from starvation, he knew that he had a good
chance of succeeding.
Before the servant could place the food in
the Silent Buddha’s alms bowl, Mara caused a
deep pit of red hot burning coals to appear be-
tween them. It seemed like the entrance to a hell
world.
When he saw this, the servant was fright-
ened to death. He ran back to his master. The rich
man asked him why he returned without giving
the alms food. He replied, “My lord, there is a
deep pit full of red hot burning coals just in front
of the Silent Buddha.”
The rich man thought, “This man must be
seeing things!” So he sent another servant with
alms food. He also was frightened by the same pit
of fiery coals. Several servants were sent, but all
returned frightened to death.
Then the master thought, “There is no
doubt that Mara, the god of death, must be trying
to prevent my wholesome deed of giving alms
food to the Silent Buddha. Because wholesome
deeds are the beginning of the path to enlighten-
ment, this Mara wishes to stop me at all costs. But
he does not understand my confidence in the Si-
lent Buddha and my determination to give.”
So he himself took the alms food to the Si-
lent Buddha. He too saw the flames rising from
the fiery pit. Then he looked up and saw the terri-
ble god of death, floating above in the sky. He
asked, “Who are you.?” Mara replied, I am the
god of death!”
“Did you create this pit of fire?” asked the
man. “I did,” said the god. “Why did you do so?”
“To keep you from giving alms food, and in this
way to cause the Silent Buddha to die! Also to
prevent your wholesome deed from helping you
on the path to enlightenment, so you will remain
in my power!”
The rich man of Benares said, “Oh Mara,
god of death, the evil one, you cannot kill the Si-
lent Buddha, and you cannot prevent my whole-
some giving! Let us see whose determination is
stronger!”
Then he looked across the raging pit of fire,
and said to the calm and gentle Enlightened One,
“Oh Silent Buddha, let the light of Truth continue
to shine as an example to us. Accept this gift of
life!”
So saying, he forgot himself entirely, and in
that moment there was no fear of death. As he
stepped into the burning pit, he felt himself being
lifted up by a beautiful cool lotus blossom. The
pollen from this miraculous flower spread into the
air, and covered him with the glowing colour of
gold. While standing in the heart of the lotus, the
Great Being poured the alms food into the bowl of
the Silent Buddha. Mara, god of death, was
defeated!
In appreciation for this wonderful gift, the
Silent Buddha raised his hand in blessing. The
rich man bowed in homage, joining his hands
above his head. Then the Silent Buddha departed
from Benares, and went to the Himalayan forests.
Still standing on the wonderful lotus, glow-
ing with the colour of gold, the generous master
taught his followers. He told them that practising
the Five Training Steps is necessary to purify the
mind. He told them that with such a pure mind,
there is great merit in giving alms – indeed it is
truly the gift of life!
When he had finished teaching, the fiery pit
and the lovely cool lotus completely disappeared.
The moral is: Have no fear when doing
wholesome deeds.