Here’s the text for the Week 5 talk based on the book, “My Heart is a Golden Buddha.” I have to say that this is one of my favorite stories. Though, to be honest, as I’ve been going through the book, I’ve been going, “Ooh, that’s a good one! And that one. Oh, and so’s that one!” Lol.
audio file – from the audiobook version of “My Heart is a Golden Buddha”
One day, when the sunims were out collecting donations of food for their temple, one sunim entered the yard of a house that looked so poor he felt guilty about asking them for anything.
He turned around and was leaving when the owner called out to him. His family had very little, but they wanted to make an offering.
Not having any food, this family had gone around asking people for the water they washed their rice in, which was normally just thrown away. They added a bit of rice to this water and boiled it down until it thickened a bit. Then they would drink it like a soup.
Using their best bowl and a serving table, the family offered a bowl of this rice water to the sunim, who humbly accepted it.
As the sunim drank it, he was moved to tears by their sincerity and wanted to do something to help them. He had nothing of his own to give, but he could find them some firewood. So, later in the day, he took up an empty pack and headed into the mountains. He collected all the wood he could carry and was on his way to their house when he met his teacher.
His teacher asked him what he was doing, and the sunim explained the whole story to him. As soon as the sunim finished, his teacher swung his staff around and started beating the sunim’s legs mercilessly, roaring:
“What do you think you’re doing? You’re a sunim! For years now you’ve been studying this vast and profound fundamental mind! You should be helping them through formless giving! Once they’ve burnt up that wood, your help is gone! And you would call that giving?!”
The sunim rolled around on the ground, still wearing his pack load of firewood, clutching his calves, with tears streaming down his face. Finally he sat up and was wiping away his tears and blood when suddenly he understood formless giving.
“That’s it! That’s it!” Blood was still trickling down his leg, but now he understood the principle of entrusting a thought to his fundamental mind.
All of his pain and shock were forgotten, and he felt so light and free that he thought he might start flying. He took all of his gratitude and best wishes for the family and silently entrusted them to his foundation.
Before too long, the family that had given him the rice water began to flourish until eventually they became one of the most prosperous families in the village.
The benefit of raising a good thought for someone and entrusting that to your fundamental mind can’t be compared to the temporary help that material goods provide.
When you selflessly entrust a wish to help someone to your foundation, when you do this while letting go of any hint of “I’m doing” or “I did,” then that help continues without ceasing. It never ends, and it helps them on a very fundamental level. Not only that, the virtue and merit of that act eventually returns to you.
Pay careful attention to the thoughts you’re giving rise to. “I don’t know anything,” “I’m sick,” “I don’t have anything”—don’t let statements like these guide your thinking, speech, or actions. Don’t let them become excuses for thinking of only yourself.
If you do, the results will not be good. This is because all of your thoughts, words, and actions return to you. They are input into your foundation and then come back out with different appearances. If you use your mind narrowly and shallowly, the poverty of that opens up before you. If you use your mind deeply and inclusively, peace and warmth lie as far as the eye can see.
Truly, a single thought can create heaven, and a single thought can create hell.