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XIII:10 The almsgiving competition
Once, King Pasenadi offered alms to the Buddha and other bhikkhus on a grand scale. His subjects, in competition with him, organized another almsgiving ceremony on a grander scale than that of the king. Thus, the king and his subjects kept on competing in giving alms. Finally, Queen Mallika thought of a plan. To implement this plan, she asked the king to have a grand pavilion built. Next, she asked for a few hundred white umbrellas and a few hundred tame elephants. The elephants were to hold the white umbrellas over the bhikkhus. In the middle of the pavilion, they kept ten boats which were filled with perfumes and incense. There were also many princesses to serve the food. Since the subjects of the king had no princesses, nor white umbrellas, nor elephants they could no longer compete with the king. When all preparations were made, almsfood was offered. After the meal, the king made an offering of all the things in the pavilion to the Buddha.
At the time, two ministers of the king were present. One was very happy and praised the king for having offered alms so generously to the Buddha and the bhikkhus. He also reflected that such offerings could only be made by a king. He was very glad because the king would share the merit of his good deeds with all beings. In short, the minister rejoiced with the king in his unrivalled charity. The other minister, on the other hand, thought that the king was only squandering his wealth and that the bhikkhus after their meal would just go back to the monastery and sleep.
After the meal, the Buddha looked over at the audience and knew how the second minister was feeling. Then, he reflected that if he were to deliver a lengthy discourse of appreciation (anumodana) the minister would get more dissatisfied. So, out of compassion for him the Buddha delivered only a short discourse and returned to the monastery. The king had expected a lengthy discourse of appreciation, and so he was disappointed because the Buddha only gave a brief sermon. The king wondered if he had failed to do something which should have been done. He decided to go to the monastery to find out.
On seeing the king, the Buddha said, 'Great King! You should rejoice that you have succeeded in making the offering of unrivalled charity. Such an opportunity comes very rarely. It comes only once during the appearance of each Buddha. But one of your ministers had felt that it was a waste, and was not at all appreciative. So, if I had given a lengthy discourse, he would have become more and more dissatisfied and accrued more bad kamma. That was why I preached so briefly.' Then the Buddha added, 'O King! Fools do not rejoice in the charities given by others and go to the lower worlds. The wise rejoice in other people's charities, and through appreciation, they share in the merit gained by others and go to the abode of the devas'.
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