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  1. The Fool Ate Salt
  2. A Barrage of Pears
  3. Thirsty By The Riverside
  4. The Master's Reproach

The Fool Ate Salt

By Ven. Master Shen Kai


Human beings have been using salt to season the taste of food since time immemorial. This is a story of a man who had too much.

On a visit to his grandmother, a young man was served with lunch. The food he was eating seemed quite tasteless. His grandmother sensed it, and added some salt for him. It tasted much better.

"Why?" the young man thought, "It must be the salt that flavors the food. With only a little salt added, the flavor is so fine; if more is added, it would be much more delicious."

On returning home, he was still obsessed with the flavor of salt. Later when he was hungry, he put so much salt in his bowl that it became the main ingredient. To his surprise, it turned out to be much too salty for consumption.

*            *            *

We could compare the young man in this story to some false cultivators on learning that fasting could help them attain enlightenment. Endeavored to fast for seven days, fifteen days or more, till they could endure no more. They do not realize that such extreme ascetic cultivation does not bring them any nearer to achieve Enlightenment. Those who think of attaining Enlightenment by abstaining from food, are just like this foolish young man's act of over-doing things. That is not very wise.

A Barrage of Pears

A crowd had gathered in the street. They were watching a naughty boy throwing pears at the head of a silly looking man. The man was completely bald. One after another, the pears hit his bald head. To many onlookers' surprise, the fool just stood still and he seemed to enjoy it. However, he was hurt and his head was bleeding profusely.

Some onlookers thoughts that he had enough, and shouted at him to dodge the pears.

The fool said, giggling, "It is so silly of the child thinking he is strong and regarding my baldhead as stone, throwing pears at it. Of course my head is not made of stone, it bleeds! Undoubtedly, he is such a fool."

These onlookers said, "If you are not a fool yourself, why don't you dodge?"

*            *            *

Monks and nuns, and all Buddhists for that matter should work toward developing wisdom upon hearing the wonderful Dharma. It would be wrong of them not to learn to cultivate themselves toward Buddhahood and practice the Buddhist Precepts accordingly.

To dress themselves in monk's robes solely to receive devotees' offerings is in defilement. To do so is not to understand the Dharma, much like the man in this story who would rather endure the pain than to dodge the pears. He turned out to be the biggest fool of all.

Thirsty By The Riverside

The search for water to quench his thirst brought the fool to a river. However, he simply stood on its band and stared at the flow of the water instead of helping himself to quench his thirst.

People laughed at his idiocy, and said, "You were searching for water to quench your thirst, yet now that you have water, you are not drinking it."

"Sure, I would like to drink the water, but only if you could empty the river first. There is too much water here to empty, and that is why I am not drinking from it," answered the fool. The people stood beside him could not understand such logic and they all thought he was indeed silly.

*            *            *

The fool in this story is just like some false cultivators who stick to reasons but fail to practice them. Since they fail to fully observe the Buddhist Precepts, they dare not pursue further. Worst still, they deter people from receiving the Buddhist Precepts, simply because of their failure to follow them. They criticize these precepts, which drag themselves farther away from the Buddhahood, ceaselessly transmigrating in the six realm (realm of heavenly beings, of human beings, of Asura, of animals, of hungry ghosts and of hell), flowing and wandering without end in the suffering stream of birth-death.

This is as silly as the fool in this story who did not drink the water as he saw it. He would do it, only if someone could empty it beforehand. Actually, it is an excuse used by the false cultivators to observe the Buddhist Precepts only after others have done so.

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