悬命的蜘蛛丝 Spider Thread
Translated & Published by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
A wealthy jeweler invited a monk to ride with him and got a chance to hear the Dharma.
Once in ancient India a wealthy jeweler was hurrying in his carriage a long the highway to Varanasi. Pandu was his name.
There had been a thunderstorm to cool the afternoon, and Pandu was congratulating himself on the excellent weather and on the money he would make the next day from dealing in jewels.
Looking up for a minute, he noticed a Bhikshu walking slowly ahead on the side of the road. The Bhikshu’s steps were firm, his back was straight; there was an air about him of peace and inner strength. Pandu thought to himself, "If that Bhikshu is going to Varanasi, I’ll ask him if he’ll ride with me. He looks like a saintly man, and I have heard that the companionship of saintly men always brings people good luck." He told his burly slave Mahaduta to rein in the horses.
"Venerable Dharma Master," said Pandu, opening the door to his carriage,
"May I offer you transportation to Varanasi?"
"I will travel with you," the Bhikshu replied, "if you understand that I cannot pay you, for I have no worldly possessions. I can only offer the gift of the Dharma."
"I accept your terms," replied the jeweler, who thought of everything as bargains and deals. He made room for the Bhikshu in his carriage.
As they traveled, the Bhikshu─whose name was Narada─spoke of the law of cause and effect. "People create their own destinies," he said, "out of what they themselves do. Good deeds naturally bring good fortune, while people who do evil will pay for it sooner or later."
Pandu was pleased with his companion. He liked to hear good common sense, for he was a practical man, and he also had deep good roots in the Dharma, though he did not know it.
The jeweler ordered his slave to tilt
the cart loaded with rice, and the Dharma Master
admonished him without success.
But he interrupted Narada rudely when the carriage suddenly jolted to a stop in the middle of the road. "What’s this?" he called out in irritation to his slave Mahaduta. "We’ve no time to waste!" Varanasi was still ten miles distant, and the sun was already sinking in the west.
"A stupid farmer’s cart in the road," the slave growled from the coachman’s seat.
The Bhikshu and the jeweler opened the carriage doors and leaned out to look. There blocking the highway was a horse cart loaded with rice. Its right wheel was lying useless in the ditch. The farmer was sitting beside it struggling to repair a broken linchpin.
"I can’t wait! Push his cart off the road, Mahaduta!" Pandu shouted. The farmer leapt up to protest, and Narada turned to Pandu to ask him to think of some other way, but before either could say a word the burly Mahaduta had jumped down from his seat, heaved at the horse cart, and tilted it into the ditch. Bags of rice slid off into the mud. The farmer ran yelling up to Mahaduta, but fell silent when he realized that the tall slave had twice his strength. Grinning wickedly, Mahaduta raised his fist; it was plain that he would have enjoyed giving the farmer a beating, if he’d thought his master had time for it.
As the slave climbed back onto his seat and took up the reins, the Bhikshu stepped down onto the road. Turning to Pandu, he said, "I am rested now, and I am in your debt for the hour’s ride you have given me. What better way could I have to repay you than to help this unfortunate farmer whom you have wronged? By harming him, you have made sure that some similar harm will come to you. Perhaps by helping him I can lessen your debt. Since this farmer was a relative of yours in a previous life, your karma is tied to his even more strongly."
The jeweler was astonished. He was not accustomed to being scolded, not even kindly, as the Bhikshu had done. He was even more taken aback by the notion that he, Pandu the rich jeweler, could ever have been related to a rice farmer. "That’s impossible," he said to Narada.
Narada smiled and said, "Sometimes the smartest people fail to recognize the basic truths about life. But I will try to protect you against the injury you have done to yourself." Stung by these words, Pandu raised his hand and signaled for his slave to drive on.
Hearing the Dharma, the farmer comprehended
the law of cause and effect.
Devala, the farmer, had already sat down by the side of the road again to work at repairing his linchpin. Narada nodded to him and began heaving the horse cart out of the ditch. Devala jumped up to assist, but then he saw that the Bhikshu had far more strength than anyone might have expected from a man with his slight frame. The cart was upright again even before Devala had crossed the road.
"This Bhikshu must be a sage," the farmer thought silently. "Invisible Dharma-protecting gods and spirits must be helping him. Maybe he can tell me why my luck has turned for the worse today."
The two men reloaded the bags of rice that Mahaduta had dumped into the ditch, and then as Devala sat down with his linchpin again, he asked, "Venerable Dharma Master, can you tell me why I had to suffer such an injustice today from that arrogant rich man whom I have never seen before? Is there no sense or fairness in this life?"
Narada answered, "What you suffered today wasn’t really an injustice. It was an exact repayment for an injury you inflicted upon this jeweler in a previous life."
The farmer nodded. "I have heard people say such things before, but I have never known whether to believe them."
"It’s not too complicated a thing to believe in," the Bhikshu said. "We become what we do. By doing good things, a person naturally becomes good, and good things naturally happen to him. The same is true of evil. Evil acts create bad personalities and unfortunate lives. Everything you have thought, said, and done makes up the kind of person you are now, and also contains the seeds of your future. This is the law of cause and effect, the law of karma."
"That may be," Devala cried, "but I am not such a bad person, and look what happened to me today!"
"Isn’t it true, though, friend," Narada asked, "that you might have done the same thing to the jeweler today, if he’d been the one who was blocking the road, and you’d been the one with a bully for a coachman?"
Devala was silenced by the Bhikshu’s words. He realized that, until Narada had come forward to help him, there had been nothing in his mind but thoughts of revenge. Angrily he had been wishing just what Narada had said: that he could have been the one to overturn the jeweler’s cart and then drive on proudly while the rich man struggled in the mud. "Yes, Dharma Master," he said. "It is true."
The two men said nothing for a while, until the linchpin was sound again and the wheel remounted on the cart. The farmer was pondering the Bhikshu’s words. Although Devala lacked schooling, he was a thoughtful man who always tried to figure things out and see the reasons behind events. Suddenly he said, "But this is a terrible thing! Now that the jeweler has harmed me, I will do some harm to him. Then he will repay me in kind, and then I’ll come back to get him, and it will never end!"
"No, it doesn’t have to be that way," Narada said. "People have the power to do good as well as evil. Find a way to pay that proud jeweler back with help instead of with harm. Then the cycle will be broken."
Devala nodded doubtfully as he climbed back on his cart. He believed what the Bhikshu had told him, but he didn’t see how he would ever have an opportunity to carry out his advice. How could he, a poor farmer, find a way to help out a rich businessman? He invited Narada to sit next to him, and took up the reins.
His horse had not drawn them far, however, when it suddenly shied aside and came to a halt. "A snake on the road!" the farmer cried. But Narada, looking more closely, saw that it was no snake, but a purse. He stepped down from the cart and picked the purse up. It was heavy with gold.
"I recognize this; it belongs to Pandu, the jeweler," he said. "He had it in his lap in the carriage. It must have dropped out when he opened the door to look at you. Didn’t I tell him that his destiny was tied to yours?"
He handed the purse to Devala. "Here is your chance to cut the bonds of anger and revenge that tie you to the jeweler. When we reach Varanasi, go to the inn where he is staying and give him his money back. He will apologize for his rudeness to you, but tell him that you hold no grudge and that you wish him success. For, let me tell you, you two are much alike, and you will fall or prosper together, depending on how you act."
Cruelly beaten without cause,
the slave departs in anger.
Devala did as the Bhikshu had instructed him. He had no desire to keep the money. He only wished to be rid of his karmic debt to the jeweler. At nightfall, when they reached Varanasi, he went to the inn where rich men stayed and asked to see Pandu.
"Who shall I say wants him?" said the innkeeper, looking scornfully at the farmer’s country clothes.
"Tell him a friend has come," Devala said.
In a few minutes, Pandu entered the hall where Devala was waiting. When Pandu saw the farmer standing there and holding out his purse to him, he was struck speechless with amazement, shame, and relief. But after staring for a moment, he suddenly ran out of the room again, shouting, "Stop! Stop beating him!"
Devala had heard groans coming from a room nearby─he had thought it was someone dying of a fever. But in a moment a tall, burly man staggered into the hall, his bare back red and black with welts and bruises. It was none other than Mahaduta, the jeweler’s slave. A police officer followed him, with a whip in one hand and a cane in the other.
Seeing Devala, Mahaduta started with surprise, and then said hoarsely, "My kind master thought I’d stolen that purse. He had me whipped so that I would confess. This is my punishment for hurting you at his bidding." And he stumbled out into the night, without a word to his master.
Pandu watched him go, thinking that he ought to say something to him. But he was too proud to apologize to a slave, especially in front of so many other people.
The farmer repaid the jeweler’s wrongdoings with aid, and the misunderstanding was resolved.
The jeweler still had not greeted Devala, nor taken back his purse. Just as he was about to speak, a portly man dressed in rich silks bustled into the room, saying loudly, "Ah, Pandu, they told me what was happening. Fortune’s wheel turns round and round, does it not? Ten minutes ago it seemed like we were both ruined men, and now all is well again, hmm? Come on, then, take the purse, for heaven’s sake, and thank the good fellow."
Pandu took the purse and bowed slightly to the farmer. "I wronged you, and you have helped me in return. I do not know how to repay you."
"Why, give him a reward, Pandu, what else?" the fat man boomed. "Give him a reward!"
Bowing to Pandu in his turn, Devala said, "I have forgiven you and need no reward. If you hadn’t ordered your slave to overturn my cart, I might never have had the chance to meet the Venerable Narada and hear his wise teaching, which has benefited me more than any amount of money. I have resolved never to harm any being again, since I don’t want to invite injury in return. This resolve has made me feel safe and in control of my life in a way that I have never felt before."
"Narada!" said Pandu. "So he has instructed you! He instructed me, too, but I’m afraid I didn’t listen too well... Take this, good man," he gave Devala some gold from his purse, "and tell me, do you know where the Venerable Dharma Master is staying in Varanasi?"
"Yes, I have just left him at the monastery next to the West Gate," Devala answered. "In fact, he told me you might want to see him. He asked me to say that you may call on him tomorrow afternoon."
Pandu bowed again, this time deeply and reverently. "Now I am truly indebted to you," he said. "And I also believe something else he told me. He said you and I were relatives in former lives and that our fates are tied together. It seems we have even found the same teacher."
Good fortune came to the farmer
as a reward for his good deed.
The fat man had been listening impatiently. "Yes, yes, this high-minded talk is all very well," he finally cried. "But let’s get down to business!" He turned to Devala. "Let me introduce myself. I am Mallika, the banker, a friend of the good Pandu here. I have a contract with the king’s steward to deliver the best rice for the king’s table, but three days ago my business rival, wishing to destroy my flourishing trade with the king, bought up all the rice in Varanasi. If I don’t deliver tomorrow, I’m ruined. But now, my friend, you are here, and that’s the point! Is your rice of fine grade? Was it damaged by that idiot Mahaduta? How much is there of it? Is it contracted? Speak up!"
Smiling at the banker’s eagerness, Devala answered, "I have brought fifteen hundred pounds of first grade rice. Only one bag got a little wet in the mud. None of it is spoken for, and I was planning to take it to the market in the morning."
"Splendid! Splendid! To the market, you say?" Mallika cried, rubbing his hands. "I expect you’ll take three times the price that you could get at the market, will you?" "I will," Devala agreed.
"Of course you will," the banker beamed. Calling for his servants, he had Devala’s cart unloaded immediately. He made his generous payment to the farmer in gold, saying to Pandu, as he counted the coins into Devala’s hands, "A man never knows where help will come from when he needs it. Never lose hope, for life is indeed a wonderful mystery, isn’t it? There you are, my good sir!" he said to Devala. "Don’t gamble it all away!" Chuckling to himself, Mallika then returned to his dinner.
Devala had no intention of gambling his money away. He had already resolved to go to the monastery where the Venerable Narada lived and offer half of his profit to the Triple Jewel. The rest he took home and spent carefully as he needed it. From that day on he always prospered. Because of his honesty and wisdom, the people of his village naturally came to consider him their leader.
We are closely related to all other living beings.
The next afternoon, Pandu went to the monastery near the West Gate. Narada received him in the guest hall. Having heard the jeweler’s account of what had happened at the inn, the Bhikshu said, "You still have many doubts, and so I would prefer not to give you all the explanation that you ask for. You would not accept it. Your faith is not yet as deep as the farmer Devala’s, and you still have to undergo many trials before you become a true disciple of the Buddha."
"Venerable Dharma Master," said Pandu humbly, "I beg you to give me the explanation you spoke of, so that I will be better able to follow your wise advice."
"Very well," the Bhikshu said. "Then remember what I say and contemplate it well. In the future you may come to understand. I have told you how each and every one of us makes his own destiny, in accordance with what he does. Your rich friend Mallika, for example, has many blessings, though he has little wisdom. He believes that the wheel of fortune, as he calls it, turns round and round mysteriously. But there is no mystery. His prosperity and contentment have nothing to do with any force outside of his own actions, words, and thoughts. In life after life he is wealthy and contented, simply because in life after life he has been kind and generous. I don’t think he would have treated any slave the way you treated your slave Mahaduta."
"Indeed," Pandu said. "He did try to restrain me. But I was angry and did not listen."
"Yes," Narada said, nodding. "And don’t think that you are free of the debt you owe Mahaduta for having had him so cruelly beaten without cause. Don’t think that you are alone in this world, or that your actions have no consequences. Remember that sooner or later your every action, whether good or evil, however small it may be, will be returned to you in kind and in the exact amount. As the saying goes,
Plant beans, and you harvest beans;
Plant melons, and you harvest melons.
Goodness brings about good, while evil is repaid with evil.’ Treat all living creatures as you would wish to be treated yourself. Actually, you have no separate self. You are of the same basic substance as all other living beings; and so, in your every thought and act, you are related to them even more closely than the organs of your body are related to each other.
"If you can truly understand this in your heart," Narada continued, "you will have no more desire to harm other beings, because you will know that they are the same as you. You will feel their sufferings as your own, and so you will always try to help them. Let this verse guide you:
He who hurts others hurts himself;
He who helps others helps himself even more.
To find the pure Way, the Path of Light,
Let go of the falsehood that you have a self."
Pandu rose and bowed down three times to the Dharma Master, something that he had never before done to anyone. Then he said, "I will not forget your words, Dharma Master. I will have a monastery established in my hometown, Kaushambi, so that the people there will have the opportunity to hear the wonderful Dharma. I only hope that the Dharma Master will compassionately help me fulfill my vow."
Although Pandu established the monastery,
he did not truly practice the teachings.
Years passed, and Pandu the jeweler prospered. He took refuge with and became a disciple of Narada, and was a leading donor and protector of the monastery at Kaushambi he had helped Narada to found. Whenever his business allowed, he went to listen to Sutra lectures given by the Bhikshu Panthaka, the abbot of the monastery and a senior disciple of Narada. Pandu always looked forward to receiving Narada’s instructions whenever he visited town, but he never put the teachings he heard into practice. He told himself that cultivation was the duty of monks and that his own worldly business kept him too busy.