The Rich Almsgiver

The Rich Almsgiver

Characters: Silent Buddha, rich man, Mara, 3 servants, other people

Prop: offerings bowl, bench

Narrator: Near Varanasi, there was a monk meditating in the forest. He was called a Buddha because he was enlightened. He was called Silent Buddha because he did not speak.

While he was meditating, the Silent Buddha reached a very high mental state called “Nirodha Sammapatti.” His concentration was so great that he stayed in one position for seven days and nights, without eating or drinking anything. [he meditates]

When the Silent Buddha returned to his normal state, he was nearly dying of starvation. Like the other monks, he took his begging bowl and went to collect his food for the day from people who liked to give food offerings to the monks. He went to the mansion of the rich man of Varanasi. [he does]

The rich man saw the Silent Buddha coming with his begging bowl. He told his servant to go and give him food offerings. [he tells the servant, but he doesn’t go yet]

Meanwhile, Mara, the god of death, was watching [Mara stands on a bench overlooking the scene]. He wanted to destroy the Silent Buddha because he had no power over him.  When Mara saw that the Silent Buddha was almost dying of starvation, he thought it was a good chance to destroy him.

Before the servant could place the food in the bowl of the Silent Buddha, Mara made a deep pit of hot burning coal appear between them. It was like the entrance to hell. [Mara makes a great gesture to create the pit in front of the Silent Buddha.]

The servant did not dare to cross the pit to reach the Silent Buddha with his master’s food offering. He returned to his master, very frightened.  [he does that]

The rich man of Varanasi sent another servant with the food for the Silent Buddha. But when he reached the burning pit, he also became frightened and returned without giving the food. [he does that, giving the food back to his master]

The rich man sent a third servant, but he also returned, for he could not dare to cross the pit. [he does that]

At last, the rich man himself took the food offering to the Silent Buddha. He also saw the flames rising from the burning pit. Then he looked up and saw the terrible god of death.

Rich man: Who are you?

Mara: I am Mara, the god of death!

Rich man: Did you create this pit of fire?

Mara: I did.

Rich man: Why?

Mara: To keep you from giving an offering of food to the Silent Buddha. Thus he will die. I also created this pit to prevent you from doing this good deed, which will help you on the path to enlightenment. Thus you will remain in my power!

Rich man: O Mara, evil one, you cannot kill the Silent Buddha, and you cannot prevent me from giving. Let us see whose will is stronger!

Oh Silent Buddha, may the light of Truth continue to shine as an example to us. Please accept this offering of food.

Narrator: When the rich man said this, he forgot himself completely, so he had no fear of death. As he stepped into the burning pit, he was lifted up by a cool lotus blossom. The pollen from this miraculous flower spread into the air and covered him. He poured the food into the bowl of the Silent Buddha. [Silent Buddha eats the food slowly and gets stronger.] Mara was defeated. [Mara makes a frustrated gesture and leaves.]

In gratitude for this wonderful gift, the Silent Buddha blessed the rich man. [He holds up his hand and does so] [The rich man bows his head and joins his hands to receive the blessing.]

Strengthened by the food, the Silent Buddha left Varanasi and went to the Himalayan forest. [He leaves.]

Still standing on the wonderful lotus, glowing with the gold pollen, the rich man spoke to the people.

Rich man: There is great virtue in giving.  If you give with a purified mind, you give the gift of life.


Why did Mara want the Silent Buddha to die? [He knew that because of his spiritual practice, the Silent Buddha was free from all evil. Thus the Silent Buddha was not under his control.]

Why couldn’t the servants cross the burning pit? [They were afraid they would die.]

How did the rich man cross the burning pit? [He forgot himself in the act of giving.]

What can we do? There are two forms of generosity (Dhana) : Sharing and giving.

What can we share with others?

Toys, books, food

Time—by helping others

Dharma—sharing what we have learned

When we share or give, we should never expect anything in return.

When someone shares with us or gives something to us, what should we say?

“Thank you.”

When we practice giving, we improve our karma by reducing our greed

We should always think of how to bring happiness to others, and how to decrease the sufferings of others.

Meditation: Who do you know who is unhappy? Who do you know who is suffering? How can you help them?

[Source of story: The Buddhist Series: Dhamma Living Skill, Level 6, Student Text, Buddhist Maha Vihara, Malaysia]