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Letting Go of Fame and Fortune for Spiritual Cultivation

There was a cultivator whose father was a wealthy old man. The cultivator was raised in a family with material abundance and loving parents. Due to impermanence, his parents eventually passed away because of old age...

(Photo by Lai Tong Heng)  

Buddha teaches compassion to liberate all sentient beings. To end sufferings and bring happiness to all sentient beings, Buddha have repeatedly returned to the human realm. There is a tale in the Jataka Story about a cultivator named Sumedha.   

Sumedha was raised in a family with materials abundance and loving parents. Due to impermanence, his parents eventually passed away because of old age. After the death of Sumedha’s parents, his housekeeper made a list of his parents' estate. The housekeeper then went to him with the list and asked, "Do you want me to continue looking after your inheritance?"

Sumedha browsed through the account booklet and discovered that his parents had left behind a lot of assets for him. He then recalled how his parents had lived frugally and worked very hard to build the family's wealth. In the end, they could not bring these fortunes with them upon their death. Sumedha further thought about the people who are suffering and thought of helping them with his inheritance.

After much consideration, Sumedha reckoned that no amount of wealth and assets could beat impermanence in life. Life is short, and managing and maintaining the assets and wealth in this world is a miserable chore. He then thought, “Why not give it all away and go after a carefree and peaceful life?”

Thus, he made an announcement to the King and local folks by saying, "From today onwards, I am giving away all my inheritance from my parents to the people living in poverty and sufferings."

After making the necessary arrangements for the distribution of his inheritance, he left to pursue a life of spiritual cultivation.

The Wish for all Sentient Beings to Attain Purity and Emancipation  

Sumedha then lived a peaceful and quiet life deep in the mountains for seven years. He often pondered, "Is that all about spiritual cultivation?” Being aware of so many suffering people who are indulged in fame, fortune and social status, made him feel compelled to look for a higher actualization of Buddha's teachings, in order to help these lost souls. Therefore, he left the mountains and started living among ordinary folks.

One day, he arrived at a place where he heard people there passing words around, "Dipamkara Buddha (Burning Lamp Buddha) is coming here to expound the Dharma." Many locals were sweeping and cleaning the streets while others repaired the roads to welcome the arrival of Dipamkara Buddha. Having heard the news, Sumedha immediately joined the locals in the work. However, there was a hole on the street which could not be even out. In view that Dipamakara Buddha was about to arrive anytime soon, Sumedha quickly lied facing down on the hole in desperation, thinking that he could use his body as a bridge for the Buddha to cross over.

Dipamkara Buddha walked to Sumedha and said, "You are very pious and devoted, may I know what do you seek in life?”

Sumedha raised his head to reply, "Lord Buddha! I seek nothing for myself. I only wish for everyone in this world to be pure, joyful and filled with love."

After hearing what Sumedha had said, Dipamkara Buddha gave him his blessing by saying, "Cultivator, I give you my blessing! You will liberate the sentient beings in this saha world from their sufferings with your great love. You will become a Buddha in the future, your name will be Sakyamuni.” The meaning of “Sakyamuni” is benevolence and still silence. Therefore, Sakyamuni is one who can unleash his love and compassion through words and actions.