(Minghui.org) Once upon a time there was a cultivator who practiced in a forest. With a pure and kind heart, he was very diligent day after day: reading scripture under the tree, following the commandments, and meditating in tranquility.
For a while, however, he often dozed off during meditation. One day after finishing meditation from half-sleepiness, he stood up and walked around. Soon there was a pond in front of him, filled with blooming lotus flowers. The flowers swayed in the breeze, carrying beauty and elegance.
With joy in his heart, a thought came to the practitioner’s mind: What if I take a flower back to my place and put it in front of the Buddha statue? The fragrance will help me reach tranquility during meditation and I would feel as if I was in heaven.
Slowly bending down, he picked a pretty flower and held it in front of his chest. As happiness filled his heart, he was about leave when a low and majestic voice said, “You are a cultivator. How could you casually steal my flower?”
Looking around and seeing no one around, the practitioner was puzzled. “May I ask who this is? Why did you say the flower is yours?” he asked the empty space.
Peaceful and solemn, the voice replied, “I am the goddess of lotus. All of the flowers in this pond were raised and nurtured by me. As greed arose in your mind, you failed to restrain it as a practitioner. Instead, you indulged in your greed and stole my flower. And yet you felt no sense of guilt. How would you explain this?”
Feeling regretful, the practitioner knew he was wrong. Although he felt it was a trivial mistake, he nonetheless apologized by kowtowing to the empty space, “Your Majesty, please forgive my sin. From now on, I shall never take anything that does not belong to me.”
As he apologized, a stranger approached the pond murmuring, “Wow! Look at the pretty flowers! If I take them and sell them, I will make a fortune and get back all the gambling losses!”
Jumping in the pond, the man took all the flowers. His roughness left behind a big mess. He then departed.
Stunned by what he saw, the practitioner was confused since the goddess did not intervene. It was as if she was oblivious to what just happened. Even after the man was out of sight, it was still complete silence.
The practitioner asked in bafflement, “Your Majesty, I took one flower, and you reprimanded me sternly. That man took all your flowers and desecrated your pond. But you said nothing. May I ask why?”
With those words, the practitioner could not control himself, as resentment filled his heart.
In the empty space came a compassionate voice from the goddess, “On a pure white cloth, a tiny stain is clearly evident. After cleaning it with hard efforts, however, its purity can be restored. For a filthy rag, the tremendous foulness has ruined its quality and defiled its nature. Therefore, it is no longer worth the effort.”
“You, a practitioner, is like the pure white cloth. I warned you to be aware of the wrongdoing and correct it, because the blemish is unmistakable. The criticism will help you elevate and you should accept it with gratitude. For the gambler, he has sunk in the secular world far too long with no intention to repent. What awaits him is retribution, not my advice,” added the goddess.
Feeling ashamed by her words, the practitioner listened attentively as the goddess continued lecturing, “A practitioner would examine himself or herself first to improve his own conduct, rather than seeking externally and focusing on the actions of others. Right?”
By then, the practitioner was enlightened that seeking externally was the cause of his inability to reach tranquility, while cultivating himself was the path towards liberation.