The Use of Resources
Just look how a very rich woman at the Buddha’s time acted. There was this extremely rich woman who was afflicted with migraine and [the physician] Jīvaka treated her. Jīvaka asked her for an ounce of butter.
So, Jīvaka mixed the medicine with this butter and had the rich lady draw it up through her nostrils. Of course, some of this butter came back out after she had drawn it up. As she felt it coming back out, she called her servants. ‘Hey, daughters, daughters, take this up with a cotton wad,’,she told them, and they did so. There was just this wee bit of butter into which the medicine had been mixed … but this millionaire lady had it saved; she didn’t throw it away. When the physician Jīvaka saw this, he thought to himself, ‘I have acquired a lot of knowledge about medicine, but this lady is not going to remunerate me for my skills as is fitting and proper.’
Now, this lady knew Jīvaka was thinking that, and she said to him, ‘You have cured me. I know that I am indebted to you. I am fully aware of this. However, I didn’t want to waste this butter, as I don’t want to waste anything, whatever it is. This butter that I had taken up with a cotton wad can still give benefit. How? If cats and dogs are somehow injured this butter can be used to clean their wounds. The cotton wads can also be used as wicks in lamps. You see, dear doctor, I don’t want to throw away things that can still be used profitably somewhere. But don’t worry, I know that I have to be grateful to you.’
Now Jīvaka was relieved. This lady, her daughters and family out of gratitude gave Jīvaka a lot of things. They gave him whole villages, servants, carriages, nothing was missing. He got all this because he cured this lady of her illness.
At one time king Pasenadi of Kosala approached Ānanda, paid respects and asked: ‘Venerable Ānanda, Samāvatī [the King’s chief consort] and her companions told me that they offered five hundred cloths to you. But you are just one person. What are you going to do with all this clothing?’
Ānanda replied, ‘Yes, I am alone, but these cloths are not with me anymore. There are plenty of monks whose robes are threadbare and falling apart.’ ‘So what happened to the old robes?’ the king wanted to know. ‘The old robes are also there, of course, but because they were in a bad state these monks had to change them. After discarding them as robes, they used them as bed sheets.’ ‘But what happened to the old bed sheets?’ ‘The old bed sheets were made into rope mats to wipe the feet. They were not wasted.’
Now, when the foot mats started to fall apart and became useless, what did they do then? With faith in the heart we have to make sure that nothing given to the Teachings goes to waste. It is said that the shreds of the foot mats were mixed up with dirt and spread on the walls. In those times there was no plaster and they had to make the walls this way: Instead of plaster they smeared a mixture of cow dung and mud on the walls. But this mixture didn’t hold up very long. It would crack and then break. If the shreds of the robes were mixed in, however, it wouldn’t crack. The monks had to build in this way so that the buildings lasted longer.
After Ānanda had explained all this the King was very pleased. ‘You really get the most benefit out of the offerings of the faithful,’ he said, and he donated even more.
All I have told you are teachings of the Buddha. For the benefit of the Teachings we have to be very attentive in every instance, not to let anything go to waste. This is part of our practice of morality, sīla.