Stories from Ancient China: The Old Master's Advice

An old master brought his young disciple with him to descend the mountain and run some errands. They ran into an old lady who was nearly starving to death.

The old master took out some dry goods and silver and gave them to the old lady. The disciple was not quite willing to part with them. The old master tried to enlighten him and said, "Life and death and virtue are only between our notions. This food and silver are for us to stay alive temporarily. However, they can save her life." His disciple seemed to understand some of it and respectfully replied, "I'll remember your teachings. One day when I can build a big temple, I will help those in poverty." The old master heard his words and shook his head.

A few years later, when the old master was about to die, he gave a book to his disciple before he could finish his last sentence.

The young disciple was quite capable and continued to enlarge the temple. He thought that after the temple was completed, he would follow the old master's instructions and save more poor people. After the temple was finished and looked quite presentable, he thought, "Perhaps, I should wait for the temple to get bigger and better before I help those poor people."

Time flew. Several decades passed and the temple changed from an old run-down place to a splendid looking one. However, the disciple was so busy building the temple he forgot to do even one good deed.

Before he died, he remembered the book that his old master had given him. He opened the book and saw these words written by his old master on the Title page:

"Helping someone once is better than reciting the scriptures for ten years."

Actually, we do not need to wait until we have sufficient ability before we help others. We should remember that a helping hand in time is far more important. A helping heart is natural and from our true self. When someone is waiting until he has sufficient resources or ability, he is merely trying to cover up his unwillingness.

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