In ancient times, there was a compassionate prince called Tanmoqian. He had a strong resolve to practice good deeds and learn the Buddha’s teachings, so he sent people to search for virtuous teachers wise in the Dharma, but all his efforts were in vain. The King of Daoli Heaven, knowing the prince’s vows and wanting to see if his faith was strong, turned himself into a mortal named Youse, and presented himself at the prince’s palace. He said that he could expound the Dharma. Hearing this, the prince was overjoyed and received his eminent guest with every sign of respect.
“My Dharma teaching is very hard to find in this mundane world, so I’m afraid you might not be willing to pay for it,” Youse glumly sighed. The prince immediately responded that he was ready to give away everything he had; he only wished to listen to the Dharma teachings and escape his afflictions. So, Youse said, “OK, then please dig a deep hole and set it on fire. After you have plunged headfirst into it as an offering to the Dharma, I can teach you.”
Without delay, the prince ordered his servants to dig a deep pit and set it alight. The king and his subjects, upon seeing the prince’s willingness to die for the sake of the Dharma, pleaded with him, saying, “Please do not imperil the country’s future! Do not sacrifice your life. We are willing to become Youse’s servants instead.” However, the prince firmly declined their offer.
The prince said, “I have been reincarnated countless times in both human and animal form. As a human I have been consumed by every kind of greed, anger, ignorance and vice. As a beast of burden I have been stung by the whip as I tottered under a heavy load. As meat I have been raised, slaughtered and eaten. And in hell I have suffered for days without end. Never before have I given anything for the Dharma. Today I can finally make an offering with this sinful body to the Dharma. This is a rare moment, and I hope that everybody can let me fulfill my aspirations to attain Buddhahood.”
Youse thereupon ascended to his Dharma seat and said, “We must be charitable at all times, keep our hearts free of hatred, and treat all sentient beings with compassion. We should cultivate a mind of joy, and rejoice at the attainment of others. And, we must liberate all beings with the Dharma, as we follow the Bodhisattva’s path.” As soon as Youse finished speaking, the prince dived into the flames. However, the burning pit in an instant turned into a placid lotus pond, and the prince found himself sitting on a large, fragrant lily pad. At that moment, the prince realized the impermanence of fortune and misfortune, and the suffering of cyclic birth and death. In order to learn the true Dharma teaching, the prince was willing to sacrifice his own life. What a fearless Bodhisattva he is!
Most human afflictions and vexations arise from our attachment caused by false ideas and perceptions. The Dharma teaches us the truth, giving us the wisdom to clearly see the truth about reality, and enabling us to control our negative thoughts and emotions in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Being able to hear the Dharma is the greatest blessing, and being able to understand it is the greatest treasure. When we respect the Dharma and practice it, we are a step further from affliction and a step closer to true happiness.