On 06.01.2012, at 05:28, Sridhar Rajan wrote:
Many years ago, while designing an exhibit themed around sustainability, I encountered a lovely story about Ananda (the Buddha's disciple). Here's what I remember.
For articulately carrying the teaching of the Buddha, Ananda receives a bag of gold from a queen. The king decides to test whether this monk has really renounced the desire for wealth.
What will you do with so much gold?
Ananda replies that he would buy clothes.
But a bag of gold will buy a lot of clothes. What will a monk do with so many?
The clothes are not for me. They are for all the villagers.
But what will become of their old clothes?
Ananda explains that he would sew their old clothes into quilts to keep them warm.
But what of the quilts that they have?
They are old and worn, and hardly warm anymore. So we will stuff them into new pillows.
And their old pillows?
Ah, those are pillows only in name. They are but scraps, which we will now sew together to make into rugs.
Don't they have rugs now?
Yes they do, but those are thin. They can be folded and become doormats, to keep their homes clean.
So they don't have doormats presently?
They do, indeed. But those are threadbare. And are fit only for mops. Which they will now become.
Sniffing a loophole, the king advanced…
Ah the old mops, you will throw them away?
I fear not. Although their work is well done, they will live on in another form. We will pound them along with clay, and use them to strengthen the walls of the houses.
And the king, looking on all the wealth in his palace, was silent.
OTHER SOURCES--I found many webpages that mentioned Ananda. http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/aa/aananda.htm had something that resembled this tale, in a section explaining his intense care of Buddha and his support of women’s rights:
"They would stand round him when he preached, fanning him and asking him questions on the Dhamma. When he went to Kosamb+ to impose the higher penalty on Channa, the women of King Udena's harem, hearing of his presence in the park, came to him and listened to his preaching. So impressed were they that they gave him five hundred robes (Vin.ii.290). It was on this occasion that Ananda convinced Udena of the conscientiousness with which the Skyaputta monks used everything which was given to them, wasting nothing. The king, pleased with Ananda, gave him another five hundred robes, all of which he distributed among the community."
Ananda had been a tailor in a past birth and had given a Pacceka Buddha a piece of cloth, the size of his hand, and a needle. Because of the gift of the needle he was wise, because of the cloth he got 500 robes (AA.i.239).
A similar story is related of the women of Pasenadi's palace and their gift to Ananda. The king was at first angry, but afterwards gave Ananda one thousand robes (J.ii.24ff).