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The piece of gauze on her body was transformed into a cassock with five patches. So the Buddha turned her over to Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī to teach her and initiate her. She practiced very diligently, and achieved the level of Arhat soon. Ananda was very curious and surprised. So he knelt down and asked Buddha, "Master, what did nun Shu Li practice in previous lives that enabled her to earn the merits of being born into a noble family, wrapped with gauze at birth, and becoming an Arhat shortly after being a nun? Please explain for us to understand it."
I often told you that being charitable was not a big deal. We came with nothing, and we shall leave with nothing. We owe this world a great deal. Even if we give a little to others, it’s like repaying a debt only. What kind of charity is it? This is the difference between the ultimate method and common practice. The common practice advises people to be charitable in order to obtain merits. Then the person will slowly achieve Nirvana in ninety-one kalpas! Amitabha Buddha! Do you know how long ninety-one kalpas is? We can’t even bear ninety-one incarnations, let alone ninety-one kalpas.
If you encourage them to do those small things, to obtain those small blessed rewards, it’s only harming them. No matter how great the merit is, it will be used up someday. Offering the Dharma is the most important, to give people the correct concept, so they can get liberated forever. The material aspects are not that important. “The Old Lady Who Sold Poverty“: One time, the reverend Katyayana went to a country named Avanti. He met an old woman sitting and weeping by the riverside.
Then the reverend Katyayana explained the blessed rewards of being charitable, the cause and effect, and the merit of being kind to them. He also told them that wealth, beauty, talent, status and all the worldly happiness were ephemeral, and that it wasn’t good for us to become attached to things in this realm. If we were attached to these enjoyments, that means the evils have stared tempting us. We can only enjoy these things for a while. Then the karmic retribution will drag us into the realm of suffering for a very, very long time. So we should at least stay away from the desires of the human world.