Once there lived a kind-hearted brahmin who often offered food to the Buddha and his monks whenever they came by on their almsround. One day they happened to arrive when he was already in the middle of his meal, and though they patiently stood in front of his door, he did not notice them.
His wife did, however, but she did not want her husband to know that they had come, for she k that he would surely offer them the rest of his meal. That would mean she would have to go back into the kitchen and cook some more, which she really was not in the mood to do.
So she stood in front of the doorway in such a way that the Buddha and his monks remained cut from her husband’s view. She then quietly eased herself to the door within the Buddha’s listening reach and whispered to him through the corner of her mouth that there was no almsfood for them that day.
The Buddha and his disciples were already walking away when the husband noticed his wife’s strange behavior and asked her what she was up to. As she turned from the door, he caught sight of the edge of a monk’s robe leaving the doorway and immediately realized what had happened.
He jumped from behind his unfinished plate of food and ran after the Buddha. He apologized profusely for his wife’s crude behavior toward them and begged the Buddha to return with him and accept his food, although already partially eaten.
The Buddha did not hesitate to accept the brahmin’s offer and said, “Any food is suitable for me, even if it be the last remaining spoonful of an unfinished meal, for that is the way of a bhikkhu.”
The brahmin then asked the Buddha how a bhikkhu was to be defined. The Buddha’s response was quite succinct and clear: “A bhikkhu,” he said, “is one who no longer has any attachment to body or mind and does not long for what he doesn’t have.”
He who does not take the mind and body as “I” and “mine” and who does not grieve for what he has not is indeed called a bhikkhu.
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