The Buddha’s Dharma of Plowing

The compassionately wise and skilful
find opportunities to share the Dharma
through every and any occasion.

~ Stonepeace

The eleventh rainy season was spent in the vicinity of Rajagriha. Following it the Buddha began wandering through the country of the Magadhans. One morning, near the village of Ekanala, he [the Buddha] was at the large farmstead of a brahmin farmer named Bharadvaja at the time of day when the latter was providing food for his laborers. The Buddha stood among the men with his alms bowl and silently waited to receive some food. When he came to the Buddha, Bharadvaja said, ‘I plow and sow, and when I have done that, then I eat.’ The Buddha replied that he too plowed and sowed, and having done so, also ate. Bharadvaja said, ‘Master Gautama, I don’t see your plow, I don’t see your plowshare, I don’t see your goad, I don’t see your oxen.’

The Buddha responded, ‘In my work, faith is the seed, control is the rain, the yoke and plow are understanding, modesty is the plow shaft, mind is what ties the yoke on, and mindfulness is both the goad and the plowshare blade. With body and speech controlled, and eating sparely, I reap with the hoe of truth. My ox is energy which pulls on toward liberation. Going beyond sorrow and never turning back is the plowing I do. What I reap is the unborn, the deathless. Whoever does likewise will be freed of all suffering.’

Bharadvaja stood there in the hot sun and listened to these words along with his gathered laborers. He was moved by them and immediately went to fetch the Buddha some milk-boiled rice, which he gave to him in a large bronze vessel. However, the Tathagata refused the rice, saying he did not take food for singing a song. ‘Moreover,’ he said, ‘the rice is not fit to eat. Throw it away in some flowing water.’ When the brahmin threw the rice into the water, it steamed and fumed as though it had acid in it. When Bharadvaja saw that, he knew that the Buddha had clear sight, and he realized that his teaching must be true. He prostrated at the Blessed One’s feet and took the threefold refuge [in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha].

A Life of the Buddha
Sherab Chodzin Kohn
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