If there is always affinity
or the lack of it,
we might as well create
only good affinity.
Once Sakyamuni Buddha and his disciple Mahamaudgalyayana went with a large gathering of followers to another country to convert living beings. When the citizens saw the Buddha they shut their doors and ignored him. When they saw Maudgalyayana, however, they ran to greet him, and everyone, from the King and ministers to the citizens, all bowed and competed to make offerings to him. The Buddha’s disciples thought this most unfair. “World Honored One,” they said, “your virtuous conduct is so lofty; why is it that they do not make offerings to you, but instead compete to make offerings to Maudgalyayana?”
“This is because of past affinities,” said the Buddha. “I will tell you. Limitless aeons ago, Maudgalyayana and I were fellow-countrymen. He gathered firewood in the mountains and I lived in a hut below. A swarm of bees was bothering me and I decided to smoke them out. But Maudgalyayana refused to help even though they stung him until his hands were swollen and painful. Instead, he made a vow, ‘It must be miserable to be a bee,’ he thought. ‘I vow that when I attain the Way I will take these asura-like bees across first thing!’
“Many lifetimes later the bees were reborn as the citizens of this country. The queen bee became the King, the drones became the ministers, and the workers became the citizens. Because I didn’t like the bees, I now have no affinity with these people and therefore no one makes offerings to me. But because of his vow, all the citizens revere Maudgalyayana” (Ibid, p.37-38).
According to the Buddha, as sentient beings, we all have strong attachments – particularly to our bodies and possessions. At the time of death, as we are about to lose both body and possessions, our consciousness, impelled by these deep-seated attachments, rushes to reincarnate itself in another body. It is at this juncture that vows, particularly the vow for rebirth in the Pure Land, are crucial: instead of just following our karma, good and evil, we may, through the power of these vows, achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
Mind-Seal Of The Buddhas (Notes)