A Greedy Little Bird
Published #68 | Spring 2023 Issue
There was once an orchard on the outskirts of a city that was full of loquat trees that produced not just edible fruit, but also leaves used as medicine. Because of this, many people came to pick the fruit and leaves every spring when the fruit was ripe.
However, a bird in the orchard would scream loudly every time people approached the loquat trees, becoming even more fierce as they reached out to pick fruit. It seemed to be saying, “It’s all mine! It’s all mine!”
One spring, the bird was flying around the orchard and screaming as usual, but as everyone was used to it, they paid no attention and continued to pick the fruit. Later, the bird screamed so much that it eventually died.
As this was so strange, word of the bird’s death spread. A group of monastics reported the incident to the Buddha, who sighed and said, “This is the habitual tendency of greed!” The bhiksus asked the Buddha, “What is the karmic condition of this bird’s past life? Please teach us.”
The Buddha replied, “A long time ago, a young man lived in this city. His parents passed away when he was very young, leaving him many assets, including the orchard. The man was
always calculating how much the orchard could produce each year, and how much interest he was not collecting.”
“Someone said to him, ‘You should get married and have a family.’ He thought about how it would be if he had a wife, and how much an additional person would consume in food each
day. And if he had children, how much would that cost him? He even let go of all of the servants that his parents had hired, so getting married and having children was out of the question.”
The Buddha continued, “Life is impermanent. He grew old, and he suddenly passed away one day. Because he had no one to inherit his assets, all of them were eventually confiscated and
became part of the state treasury.”
At this point, the Buddha said to his disciples, “That bird is the reincarnation of that rich man. Although he was well-to-do, he was extremely greedy and stingy. He always felt that he never
had enough wealth, so he lived as if he were poor, reluctant to spend on food and clothing.”
“This bird still thought that it owned the orchard. That is why it was reluctant to let anyone pick the fruit, so it kept screaming, ‘It is all mine! It is all mine!’ until it died. Human nature is good and kind, but if one lacks the heart to do good and create blessings, one will always live a poor life.”
From this story, we can see that if one is stingy and is lacking in love, this habitual tendency will carry on to the next life. With this in mind, I hope that we can eliminate greed and stinginess and unlock the abundant resources in our hearts.