There once was a rich man, who felt life to be unmeaningful and went to a philosopher in hopes that it would reduce the anxiety within his heart.
The philosopher took the man before a window and asked,
“What do you see?”
“I see men and women, as well as children,” replied the man.
The philosopher then took him before a mirror, and asked,
“What do you see now?”
“I see myself,” said the man.
The philosopher explained, “Both windows and mirrors are made of glass, but one side of the mirror is coated with a layer of mercury, so you cannot see others but only yourself.”
The rich man listened, and finally understood.
Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, also known as Li Shimin, once asked Master Xuanzang, “I would like to make offerings to the Sangha, but I hear that most monastics are not spiritually cultivated. What should I do?”
Master Xuanzang answered, “Although the city of Kunshan produces jade, all of them contain silt. Although the city of Lishui produces gold, all are mixed with debris. Though an arhat statue is molded out of clay and carved out of wood, being respectful will result in merits. Though Buddha statues are cast from copper and iron, destroying them will result in retributions. Though clay dragons cannot bring rain, they are still essential in rain prayer ceremonies. The Sangha may not bring blessings to others, but the cultivation of merits still requires venerating the Sangha. What is important is the person making the offering, and whether these images can evoke a heart of charity and respect.”
Emperor Taizong suddenly understood and said, “From this day onwards, regardless of what kind of monastics I meet, I must venerate them with the same respect I give to the Buddha.”