The Buddha is always on the look out for beings who are ripe for liberation. It so happened while the Buddha was staying in Jetavana, that a poor man was ripe for attaining Sotapatti. The Buddha is able to perceive the merits of all beings and he knew that the time was ripe for that layman because he had accumulated enough merits to gain attainment.
To liberate this man, the Buddha went to Alavi together with 500 monks in company. Alavi is a place where the population are mostly Buddhist and Buddha was given a warm reception by the people there.
Unfortunately for that layman, his bullock had broken free and wandered off on the day of Buddha’s visit. Reluctantly, this layman decided that he had to search for his missing bullocks before visiting Buddha. As he was very poor, the bullock was his only tool for earning a living.
Meanwhile, the reception by the townsfolk had come to an end. All the monks, including Buddha had taken their meal. This time, Buddha did not gave a sermon as was traditionally expected. Instead, he simply sat in silence. This was because the Buddha is aware of that layman’s plight. Therefore he waited patiently for the layman to finish his task first.
It was in the afternoon when that layman found his bullock and lead it back home. Hastily, he proceeded to visit Buddha. In that manner, that layman had not eaten anything for that day because he was searching for his missing bullock since morning.
When he arrived at the monastery, Buddha enquired if there are anymore food remaining from the feast. When informed that there is sufficient food left for one, the Buddha instructed his lay devottees to serve food to that layman.
After that layman had eaten his meal and settled down comfortably, the Buddha began to teach the Dharma. While listening to the Buddha’s sermon, that layman attained Sotapatti.
From this story, we see that the compassionate Buddha will come to us when the time is ripe. However, that means we need to have lots of good merits. So start doing good now.
That layman did not miss his opportunity for attainment simply because he attended to his mundane duties first. Instead, the Buddha waited patiently for him. Sometimes, we might wrongly believe that if we attend to our mundane duties first, it may “offend” Buddha. Buddhism is not like that. Buddha did not teach his lay devottees to neglect their wordly duties. While it is important for us to practice, it is also equally important for us to earn a living and live!
Buddha will help when we put in our best effort. As can be seen, that man was tired and hungry. However, he did not give up his wish to meet Buddha. He was not discouraged for being late.
Buddha instructed food to be served to that man. Likewise, if we are determined and put in effort, Buddha will instruct beings to come and help us too. Let us not forget that many Gods and Goddesses are also disciples of Buddha.
Don’t neglect our health because if our body is not in good condition, we cannot attain enlightenment. That was the reason why Buddha instructed to feed that layman first before He start to teach. otherwise, that layman would not be in a condusive state to be taught.