Verse 119: Even an evil person may still find happiness, so long as his evil deed does not bear fruit; but when his evil deed does bear fruit he will meet with evil consequences.Dhammapada
Verse 120: Even a good person may still meet with suffering, so long as his good deed does not bear fruit: but when it does bear fruit he will enjoy the benefits of his good deed.Dhammapada
This story happened during Buddha’s time. Anathapindika was the chief laity disciple and he was renowned for his charitable nature. One of his famous feat, was to purchase the Jeta grove from a local prince, at the cost equivalent to the amount of gold needed to cover the entire area! He offered the land to Buddha and His monastic community.
Anathapindika also made it a point to sponsor food offerings to the vast numbers of monks residing at his locality. Even though he was doing so much meritorious deeds, he suffered a setback. A natural calamity adversely affected his fortune and his debtors were not paying. Consequently, he was near bankruptcy.
Although he was financially strained, he continued to make offerings to Buddha and his community to the best of his capability. One day the guardian deity of his household appeared to him and advised him to stop donating to Buddha. “You should work hard on regaining your wealth first. Your consistent donation did not bring you better prospect and you are now nearing bankruptcy.”
Anathapindika was angry with the deity for the ill advice and told him to get lost! At that point in time, Anathapindika had already attained the first stage of fruition. (Sotapanna) That gave him spiritual authority over the local deity and thus, that deity lost his place in Anathapindika’s household.
Why would a deity discourage donation to Buddha?
Well, the spiritual law decree that each time the Buddha enter a household, the local deity has to give up their seat of power within the household and stand aside. If you imagine, it is like the king having to step down from his throne each time the Buddha visit. Anathapindika constantly invited Buddha to his household. Therefore, his household deity was unhappy with the “inconvenience” suffered. (note 1)
Due to his ill-conceived deed, he found himself without a spiritual abode after Anathapindika kicked him out! At his wit’s end. he asked his fellow deities what to do. Non of the earth bound deities knew the answer and he finally approached Sakka.(King of gods) for advice.
Sakka advised him to atone for his misdeed by helping Anathapindika get his wealth back. The deity complied and proceeded to ask Anathapindika’s forgiveness. Anathapindika was touched by the deity’s sincerity and welcomed him back to the household.
Both of them proceeded to meet Buddha and related the matter to Him. Buddha spoke the verses above to demonstrate that we should not be deceived by apparent situations.
The law of karma is constantly working. Some bad people seemed to be having agood time because their bad karma had not ripened yet. We will be mistaken if we think that karma is nor working. The opposite is true also.
P.S: Interestingly I had heard elders sharing with me that they never hesitate to donate to good Buddhist causes. Each time, money and wealth would just come their way after their donation, in the form of new opportunities etc. Perhaps the deities are protecting them.
As we can see from the story, the relationship between a practicing Buddhist or realized Buddhist and deities are rather unique. We do not pray to gods and goddesses but receive their protection. Provided, we practice. For a realized Buddhist, they even have the spiritual authority over the local guardian deities.
Note 1: When we set up a Buddhist altar, Buddha statue or image is always in the center, ancestral spirit shrine and images of other deities (if already existing) are placed by the sides and lower than the central image of Buddha.
When we wish to install a statue or image of Buddha for our spiritual practice at home or when we are moving into a new home (and bringing along our altar), it is courteous to inform the local deities. When monks and nuns are invited, sutra or sutta (words of Buddha) is being recited in dedication to local spirits and deities. This is a representation of Buddha’s preaching. If they (local spirits) accept the teachings, they gain a “promotion” as Buddhist guardian deities. They can continue to reside in the household.
Hope you enjoy the story and tidbits.
May all be well and happy.