The Silent Buddha
After his enlightenment, the Buddha could remember his previous lives. Some of these previous lives are recorded in the Buddhist scripture, the Jakata.
Once upon a time, there was a very rich man living in Benares, in northern India. When his father died, he inherited even more wealth. He wanted to help everyone and benefit from his wealth.
So he built dining halls at the four gates of the city where he gave food freely to everyone. He became famous for his generosity.
In those days, there was a Silent Buddha meditating in the forest near Benares. He was called Buddha because he was enlightened. He was awakened.
Being one with all life, he was filled with compassion and sympathy for the unhappiness of all beings. So he wished to teach and help them to be enlightened just as he was. It was the most unfortunate and sad time when no one else was able to understand the Truth, and receive Dharma. And since this Buddha knew this, that was why he was Silent.
After meditating in the forest for several days and nights, he returned to the ordinary state, he was in danger of dying from starvation. So the Buddha decided to collect alms food at the mansion of the rich man of Benares.
The rich man from Benares saw the Buddha was coming and told his servant to go and give alms to him.
Meanwhile, Mara, the god of death, had been watching. Mara wanted to destroyed the Buddha but it was impossible because the Buddha was an enlightened being.
When Mara saw that he was near death from starvation, he knew that he had a good chance of succeeding.
Before the servant could serve the food in the Buddha, Mara caused a deep pit of red hot burning coals to appear between them. It seemed like the entrance to a hell world.
The servant was frightened to death. He ran back to his master and told him about the red burning coals.
The rich man thought that the servant was imagining things and sent another servant with alms food. But the same thing happened again.
Then the ruck man new about Mara and that the god of death wanted to prevent him doing wholesome deeds. The rich man was confident in his determination to give. He was unbreakable.
The rich man himself went to face Mara and told him that Mara isn’t able to prevent him from doing wholesome deeds.
Then the rich man looked across the raging pit of fire, and said to the calm and gentle Enlightened One, "Oh Silent Buddha, let the light of Truth continue to shine as an example to us. Accept this gift of life!"
So saying, he forgot himself entirely, and in that moment there was no fear of death. As he stepped into the burning pit, he felt himself being lifted up by a beautiful cool lotus blossom. While standing in the heart of the lotus, the Great Being poured the alms food into the bowl of the Silent Buddha. Mara, god of death, was defeated.
Still standing on the wonderful lotus, glowing with the color of gold, the generous master taught his followers. He told them that with such a pure mind, there is great merit in giving alms - indeed it is truly the gift of life!