I recently tried to give a gift to a monk friend of mine and was refused. Slightly pissed off, I asked why not and got this story, for which I’ve done my best to translate:
2500+ years ago, The Buddha’s stepmother was ordained as the first Buddhist nun ( Bhikkhuni ) in history. She was so grateful to The Buddha she decided to make a gift for him of the finest robes with the finest cloth ever made. ( as a side note, her name was Pajapati which stands for “leader of a great assembly”.. amazing considering she was given this name at birth and became the founder of the nuns order! )
She had received such wisdom from The Buddha’s teachings that she felt she had to express the gratitude she felt and so set out working day and night sewing these new robes with total love, care and complete devotion. Upon completion, they were perfect.
She walked for days with her bundle in hand making her way to the park where the Buddha was staying. When she arrived he welcomed her and she presented her gift to him along with her expression of gratitude and devotion.
He refused her gift and asked her to give the gift to all the others in the community instead.
She did not abide by his wishes, she had put all her love and attention into these beautiful garments and she wanted the Buddha himself to have them.
The next day she came again and once again the Buddha refused to accept them and asked her to give the gift to the community.
On the third day she came again with her packages of robes and tried once more. She was so upset she asked the Buddha why he didn’t appreciate her gift.
He explained that he appreciated her and her gift so much that he desired the ultimate blessings to be bestowed upon her. If he accepted the gift, she would only receive his gratitude and blessing in return, but if she gave the gift to the entire community then she was giving the gift to him because he is part of that community but now she would receive the blessings from everyone.
So basically, he was reminding me, to have, give all to all. Got it.