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The Halfpenny Loan
From: A Flock of Fools, Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter, published in 2004.
Original Title: One Hundred Parable Sutra*
(Sutra=Disclosure)

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The Halfpenny Loan

A long time ago there was a merchant who lent a man a halfpenny. The man neglected to pay back his debt so the merchant decided to go and collect it. On the way, he came to a river where he paid a boatman two pennies to take him to the other side.

Once there, the merchant continued on his journey until, finally, he reached his destination, where he hoped to collect the halfpenny. But the debtor was nowhere to be found and, despite all his effort, the merchant had to go home empty handed.

On the return trip, of course, he had to cross the river again, and so he paid the boatman two more pennies. In trying to collect a halfpenny loan, the foolish man had spent four pennies, was terribly inconvenienced, and returned home exhausted, without a thing to show. Although the loan had been very small, he ended up losing much more, and, sure enough, he was laughed at by everyone who heard the story.

Exegesis: Many people are like this fool. They seek some minor recognition or advantage but end up wasting a great effort in the process. Their mistaken views cause them to chase after things they desire and, in so doing, they fail to observe even the most basic rules of proper conduct. Thus, they ruin their reputations and suffer painful consequences.

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*Allegedly selected by Sanghasena, a Mahayana Buddhist teacher and then translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in 492 AD by his disciple Ganavriddi, (who had memorized the stories) after he settled from central India to the Chinese city of Jianye (present-day Nanjing). Ganavriddi founded the Zhiguan Temple in Jianye taught dharma and died in 502.

Translated from Chinese into Japanese (title: Upama Shataka: Hyakuyu-kyo - Hundrendfold Anthology) and the from Chinese and Japanese into English by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt in 1966-1980.

 

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