Once upon a time, there lived a monastic named Suddha. He and his master lived in a monastery in the mountains. Suddha's parents could not afford to raise him, so he became a monastic when only a young child.
Suddha was a deep thinker and often thought about the meaning and purpose of life.
One day, Suddha asked his master, “What is the value of life?”
His master did not answer him. Instead, he took out a stone and said, “Suddha, if you want to find the answer to your question, you must do as I say.”
“Yes, master,” Suddha replied.
His master continued, “Take this stone and go to the market. You are not to sell the stone under any circumstance. No matter how much money people offer you to buy it, you must not sell it.”
“Understood,” Suddha said.
Unable to understand his master’s reasoning, Suddha nevertheless headed to the market. When he arrived, he found a spot and sat down with the stone on display in front of him.
A passerby was curious and asked, “How much for the rock?”
Suddha shook his head and replied, “It’s not for sale.”
The passerby tried to make him an offer, “How about you sell it to me for $2?”
Suddha again shook his head and said, “It’s not for sale.”
As he sat there with the stone, more people came by and made him offers. A few offered him $5 for the stone. By the end of the day, the highest offer was for $10.
When Suddha returned to the monastery, his master asked, “How did it go today?”
“A few people were curious about the stone. I had offers of $2, $5, and even $10. But I did as you instructed, I told them the stone wasn’t for sale.” Suddha shared.
The master instructed him, “Very well, tomorrow I want you to go to the gold market. Do exactly as you did today, just let others offer to buy it from you.”
The next day, after finishing his chores, Suddha went to the gold market with the stone. Again, he sat and put the stone on display. A thought popped in his mind, “I wonder how much they’ll offer me here.”
“Excuse me, how much for this stone?” Someone asked.
“It’s not for sale,” Suddha said.
“Why not? I’m willing to offer you $1000. Will you consider selling it?” The person asked.
Overhearing the conversation, another person came over and said, “No, sell it to me, I will offer you ten times more.”
Suddha thought, “Wow, $10K is a lot of money.” But, he remembered his master’s instruction, and replied, “I’m not selling it.”
People began to gather around Suddha. Soon, a crowd formed with everyone talking about how they deserved to buy the stone. While the crowd kept arguing, Suddha slowly made his way out. He left the crowd behind and ran back to the monastery.
As Suddha reached the monastery gate, he yelled, “Master! Master! I can’t believe it, someone offered to buy the stone for $10K!”
The master replied, “Excellent! Don’t get too excited because tomorrow I want you to go to one last place.”
“Where am I going tomorrow?” Suddha asked excitedly.
“To the jewelry market. Remember, you are not to sell it and just let people make their offer.” The master said.
The following day, Suddha woke up earlier than usual, finished his chores, and headed out.
Excited, Suddha arrived at the jewelry market, sat down, and displayed the stone.
Within ten minutes, someone approached him and made him an offer, “I will give you $20K for this stone.”
Suddha shook his head and said, “I’m not selling.”
Another person approached him and said, “This stone looks interesting. I will pay you $50K for this.”
Suddha shook his head and said, “I am not selling the stone.”
Soon after, more and more people tried to buy the stone. The highest offer he received that day was $10 million dollars. By the end, he really didn’t know how to refuse the potential buyers anymore and resorted to saying, “I don’t know why I cannot sell this stone, I only follow my master’s instruction. He told me that the stone is not for sale.”
He then picked up the stone and headed back to the monastery.
When Suddha saw his master, he yelled “Master, it was amazing! I am amazed. People were offering me lots of money for this stone. Today, I had an offer of 10 million dollars! But, I still don’t understand how not selling the stone will tell what the value of life is.”
The master took the stone and replied, “Suddha, this stone’s value changes depending on the place. When it was at the market, its value was $10 at most. However, when it was at the gold market and jewelry market, its value kept changing. This is because people have different perspectives and different standards. When you asked me what is the value of life, I simply cannot tell you for it depends on how you see your own life.”
Suddha nodded and thanked his master for this great lesson.
This story highlights that there is no definite value on any life. Its worth depends on one’s perspectives, and what value you infuse into it.
Like most people, every day from 9am to 5pm, we are either working, studying or socializing, starting a family or business, traveling, doing charity, and so on. We seek answers and find motivation through these different lifestyles and goals. After a lifetime spent searching, how many people truly realize the value of their own life and that of others?
Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
Time is life: using time well is saving a life.
Life is time: squandering time is wasting life.