There once lived a compassionate prince named Tanmoqian. He was resolved to practice good deeds and learn the Buddha’s teachings, so he sent emissaries to seek out teachers wise in the Dharma. But all his efforts were in vain.
The King of Daoli Heaven, knowing the prince’s vows and wanting to test if his faith was strong, turned himself into a mortal named Youse, presented himself at the prince’s palace, and said he could expound the Dharma. The prince was overjoyed and received his eminent guest with great respect.
“My Dharma teaching is very hard to practice in this mundane world. I’m afraid you might not be willing to pay for it,” Youse glumly sighed. The prince promptly replied he was ready to give away everything he had — he only wished to listen to the Dharma teachings and escape his earthly sufferings.
Youse said, “If that be so, then dig a pit and set it on fire. If you are ready to plunge headfirst into it as an offering to the Dharma, I can teach you.”
The prince at once ordered his servants to dig a deep pit, fill it with firewood and set it alight. The king and his courtiers, upon seeing the prince’s willingness to die for the sake of Dharma, pleaded with him: “Please do not imperil your country’s future! Do not sacrifice your life! We are willing to become Youse’s servants instead.” However, Tanmoqian gently but firmly declined their offer.
The prince said, “I have been reincarnated countless times in both human and animal form. As a human, I have been consumed by greed, pride, anger, fear, ignorance and every other kind of vice. As a beast of burden, I have been lashed by the whip as I tottered under heavy load. As meat, I have been raised, slaughtered and eaten. And in hell I have suffered for eons without end.
“Never before have I given anything for the Dharma. Today I can finally make an offering with this sinful body. This is a rare moment, I hope everyone allows me to fulfill my aspirations to attain Buddhahood.”
Youse thereupon ascended to his Dharma seat and taught, “We must be charitable at all times, keep our hearts free of hatred and treat all sentient beings with compassion. We should cultivate a mind of joy, and rejoice at the attainment of others. As we follow the Bodhisattva’s path, we must strive to liberate all beings with the Dharma.” As soon as Youse finished speaking, Tanmoqian dived into the flames.
In an instant, the burning pit turned into a placid lotus pond, and the prince found himself sitting on a large, fragrant lily pad. At that moment, he realized the impermanence of fortune and misfortune, the sufferings of cyclic birth and death.
He had become a Bodhisattva. And it happened because he had freed himself from fear to walk the path to enlightenment.
— the harbinger