1. This is what I have heard:

Once, the Buddha was staying at Anathapindikas retreat in the Jeta Grove near the city of Sravasti, with a gathering of 1250 monks. After dressing and making his begging rounds in the city and eating his one meal, he sat with the monks.

2. The monk Subhuti paid his respects to the Buddha and asked a question: What should one who wants to travel the Bodhisattva path keep in mind?

3. The Buddha answered, A Bodhisattva should keep this in mind: All creatures, whether they are born from the womb or hatched from the egg, whether they transform like butterflies or arise miraculously, whether they have a body or are purely spirits, whether they are capable of thought or not capable of thought: All of these I vow to help enter nirvana before I rest there myself!

But keep in mind, Subhuti, that in reality there is no such thing as an I who helps, and no such thing as an other whom I help. A Bodhisattva who does not recognize this reality is no true Bodhisattva!

4. A true Bodhisattva takes no pleasure in this act of compassion and has no interest in appearances. He simply helps others selflessly.

Can you measure the east, the west, the north, and the south, Subhuti?

No, Lord.

Neither can you measure the merit of someone who can help others without thought of himself.

5. Subhuti! Can anyone tell who is a Buddha on the basis of physical characteristics?

No, Lord. You have taught that Buddhahood is not a matter of physical characteristics.รข

So one who is concerned with appearances will never see the Buddha, but one is not concerned with appearances may.

6. Subhuti asked, Lord, will there always be people who understand your message?

Buddha answered, Dont doubt it, Subhuti! There will always be people who, hearing the message, will adhere to the precepts and practice our way. Our message will reach people simply because it is true! There will come a time when many will no longer need words, but will be beyond words. We must all strive to go beyond the words, because words can be clung to, and we should not cling to things. Understand that the words of the Buddha are like a raft built to cross a river: When its purpose is completed, it must be left behind if we are to travel further!

7. So tell me, Subhuti. Have I taught the ultimate teaching?

No, Lord. The ultimate teaching is not something which can be taught, because the ultimate teaching is not a thing which can be grasped or clung to.

8. The Buddha said, Tell me, Subhuti. If someone gave away a universe full of treasures to help others, would he gain great merit?

Yes, Lord. His merit would be great. But you have also taught us that, in order for this act of generosity to be genuine, he would not have thought of gaining merit. In fact, he would not have thought of himself at all!

The Buddha said, Now, if someone understands and passes on even four sentences of my message to another, his generosity is even greater. He is not just giving something, he is helping to create future Buddhas!