When it comes to making offerings to Buddha, we tend to offer precious, presentable, and fresh offerings to show our reverence and avoid disrespecting Buddha. However, there was an old lady who offered leftover food, and she was rewarded with not only immeasurable blessings, but also made a buddha herself.

Listen to Grandmaster JinBodhi and find out how special the leftover food was.

【You will learn】

  • The highest level of offering

【Featured aphorisms】

  •  Enlightenment does not come free.
  • To become a compassionate person, start with giving.
  • Offering without seeking anything is the highest level of offering.


Once, Buddha and his chief disciple, Ananda, went to gather alms. Apart from getting food for themselves, alms-gathering was also a way for them to build connections with offerors. This is how one sows the seed of merit. This is called forming connections with an alms bowl.

They arrived at a city. The country was ruled by a king who paid great respect to the brahmins. Buddhism was a foreign teaching to them. Under someone’s instigation, the citizens of the entire city refused to support all Buddhist practitioners; from Buddha to Buddhist disciples and monks, none were supported. Violators would be warned, heavily fined, and punished.

That day, Buddha thought He should form connections with people in the city and find out if there were wise and lucky individuals. And so, Buddha and Ananda arrived. They had a hard day, walking around the streets from morning until 3:30 in the afternoon without receiving a single bowl of rice. Everyone closed their door upon seeing them, or pretended not to hear or see them. Because if they were to give alms, they would be punished by the king. Also, they were not aware of the greatness of Buddha. That’s why the people hid from them deliberately.

Like I said, Buddha and Ananda had a hard time. After walking for so long, they were thirsty and hungry, and they couldn’t feel their legs. They walked through the whole city to the city gate and then walked out, without receiving a single drop of water. As they were leaving in disappointment, they came across an old lady, a maid who was clearing away her master’s leftover meal. From far away, she could recognize the legendary Buddha and Ananda holding their alms bowls. The lady could tell that they were begging for alms.

She was stunned by Buddha’s appearance and demeanor. She felt that she should make offerings to them and pay homage to them. The old lady expressed such a wish. Her eyes were fixed, staring in awe, as if she were looking at a greatly admired movie star. She didn’t even realize Buddha and Ananda were approaching. She quickly greeted them, though I’ve no idea how she did it. After a brief conversation, she was told that they’d received nothing, not even a drop of water.

Seeing their dry lips and weary eyes, this kind old lady wanted to help. She respected Buddha a lot. “Great Buddha, I’m not sure what to do. If I could, I would offer you the most delicious food in the world.” Ananda said, “That’s fine; do you have it now?” “No, these are leftovers from my master’s meal.” “You certainly have no delicacies now, how about offering us this leftover meal?” The old lady said, “How could I do that? If I offer these leftovers to you, two venerable ones, it’s a form of blasphemy. I can’t do this; I hope I can offer the best delicious food to you.”

Ananda told her that everyone was scared to offer alms. “If you’re not afraid, then offer whatever you have to show your sincerity. Buddha understands your heart.” The old lady couldn’t believe it. “Really?” “Yes, we’d take whatever you offer.” The old lady felt sorry as she offered the leftover meal. After Buddha received the offering and ate it, his complexion and aura transformed; his eyes emitted rays of auspiciousness. Then, a gleaming smile broke out on Buddha’s face.

It was a rare sight to Ananda, so he asked Buddha, “My lord, why are you so happy?” Buddha said he saw the future of the old lady. “Tell me,” said Ananda. “From now on, for the next 15 kalpas, she will be the most auspicious and wealthy person in Heaven and on Earth.” That’s how it is. No wonder Buddha was smiling so happily. He saw what kind of future awaited the kind lady. In the next 15 kalpas, she’d be the wealthiest, most auspicious, and most beautiful woman in the world, not the human realm, you know, but paradise.

How long is 15 kalpas? 64.5 billion years on Earth. How do you even calculate that? That’s almost equivalent to eternity. The moment the old lady offered them a meal, she’d been blessed with auspiciousness lasting for eternity. She’d be blessed with wealth, auspiciousness, and beauty. So, when Buddha saw that state, a smile of admiration, rooted in compassion, was shown. The old lady had become the most blessed person in the world. Amazing, right?

This story is featured in The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. The sutra also states that in the future, apart from the aforementioned Divine blessings, she’d also receive the Pratyekabuddhahood. You could call that “buddhahood.” (Like, achieving enlightenment?) Yes. That is equivalent to coexisting with the Universe.

In ancient times, even during the period when Buddha was still a human, there were actually many wealthy and devoted people who offered more than this old lady. A lot more in terms of money, yes. But they didn’t become as blessed as the old lady. How come?

Earlier, I mentioned that people weren’t allowed to make offerings to Buddha and the Buddhist monks, right? She disobeyed the order. She sensed that Buddha and Ananda were hungry. Well, let’s not argue whether Divine beings feel hungry or not. Let’s focus on her innocence, kindness, and pure respect. These traits are important.

Was she making offerings to Buddha for any return? The old lady didn’t understand investment and return. In her understanding, Buddha was such a great practitioner, so she admired him and wanted to offer the best food to Buddha. But she didn’t have delicacies then, so Ananda gave her a chance, telling her that offering some leftovers would bring her immeasurable merits. I think you know what immeasurable means.

What does it take to create achievements? For example, graduating with a PhD. First, you need to do well in exams, work hard for years, and be lucky enough to encounter good professors. Only then might you get a PhD, right? It’s the same for enlightenment; you don’t get it for free. First, you need to have a foundation of compassion. To become a compassionate person, start with giving.

Usually, people just want to gain, right? Buddhism teaches us that we can be happy when we make others happy. Offering without seeking anything is the highest level of offering. Offering while asking for something in return brings fewer merits. I’m going to be honest with you. Offering for return gets less merit. Offering for nothing is the noble offering.