Half A Pomegranate

Brian Conroy

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Early one morning, the Buddha and his disciples set off on an alms round. He announced that on that day all of the offerings they received would be given to the poor. 

The community sat beneath the red blossoms of a sala tree and waited. Soon all of the most important dignitaries from the surrounding area came to make offerings. 

First to arrive was King Bimbisara. He offered lavish gifts of gold coins, gilded lanterns, and necklaces sparkling with precious gemstones. The Buddha accepted these offerings with one hand. 

Next to arrive was Prince Ajatashatru. He extended offerings of intricate carvings, mouthwatering foods, and sticks of fragrant ox-head sandalwood incense. Again, the Buddha accepted these offerings with one hand. 

These were followed by offerings from minor kings, brahmins, elders and laypeople. The Buddha accepted all of their offerings with a single hand. 

Late in the day, a disheveled old woman appeared before the Buddha. She bowed respectfully and said, "World Honored One, by the time I heard you were accepting offerings, I had already eaten half of this pomegranate. I am just a poor old woman. The only thing I have to offer is the other half of this pomegranate. I hope you will accept it." 

Those gathered looked on in embarrassment at the old woman's meager offering. But the Buddha extended both of his hands and gratefully accepted the half a pomegranate. 

When the old woman was gone, the Buddha's disciple Aniruddha asked, "Why did you accept the old woman's offering with both hands, but all of the others with only one hand?" 

The Buddha replied, "This woman gave all she had without expecting reward. I needed both hands to accept such an abundant offering." 

Brian Conroy is a story-teller. Excerpt above from his book, Stepping Stones.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the abundant offering of the old woman? Can you share a personal story of a time you either received such abundance or were able to tap into it yourself? What helps you tap into your deepest abundance?

Add Your Reflection:

23 Previous Reflections:

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    On Oct 20, 2021 Heather Podrow wrote:
    The story of the old woman touched my heart. I am an old woman myself now. I have to be moving out of my current dwelling because the building is to be sold. I have lived in the building for 35 years. I will be giving most of my furniture and possessions away. I no longer need them at my age and I was taught by my mother to think of others. Just thinking of how I can help others taps me into my deepest abundance. I certainly cannot take these possessions with me when I die.

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    On Oct 19, 2021 Jacemine Limprevil wrote:
    I was antique shopping in Marrakesh, negotiating the price for several objects. While the shopkeeper was wrapping the items I purchased, I playfully told him I would not have dinner since I spent so much money in his store. Over the noise of the wrapping paper, he responded that his wife was an excellent cook, and invited us over for dinner. This was unexpected, heartfelt and createdmuch joy in me.
    At dinner that night, I shared the experience with those at the table; many were moved by his generosity whichI now noted was an abundant offering.


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    On Oct 18, 2021 Kadab Mukesh wrote:
    I think
    a) how much you give
    b) what part of stuff that you own you choose to give
    ...both these do not matter as much as the spirit with which you give.

    Receiving in abundance happens all the time. The most precious thing that all of us possess is time. The extent to which the volunteers of this group have shared their time and experience in abundance is a simple example.

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    On Oct 17, 2021 Sagarika wrote:
    Beautiful..it is the attitude with which we offer..total surrender!!

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    On Oct 17, 2021 Jane wrote:
    When I read this story of the half pomegranate it made my heart twist with deep love. 💔 the old woman represented much of what mainstream society hasn't time for, she is old and poor. She seems also out of the mainstream in that she didn't hear about the chance to give an offering till later when she had eaten half her pomegranate. Yet she came risking being late, with an urgency to give the only thing she had to give, what was left of her pomegranate. The Buddha recognized the enormity of her offering to him, hence receiving with both hands rather than one. The others before her had wealth and their offerings great but not everything, there was much more they left behind. This being symbolic of only giving part of their heart when the old woman gave with her whole heart.

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    On Oct 17, 2021 greg smith wrote:
    The spirit of her generosity moves me. I like to be able to channel such pure-hearted spirit, and at times approximate it - but even in this moment, I can feel how I cling to "what is mine!" and don't want to give ti all away. I'm kind of a half-assed Bodhisattva

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    On Oct 17, 2021 David Durovy wrote:
    I once offered a gift of immeasurable value to me, and it also asked of me to break a law in accepting it. I did take the gift, broke a law, and through the nature of goodness, was able to resolve the issue before it came to pass, somewhat magically I will say, and all turned out well for everyone involved. Jesus might have said it this way, "laws were made for man, not man for laws".

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    On Oct 17, 2021 Usha Amin wrote:
    Wonderful story in the art of giving. As I read this, Gift becomes an acronym that is "Generosity intensifying fraternity togetherness"
    Gift being an act of inclusiveness. That my offerings also matter, to make one feel belonged. As much as gifting is a great gesture, receiving is even bigger. I used to feel obliged to receive anything from anyone. I could give generously, but to receive was hard. It meant to seem like in lack or greedy or that you had to pay back in return, something In those terms. To accept with freedom requires a big heart as much as giving does.

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    On Oct 16, 2021 Pauline wrote:
    My daughter seems to have in her DNA a natural sense of abundance and a lovely non-attachment to things. She has always given away money to anyone who needs it though she doesn't have much herself; she won't buy new things until she has given away what she already has; When I offer to give her household items because we are downsizing, she most often just says she doesn't need anything. This is effortless for her, just who she is. This is not how I am by nature; I learn from her.

    1 reply: Laura | Post Your Reply
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    On Jul 6, 2021 Bernie Moloney wrote:
    Many years ago, on my way to work in the city, as I exited the train station, a disheveled-looking guy approached me with outstretched hand. 'Spare any change?' he asked. I pulled out a $2 coin and placed it among the others in his palm. I saw him do a quick calculation, then he looked up with such a beam of smile, it stays with me still. He now had enough money for the cup of tea or coffee he yearned.
    What helps me tap into my deepest abundance is giving spontaneously, without thought of self or expecting any return. True joy.

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    On Jun 30, 2021 Nisha wrote:
    Wonderfully told. Reminds me of the story of Adi Shankara receiving an alm of a shriveled gooseberry from a poor lady.

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    On Nov 20, 2020 Vandana wrote:
    I just wanted to add another perspective to this story. This is from Vedanta. It says, no one gives away anything for anyone. The person who gives, is giving because he/she/they feel happy after the giving.
    So, when the lady gave half of the pomegranate, she did it because she wanted to accumulate the good Karma, so she might have a better re-birth.
    So, no giving is selfless 🙏🏽

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    On Nov 19, 2020 Fatmah Namukasa wrote:
    What I learn from this is that...it is not what you offer others that matters...but the love accompanying the gift is the major issue...giving from your heart not from your head... is the essence...and that's what the disheveled lady did... offered her all from her heart...the rest offered lavish gifts but it wasn't their all...not even 1% of their all...I suppose.

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    On Nov 18, 2020 Vandana wrote:
    I think whatever we receivefrom the Mother Nature is always in abundance. For example, right now when I go for my nature walks, I feel so much gratitude while looking at the beauty around me! So many different colors of fall! Such clear and beautiful skies! I see birds and squirrels justfinding enough to eat so they could survive! As I heard from Mooji, "Life takes care of life"! I see it so clearly around me every single day!
    Nothing can be more rewarding then just admiring the beauty as life unfolds every single morning!

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    On Nov 18, 2020 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    The ultimate is to get over the feeling "I" am offering. Eventually it leads to dissolve the "I" in totality.

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    On Nov 18, 2020 Pandu Ranga Reddy Kallem wrote:
    I am reminded of a similar anecdote from one of the greatest epics of HINDUISM Religion titled RAMAYANA eons ago. A poor old woman Spiritual Seeker named SHABARI/SABARI, who was living in a forest of SOUTH INDIA and who was eagerly awaiting the arrival of none other than LORD/GOD RAMA himself to have His Darshan(seeking Divine Blessing to attain her Salvation/Liberation) for months together, used to collect a few Indian Berries from the forest every day, taste them for their sweetness, discard the sour ones and collect the sweet ones so as to offer them to the God Rama. God intoxicated Shabari was so innocent and ignorant in that one ought to not offer tasted gifts to others. Finally Lord Rama came to the place where Shabari was living in the forest and was welcomed with offerings by not only Shabari but also a few other Monks living in the nearby Ashrams practicing Spirituality. Of all the offerings made, Lord Rama chose to partake the Indian Berries offered with great Love by Shabari... [View Full Comment] I am reminded of a similar anecdote from one of the greatest epics of HINDUISM Religion titled RAMAYANA eons ago. A poor old woman Spiritual Seeker named SHABARI/SABARI, who was living in a forest of SOUTH INDIA and who was eagerly awaiting the arrival of none other than LORD/GOD RAMA himself to have His Darshan(seeking Divine Blessing to attain her Salvation/Liberation) for months together, used to collect a few Indian Berries from the forest every day, taste them for their sweetness, discard the sour ones and collect the sweet ones so as to offer them to the God Rama. God intoxicated Shabari was so innocent and ignorant in that one ought to not offer tasted gifts to others. Finally Lord Rama came to the place where Shabari was living in the forest and was welcomed with offerings by not only Shabari but also a few other Monks living in the nearby Ashrams practicing Spirituality. Of all the offerings made, Lord Rama chose to partake the Indian Berries offered with great Love by Shabari knowing fully well that they were not fresh but tasted already by Shabari and went on to describe them as being very Sweet brushing aside the objections made by His brother Lakshmana amongst other people there. Hence, the principle established is that God willingly accepts any offering made with genuine Love for Him irrespective of its value and the status of the person making the offering.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Nov 17, 2020 Patricia wrote:
    The Buddha and Jesus tell the same story! Truth is ONE.

    1 reply: Patricia | Post Your Reply
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    On Nov 13, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    The abundant offering of the old woman was her giving all she had without expecting reward. I've never given all I have (actually the old woman gave very much but didn't give all she had). I see giving without expecting reward as the purest giving in that it is giving free and clear, not expecting anything in return, with no agenda, no manipulation, no expectation, no goal or purpose to be gained. When I have given without expecting any reward I feel most gratified. What helps me tap into my deepest abundance is reflection on what I have, awareness that I have a lot though really it's a gift and not mine, gratitude, openness of heart, and compassion.

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    On Nov 13, 2020 rahul wrote:
    Though royalty preceded her, only the old woman gave like a true queen. The irony is that it often takes the utter humility of poverty to internalize the truth that whatever we have is a gift of the universe. Those of us with more wealth are often drunk on the wine of our egos which bubble tales of our own talent, smarts, and grit. When you're hungry and cold, you soberly taste the divine with gratitude in every bite. May we give like kings and queens, so we never become beggars with riches.

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    On Nov 13, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Such simple and easy to understand stories teacha profound spiritual lesson. When we offer a gift from our heart without expectingany rewardit becomes an abundant offering.When a poor old woman heard thatthe Buddha was accepting offerings she had already eaten half of the pomegranate.The only thing she had to offer was the other half of thatpomegranate. It was a meager offering but it had the deepest abundance. It is indeed a gift from the heart and that way it was priceless. Serving others with no axe to grind. This is the heart of the Karma Yoga narrated in the Bhagavad Gita. This is my understanding of spiritualty. It lifts us from a lower self to a higher self. I practice Karma Yoga in my life by sharing what I have with others mostly in the form of teaching without expecting any reward in return. This way of living feels my heart with deep joy, contentment, and fulfillment. Reading such storiesfrom different wisdom traditions, contemplating on them, and sharing them withothers h... [View Full Comment] Such simple and easy to understand stories teacha profound spiritual lesson. When we offer a gift from our heart without expectingany rewardit becomes an abundant offering.When a poor old woman heard thatthe Buddha was accepting offerings she had already eaten half of the pomegranate.The only thing she had to offer was the other half of thatpomegranate. It was a meager offering but it had the deepest abundance. It is indeed a gift from the heart and that way it was priceless.

    Serving others with no axe to grind. This is the heart of the Karma Yoga narrated in the Bhagavad Gita. This is my understanding of spiritualty. It lifts us from a lower self to a higher self. I practice Karma Yoga in my life by sharing what I have with others mostly in the form of teaching without expecting any reward in return. This way of living feels my heart with deep joy, contentment, and fulfillment.

    Reading such storiesfrom different wisdom traditions, contemplating on them, and sharing them withothers has been very helpful to me in my spiritual journey. Daily practice of mindfulness meditation and cultivating skills of compassionate living help me stay on my path. It's by giving we receive!
    Namaste!
    JagdishP Dave'
    [Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Venkhat | Post Your Reply

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