World Religion
The Buddha in the Rice Field

The Buddha in the Rice Field
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 3 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.51

     challenging words:    ancient, enlightenment, honkers, horrendous, lotus, mantra, sacred, saffron, tended, tending, thoughts, spiral, slender, plop, sticking, listed
     content words:    Ho Chi, Eightfold Path

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The Buddha in the Rice Field
By Colleen Messina

1     Once upon an ancient time, a poor Chinese man farmed his rice fields. Ho Chi had heard about the teachings of the Buddha. He loved the Buddha, but he thought that a simple farmer could never reach inner peace by tending rice paddies under the hot sun.
2     Ho Chi thought about the Buddha's Eightfold Path as he chopped wood and carried water. The Buddha listed so many things to do correctly! How would Ho Chi do that unless he did more important work? He decided to follow the first rule of right thought while he worked. He imagined the golden, peaceful face of the Buddha smiling upon him. Ho Chi decided that right thought was not too hard.
3     One by one, he tried to live by the Buddha's eight rules. Some took more effort than others. A cranky neighbor shouted at him when Ho Chi's geese ate a few greens from the garden. The neighbor called the geese terrible things, like horrendous, horrible honkers! This made Ho Chi mad, but he did not shout back. Instead, he looked at the mountains in the distance and took a deep breath. Then he told his friend to calm down and to go sit in the shade. Right speech seemed possible!
4     Each day, Ho Chi chopped wood. He carried water. He tended his rice fields, and he tried to be kind to his little wife. He tried hard to think about the peaceful image of Buddha, and he gave a mantra as he weeded and hoed. He repeated the AUM over and over again. The sacred precepts of the Buddha's teachings echoed through his heart like a joyful song.
5     Weeks went by. Ho Chi discovered simple, beautiful things about his life. He loved to watch the white cranes spiral upward toward the sun and then shoot down to swoop a fish out of the pond. He watched the black clouds roll across the saffron moon at night. He loved the jewel of his wife's smile and the tinkling laughter of his children even more. After a while, he felt he could often follow the Buddha's steps...except one.
6     Ho Chi was concerned about the Buddha's rule that said one must have right livelihood. Right work must be important and elegant! If only he could form the slender, graceful strokes of calligraphy with a brush, or play sweet tunes on a flute, maybe then he could be a Buddha someday. Digging dirt did not seem like right work at all! Chasing geese did not seem very noble!
7     Then, on a hot day, in the middle of the afternoon, another terrible thing happened.
8     "Get those geese out of my garden!" shouted the neighbor, whose temper had risen with the temperature.
9     Ho Chi chased the flapping geese far into a rice field. He ran so fast that he tripped and fell with a plop into the soggy field. Instead of getting mad, Ho Chi felt something strange. He felt an oozing bubble of joy burst in his heart like a ripe melon. He laughed and laughed until even the geese turned and stared.

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