In ancient times, there was a rich man named Wan who was cunning and stingy. One year, he hired a long-term laborer nicknamed “Idiot Zhang”. Though Zhang had such name, he was not a fool. He was generous in all situations, calmly accepted being bullied or swindled, and would never do things to harm others. At the beginning of the year, the rich man promised to give Zhang a cow for a year’s worth of work by year end. Zhang worked diligently all year, but in the end, the rich man simply gave him a bottle of oil.
Zhang turned to his employer and asked:” Didn’t you promise to give me a cow? Why did you only give me a bottle of oil?”
The rich man stared at him and said with anger: “I certainly promised to give you a bottle of oil, not a cow.” Zhang didn’t argue with him. He just accepted the oil and left.
Upon seeing Zhang returning without the oil,Wan was confused, and asked:”Where have you been, and what happened to the oil I gave you?”
Zhang replied peacefully:”I just donated it to the temple and was honored as ‘Big Donor’.”
Wan burst into laughter and said with a grin:”Shame on you! I donate a cartload of oil to the temple every year, but I was only honored as ‘Small Donor’. You donated just one bottle of oil to the temple, and are honored as ‘Big Donor’?” He shook his head in doubt.
Zhang said:” It’s true. As soon as I arrived at the entrance to the temple, I heard people inside saying:” ‘Big Donor’ is coming! Let’s make a fine cup of tea for him.” After hearing that, Wan finally came to believe what Zhang said. He remembered how he encountered a similar reaction at the same temple. He always heard people saying:”‘Small Donor’ is coming! Let’s make a cup of tea for him.” He thought to himself that the monks in the temple were ridiculous – the one who donates a cartload of oil every year is honored as “Small Donor”, while the other, who donated a bottle of oil, is honored as “Big Donor”. He decided to go and have a word with the monks.
Wan rushed to the temple with the great anger only to find the senior monk waiting for him at the entrance with a smile. As Wan released his anger on the monk, the monk stayed silent, stroking his white beard. When Wan finished his tirade, the monk ushered the rich man into the hall and offered him a cup of tea. The rich man was too agitated to drink any tea. Seeing this, the senior monk said:”Please close your eyes and let me help you relax.”
The rich man looked at the monk with disdain. He thought to himself:”Let me see what tricks you are going to play on me!” As soon as the monk pointed at the point between Wan’s eyebrows, Wan saw a gorgeous mansion surrounded by a vast expanse of farmland. With many uniformed servants around, an elegant man in a gorgeous robe was sitting in the magnificent grand hall. The man turned out to be Zhang. The rich man was dumbfounded. He then saw the mill in a corner of the mansion. There, he saw a skinny blind donkey with his own name on its back, being beaten by a laborer with a whip. He was terrified. He opened his eyes and asked the monk for an explanation.
The monk said:” After death, humans are subject to reincarnation, and our next life is completely determined by what we have done in this life. The scene you have seen just now is simply the next lives of you and Zhang. Because you made money by shady means, and lived without mercy or compassion, you are going to reincarnate into a skinny, blind millstone pulling donkey who is constantly whipped and abused if you continue like this.”
“Why will Zhang be so wealthy and successful?” The rich man asked.
The monk replied:”Though Zhang is simply a laborer in this life, he has accumulated a lot of virtue by enduring hardships and taking losses lightly. Zhang only donated a bottle of oil, but that was his wage after he toiled the whole year. Though you have donated a cartload of oil, that was only a small portion of the wealth you gained through deceit. To call you ‘Small Donor’ is already an overstatement.”
Wan was terrified and asked:”Is there any way that I can change my fate?”
The monk said with a smile,”Accumulate virtue and do more good deeds. With virtue, you will gain something in the next lifetime, if not in this life.”
The rich man thus hurried back home and gave Zhang a cow and a bottle of oil as an apology. That night, the rich man dreamed of the skinny blind donkey with his name on its back pulling the millstone strenuously, but without the laborer beating it with a whip. After waking up, he felt refreshed. He then swore to fix his mistakes completely, so as to live up to the senior monk’s expectations.
Before long, the rich man became a well-known philanthropist who was highly regarded by people from all walks of life. Since then, the legend of “the Small Donor and the Big Donor” has been passed down through history.