Buddha used to keep with him
always a rattle-drum. His disciples once asked him: "Master!
Why are you always keeping this rattle-drum by your side?"
Buddha replied: "I shall play on this
drum the day a person who has made the greatest sacrifice
approaches me." Everyone was eager
to know who this person would be. Wishing to attain this
distinction, a Maharaja loaded his elephants with considerable
treasure and went to Buddha. He hoped to offer the treasure to
Buddha and earn his praise.
On the way, an old woman
greeted the Maharaja and pleaded: "I am hungry. Will you give me
some food?" The Maharaja took out a pomegranate fruit from his
palanquin and gave it to the old woman. The old woman came to
Buddha with the fruit.
By then, the Maharaja had also
come to Buddha and was eagerly waiting to see when Buddha would
sound the rattle-drum. For a long time Buddha did not use it.
The Maharaja stayed on.
The old woman approached Buddha staggering on her legs, and
offered him the pomegranate fruit. Buddha took it immediately
and sounded the little drum.
The Maharaja asked Buddha: "I
offered so much wealth to you. You did not sound the drum. But
you rattled it after receiving a small fruit. Is this a great
sacrifice. Buddha replied: "Maharaja! In sacrifice, it is not
quantity that counts. It is the quality of sacrifice that
matters. It is natural for a Maharaja to offer gold. But what
great sacrifice is made when a hungry old women offers the
pomegranate fruit to the Guru despite her hunger. She did not
care even for her life and gave the fruit. What greater
sacrifice can there be? It is not sacrifice to offer what is
superfluous for you. True sacrifice means giving up that which
is most dear to you, that which you value most."
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
From Sathya Sai Speaks. Vol. 21.
"True Sacrifice," Chapter 16