The Diligent Do Not Sleep

Punna was a slave girl who often worked until very late at night. One day it was already nearly midnight when she had just finished pounding some rice for the next day’s meal. Tired, she stopped to rest for a while, and as she did, she noticed some monks who were on their way back to their monastery after listening to the Dhamma in a nearby forest. She could not help but wonder what they could be doing up so late. “I myself have to be up late because I am poor and have to work hard,” she thought to herself, “but what could monks be doing up at this time of the night?” She guessed that maybe one of them had had an accident or was sick, or something of that nature.

The next morning, Punna was about to eat a pancake that she had made from some leftover rice flour when she noticed the Buddha passing by her master’s house. She had always wanted to make an offering to the Buddha but rarely had a chance. It seemed that when she did have something nice to offer him, the Buddha never came around, and when she did not have anything, she would see him. Although what she had was just a coarse pancake, she still wanted to offer it to the Buddha, and although she was truly afraid that he would not accept such unrefined food, she went ahead and offered it to him anyway. To Punna’s surprise and joy, the Buddha not only humbly accepted her pancake, but sat down in a suitable spot and ate it right in front of her.

After the Buddha had eaten the pancake, Punna, still curious about the monks she had seen the night before, asked the Buddha what they could have been doing up at such a late hour. The Buddha replied by saying, “Punna, just as you have no time to sleep because you have to work hard pounding rice late into the night, my disciples do not go to sleep because they have to work hard at being vigilant and mindful.” The Buddha then went on to tell her that it did not matter what position one had in life, be it king, slave, or monk. What really mattered was that one never ceased to be mindful and vigilant.

Punna reflected on the Buddha’s words and realized the Dhamma.

Morale of The Story

“Those who are ever vigilant, who by day and by night discipline themselves, and who are wholly intent upon Nibbana, their defilements are destroyed.”
{Dhammapada Verse 226}