Thousands years ago, there was a man called Niti. It was a time when only the rich had an outside toilet and others defecated outdoors. Making his living by cleaning the filth from people’s house, Niti was considered the most untouchable in the entire caste system. Nevertheless, Buddha accepted him as one of his disciples. This appalled many people as it meant Niti would not only learn and practice Buddhist teachings but also share offerings made to Buddha. They could not bear the thought that their offerings might end up in the hands of someone who removed human waste. A barrage of criticism poured in.
However, Buddha allayed the complaining people. He said people’s status should be determined not by their job but by their deed, adding that even old mania tree could be used to make a fire and beautiful lotus flowers bloomed in mud. He told people not to judge a book by its cover.
Buddha smelled a scent of a beautiful heart from Niti instead of a foul smell. It was unbelievable because Niti was extremely shabby and covered with feces since the buckets of human waste were toppled while trying to avoid Buddha. But Buddha smelled a nice smell from him. He told Niti that dirty clothing did not mean a filthy heart and the odor could not cover up the lovely smell of your beautiful mind. Buddha even took him to the river with his disciple Ananda, cleansed him and accepted him as his disciple. Buddha’s warm words and deeds were sufficient to cleanse his soul that had been wounded by people’s hurtful comments and actions.
Niti is all around us. He could be our neighbor, family or anyone whose beautiful mind has gone undetected by us because of their appearance.