I heard a Buddhist story about trust some time ago and am trying to locate it.

The story goes, there are some men travelling (I think) to a temple or monastery and on the way they get swindled and lose all their belongings to a con (or something, somehow are tricked)

When they get to the temple or monastery they are asked what they have learned. The first man says 'not to trust anyone' and is not admitted. The 2nd (or 3rd) man says that he has learned to be careful who he trusts and so is allowed entry.

Does this sound familiar? Does anyone know of a Buddhist tale that is similar to this?


  • Hello Bella Pines. Would you happen to have additional information on this?
    – user2424
    Jul 2, 2017 at 12:21
  • I remember that they had lots of belongings with them. I remember that the moral was about being careful who you trust and that the person who learned not to trust anyone was not allowed entry to something (temple or monastery) but that's about all I can recall. Jul 3, 2017 at 10:31
  • Thank you. Trying to locate it. Do you remember where you heard the story? From a Dhamma talk, temple, friend, book?
    – user2424
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:21
  • 1
    It was at school but like over 20 years ago. I remember that it stuck in my mind and wanted to use it to talk to my children about strangers. When they were young, "don't talk to strangers" worked. But now they are older, there have been several occasions when they have had to talk to strangers . So it's a good anecdote. I just can't remember many of the details. Our teacher was a buddhist and used to tell us many stories like this. Jul 9, 2017 at 14:55
  • Been trying to locate it again yday without luck. The pali canon is too vast to find it, for me that is. I hope you will find out about it someday. May I ask if your teacher is still alive or working at the school? If so, you could try to make contact.
    – user2424
    Jul 18, 2017 at 13:16

6 Answers 6


The Pali Canon has some good ones on the "Trust, but verify" theme, like the "Four Great References" in DN 16, the Gotami Sutta, or the famous Kalama Sutta of AN 3.65


The Story of King Pasenadi of Kosala

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (204) of this Dhammapada, with reference to King Pasenadi of Kosala.

One day, King Pasenadi of Kosala went to the Jetavana monastery after having his full morning meal. It was said that the king had eaten one quarter basket (about half a bushel) of rice with meat curry on that day; so while listening to the Buddha's discourse he felt very sleepy and was nodding most of the time. Seeing him nodding, the Buddha advised him to take a little less rice everyday and to decrease the amount on a sliding scale to the minimum of one-sixteenth part of the original amount he was taking. The king did as he was told and found that by eating less he became thin, but he felt very much lighter and enjoyed much better health. When he told the Buddha about this, the Buddha said to him, "O king! Health is a great boon; contentment is a great wealth; a close and trusted friend is the best relative; Nibbana is the greatest bliss."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 204: Health is the greatest gift, contentment is the greatest wealth, a trusted friend is the best relative, Nibbana is the greatest bliss.

  • the only Buddhist story I know of trust.
    – Kauvasara
    Sep 2, 2017 at 4:35
  • Isn't this a story about health rather than trust?
    – ruben2020
    Oct 2, 2017 at 14:46

On the matter of trust in giving, there is the Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta:

“When an ethical person with trusting heart gives a proper gift to unethical persons, trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, that offering is purified by the giver.

When an unethical and untrusting person, gives an improper gift to ethical persons, not trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, that offering is purified by the receivers.

When an unethical and untrusting person, gives an improper gift to ethical persons, not trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, I declare that gift is not very fruitful.

When an ethical person with trusting heart gives a proper gift to ethical persons, trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, I declare that gift is abundantly fruitful.

But when the passionless gives to the passionless a proper gift with trusting heart, trusting in the ample fruit of deeds, that’s truly the best of material gifts.”


I remember a very similar story in an episode of the TV series “Kung Fu” with David Carradine. 2 boys were robbed taking some goods to town: one of them was Kwai Chang Caine. One boy gave the response you quoted, whereas Caine said “Always be aware Master” and was allowed to remain in The monastery. It is possible the writers borrowed the story.


I have heard a similar story. But it's not exactly a Buddhist story. There is a book called 'Pancha Tanthra'. It has many stories like this. There are also youtube videos on these stories as cartoons. Try googling 'Pancha tantra stories about trust'. You will find many resources.


As another answer already said, it features in an episode of the old Kung Fu TV series -- see Season 1, episode 7, The Tide -- one of the footnotes says:

When the young Caine and another student are robbed, the other student learns not to trust strangers and is dismissed from the temple. Shaolin are required to trust: the TAO TE CHING [F] says in both chapters #17 and #23, "He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted."

I don't know about the quote from the Tao Te Ching -- I looked in a couple of translations and didn't see the cited quote in chapters 17 or 23.

In one translation I looked at, it does say in Chapter 49 ...

The saint trusts those who are trustworthy.
He also trusts those who are not trustworthy.
This is the true virtue of trust.

... but the Tao Te Ching isn't Buddhism, presumably.

Apparently Shaolin is Buddhist -- contrasted I thought with Wudang, which was or is Taoist -- but, I don't know, maybe Shaolin has Taoist influences too -- I doubt we can trust the Kung Fu TV series to be really accurate, culturally.

  • An old 'psychology proverb says: As the rouge thinks (about others), that's how he is (actually acts himself).. "phenomenas are presided by heart/thought..."
    – user11235
    Jun 22, 2019 at 0:02
  • Perhaps you are referring to what is called "psychological projection"?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 22, 2019 at 5:32
  • In that far, when Nyom wishes to think in science terms, it's good to tust the reasoning against why not giving trust in advanced, because for the vicicca-character there is no possibility to ever success. What is uprooted in oneself is no more feared.
    – user11235
    Jun 22, 2019 at 5:48
  • There was a "double negative" in what you wrote -- i.e., "it's good to trust the reasoning against why not giving trust" -- which might be the opposite of what you meant. So let me check I understood -- I think that what you intended to write was, "Buddhism (perhaps unlike Taoism) warns us that we shouldn't trust people who are untrustworthy. If we are (or if we consider ourselves to be) trustworthy ourselves, then we might be (wrongly) tempted to trust others in advance -- because we don't fear untrustworthiness in ourselves, we (wrongly) "project" that trustworthiness onto others".
    – ChrisW
    Jun 22, 2019 at 6:22
  • But Vicikiccha is about "doubt", isn't it -- e.g. it's used in the context of "trust in the dhamma" -- perhaps you meant something else (i.e. about whether people are "trusting" not about whether they are "trustworthy").
    – ChrisW
    Jun 22, 2019 at 6:24

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