The Prayer That Was Answered
The little room glittered with light from the butter lamps, arranged neatly on a low table in front of the shrine. In the light from the lamps one could pick out holy objects arranged on the shrine - the sacred books wrapped in cloth, the image of the Buddha, a framed picture of the Dalai Lama, silver offering bowls, and on the wall behind, with incense smoke curling around it, one could see the thangka painting of Tibet's patron deity and protector, Chenrezik, the bodhisattva of compassion, with eleven heads and a thousand arms. All around on the walls of the small room were paintings of other deities, all of whom were objects of devotion to the people of Tibet. There was a painting depicting Dolma, the female aspect of compassion, and Jamyang (Manjushri), the bodhisattva of wisdom.
This room, the shrine room, was the richest in the tiny house, for the people ofTibet were a religious people whose lives revolved around the teachings of the Buddha, as expounded by the great gurus and saints who had achieved the ultimate state of enlightenment.The people believed that although the great saints had reached the state of enlightenment they were still concerned for the welfare of all beings and remained to protect and guide them on their journey through this and future lives.
So believed the old woman who sat in the corner of the shrine room, the beads of her rosary moving through her fingers as slowly she repeated the prayer of Chenrezik, OM MANI PADME HUM. Over and over again the powerful prayer rolled from her lips. The old woman was concerned, for she was a poor widow, without money or land; all she had in the world was an only daughter. The old woman knew that without a dowry to offer, her daughter would not be sought by the rich men of the land, and so would live her life in poverty and hunger. The old woman cared not for her own life, for it was almost over, but she wanted very much for her daughter to be prosperous and happy. It was for this that she prayed.
Now it happened that a poor man from a neighboring village heard of the old woman's daughter, and when he saw her in the market place he was so moved by her beauty that he determined to make her his wife. He knew that the mother would hardly be willing for her daughter to marry a man of such little substance, so he plotted to make the mother believe that he was rich and prosperous.
Concealing himself in the shrine room of the old woman's house, the poor man waited for her to enter, make her offerings of food, and settle down to pray. The old woman prayed and prayed in earnest, begging for a rich man to come and take her daughter's hand in marriage. The poor man listened and waited for the old woman to finish; then, just as she was about to leave the room, he spoke.
The old woman was startled when she heard the voice; seeing no one in the room she believed it to be the voice of the gods. She heard the voice say how in the morning of the next day a wealthy man would appear on a white horse, and would ask for her daughter's hand in marriage.
The old woman was overjoyed. With her daughter she cleaned her house from top to bottom, making it ready for the rich man the gods were sending as a husband for her daughter. Then she prepared food and told her neighbors to make ready for a big celebration the next day, for her only daughter was to wed a rich man.
The next day the old woman and her daughter awoke early; the birds were singing and the blue of the sky contrasted with the fiery mountain peaks, bathed in the glow of the rising sun. The old woman and her daughter were excited and happy, and they settled themselves outside their tiny house to await the arrival of the man on a white horse.
Soon they caught their first glimpse of the man on the horizon. As he rode toward the house the daughter felt sudden pangs of foreboding. She wondered if he would be handsome and kind, and whether her married life would be joyful and happy as she anticipated. All these questions sprang to her mind; then she remembered this man was a gift from the gods so she need feel no fear.
The poor man, dressed in garments his neighbors had lent him, and riding the white horse which was the only one he owned, stopped in front of the old woman's house, dismounted, smiled at the daughter and took her hand in his. The old woman found it hard to contain her excitement and bade the man enter her house to take refreshment. This he did, and after they had talked for a little while he asked the old woman if he could take her daughter's hand in marriage.
There was much joy, a celebration was held, and all the neighbors and friends gathered to wish the couple good fortune, for it was felt that here was a match that was truly made in heaven!
The poor man took the girl, with her few possessions packed in a trunk, and they set off for his humble home in a nearby village. On the journey the poor man began to feel concerned about his deception. He was frightened that the girl would scream and shout when she saw that he was not a rich man at all, but a very humble peasant; he feared too that she would run away and be lost to him forever. The poor man, troubled by these thoughts, decided on a plan. He took the girls possessions out of the trunk and buried them in the earth. Then he ordered the girl into the trunk, telling her that he wished to surprise her when they reached his home. Once the girl was inside the trunk the man locked it and made his way home, leaving the girl in a ditch at the side of a forest path.
When he reached his home the poor man ran to the houses of his nearby neighbors, telling them that he was bringing home a nervous new bride, and warned them not to be concerned if they heard shouts during the night. Then he fitted strong new bolts to his door so that the girl would not be able to escape.
While the poor man was away, a rich chieftan passed the spot where the imprisoned girl was lying in the trunk, awaiting the return of her husband. The chieftan ordered his men to open the trunk, and when he saw the girl inside he was so taken by her frail beauty that he took her away with him, leaving a fierce bear in her place inside the trunk.
The poor man returned to fetch his bride, tied a rope around the trunk and dragged it to his home. Inside the house he opened the trunk and was overwhelmed by the fierce bear, made more ferocious by its imprisonment and rough handling. The poor man screamed and shouted for help as the bear attacked him, but the neighbors took no heed of the noise, for they had already been warned.
So the poor man who had plotted and pretended to be a god died at the hands of the savage bear, and the girl lived happily ever after as the wife of a rich chieftan. The old woman's prayers had been answered. Whatever happiness there is in the world
Has arisen from a wish for the
Welfare of other beings.
Whatever misery there is has arisen
From indulging in selfishness.