Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Buddha's tooth


Long ago in eastern Tibet there lived an elderly widow and her son who was a trader. They spent the long winters weaving and making things so that when spring came he'd have goods to trade in India. His mother, a devoted (and maybe a bit naive) Buddhist, asked her son to bring her a relic of the Buddha to place on her altar, preferably, a tooth. The trader was often busy and each time he came back from his travels, he forgot to look for a relic for his mother.

The next time he went off, his mother said: "If you don't bring back Buddha's tooth this time, I'm going to jump off a cliff and kill myself." So he said "Ok, don't worry, this time I will make sure to bring back Buddha's tooth for your altar."

Once again while he was off on his travels he forgot to look for the holy relic his mother had begged him to find until he was only a day away from home. Very nervous, remembering what his mother had said he looked around and found a dog's skeleton. He took a tooth from the skull, cleaned it and wrapped it in a piece of beautiful gold silk brocade.

The next day when he arrived at his village he presented the gift to his mother and said "This is Buddha's tooth. Please cherish it. Take care of it. Put it on your altar."

Soon after, the trader left on yet another trip and he intended to get a genuine relic to replace the dog tooth. However, as usual, he forgot until he was on his way home. When he arrived home, he saw crowds outside his house. When he went in, he saw many people prostrating to his mother's altar. On the altar was a tooth which was radiating light. He asked his mother where this relic came from, as it was undoubtedly a genuine relic. His mother told him it was the one he brought back for her.

16 comments:

Lydia said...

I love this. Love it, love it for so many reasons. The story is a gem and the drawing is..... one of my favorites yet. I have recently been attending a sangha for meditation and reflection. Your creativity only enhances the beauty for me. Thank you, Susan.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
These stories are like little treasures, in mystery they become more real than the material world we inhabit.
Here is a little poem in its honour and your lovely drawing .
Across the sky one Easter night,
An old lady did entreat her son
Trade well theses fine wares
And bring ye back in thanks
The scared tooth of the Buddha
For us to place upon the altar

But her son in all haste forgot
In good intentions did substitute
A dogs tooth, to his mother was suffice
Honoured in his good intentions
It was venerated, in golden glow
In all purity, now a sacred relic
Wealth in radiance for all to see

The Crow said...

We Quakers look "for that of God" in every thing we see. It seems the son found it, unawares.

Now the question: was the Buddha already within, or did the son, in honoring his mother, imbue the tooth with Buddha's spirit?

marja-leena said...

Delightful tale of the ordinary becoming sacred and your art is beautiful, susan. I love the above comments and poem too.

Tom said...

What can I add to the comments already passed? That there lies that which exists beyond the imagery? Of course there is, but the task is to look beyond the illusion of the image. That is not always so very easy.

susan said...

Lydia, I'm very touched that the image and story struck such a sweet chord with you. Besides the one I sit with in my heart it appears to me my sangha consists of friends like you.

susan said...

Dear Lindsay,
The poem this story sparked you to compose is very lovely. You've definitely touched the heart of the story and its lesson for us.

I never did illustrate all the stories I collected so now I promise to do my best to provide another one soon.

All the best

susan said...

When we are clear enough in our heads and hearts to keep that thought in mind it's amazing just how many wonderful surprises creation has in store for us, Martha.

Your question cuts straight to the essence of the mystery.

susan said...

The story has been in the back of my mind for a few years, Marja-Leena, but the painting insisted on being manifested in reality yesterday. It was a pleasant confluence that I'm delighted you enjoyed.

Yes, I too have very much enjoyed reading the comments and Lindsay's lovely poem too.

susan said...

I'm glad you liked it, Tom. You're right there is always that which must remain unsaid and un-pictured simply because its substance can only be interpreted by Wisdom.

The Crow said...

I should clarify: we are guided to look for that of God. I am not always successful in finding God-there-is-no-God, but I keep looking.

I like the smile that she wears every bit as much as her clothes. Your imagination at play is a joy to behold!

susan said...

I think the number of people who experience the numinous regularly is likely to be vanishingly small. As an old friend of mine used to say, 'Expect a miracle'.

Sometimes I'm the one most amazed when an expression such as hers appears on my paper. Thank you for telling me.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Hi Susan. So I guess it is the intention that counts and that turns the ordinary to extraordinary. I love the drawing.

susan said...

Well put, Lib :) I'm happy you like the picture.

linda said...

This is a beautiful painting of your story, my dear susan. I have enjoyed your illustrations of the Buddhist stories, they've captured an essence that is undefinable but definitely there. And this story is particularly relevant in so many ways.

much love to you. xox

susan said...

It warms my heart to know you like this one (and the others) of the Buddhist story pictures. The funny thing is that although my usual habit is to be very meticulous when I draw and paint, these pictures have been entirely spontaneous. I know that technically they leave a lot to be desired, but from my heart's eye view they are magical. I'm glad you see them that way too.

much love to you too, my dear sister-friend
xoxo