In the first week in October I noticed some kind of growth inside my left nostril. It looked like a pink skin tag that is about one eighth inch long. About two weeks later I noticed the growth had grown and was hanging out of my nostril. Not only was it unattractive, but I didn’t know what it was. Cancer runs in my family and I started worrying that it was a malignant growth. Since I didn’t have insurance I started to look for a low cost clinic to go to. I didn’t have much luck finding a clinic, or doctor that was cost effective and trust worthy.
I talked to Ningbu Rinpoche about my dilemma. In our conversation she told me about the mediation class the Sunday before, which I missed because I was working overtime. She told me about the story that Qupei Rinpoche related in class about a man chanting the six syllable heart mantra, which had a powerful effect on me. Here is a summation of the story Qupei Rinpoche told.
Reciting the sixth syllable heart mantra brings great merit. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to receive the empowerment of Quan Yin Bodhisattva. Many people chant it and gain good results from it. Today I will tell you about a story of an ordinary man. This man was working with a friend who was a Buddhist. His friend told him about the sixth syllable heart mantra and how beneficial it is to chant. He began reciting it 1000 times a day. He experienced tranquility and a great joy in his heart. Since he liked doing it so much he began to increase chanting the mantra ten thousand times a day.
One day he was invited to a diligent practice event. When he went to the retreat he increased chanting the six syllable mantra to thirty thousand times a day. Several days after the retreat began he saw Quan Yin Bodhisattva appear before him. Quan Yin Bodhisattva’s appearance was very solemn and she was imposingly large and tall. Since he saw Quan Yin Bodhisattva appear before him, he decided to increase his chanting to sixty thousand times a day.
After half a month Quan Yin appeared before him again. This time she took him to the Western Paradise where he saw his own white lotus flower that was the size of a car wheel. The white lotus flower looked very beautiful and pure. It dawned on him that reciting Amithaba Buddha’s name, or the six syllable heart mantra, will help one be reborn in the Western Paradise. Seeing the Western Paradise state strengthened his faith and he now began to recite the six syllable heart mantra seventy thousand times a day. After a period of time he had another visitation of Quan Yin Bodhisattva. She again took him to see his lotus flower. Now he can see the center of the flower. Right in the middle of it is a seat he can sit upon. After this experience he chants even more diligently.
As the retreat is about to conclude he now sees Amithaba Buddha appear before him. The Buddha was as tall as a skyscraper and emitted a bright golden light. Amithaba Buddha was very solemn as he descended from the sky and stood on his lotus flower to speak dharma. The man looked up at the sky and saw Quan Yin Bodhisattva and Mahashamaprapta Bodhisattva standing together. Their image is identical to a picture he had seen depicting them. They were both several dozen floors tall.
Amithaba Buddha began to speak to him. He told him that he would be born in the Western Paradise in the future. Now I will transmit you a high dharma. You must focus on this practice. This will guarantee your rebirth in the Western Paradise. When it is time in the future I will personally come to retrieve you. The Buddha told him to write down all his experiences to help strengthen Buddhist cultivator’s faith and encourage them to practice better. He wrote down his story and that is why we can listen to it today.
After I heard the story it motivated me to sit down to do some serious chanting that night. Before I went to bed I chanted the six syllable heart mantra over seven hundred times. I went to sleep and woke up at around 1:30 AM. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to do meditation for about 45 minutes, which helped increase my energy. Then, ironically, my body was too energized to get back to sleep, so I decided to take a walk in the neighborhood. This was at around 2 AM in the morning. When I got back I decided to chant the one hundred syllable bright mantra. When I chanted this about one hundred and sixty times I felt something wet around my nose. I dabbed my nose with a tissue and found blood on it. I was able to stop the bleeding in a short time. I went into the bathroom to check on it. When I looked at the reflection of my left nostril in the mirror, I discovered that the growth had disappeared. At the place where the growth had been now had fresh healthy looking skin covering the area. I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to report this to Master. To me this is concrete proof that the dharma is real and beneficial for our life. It has motivated me to put more energy into my practice and when I get spare time I utilize the time to chant.
Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being lived in a world where most religions were very similar. They taught that the way to remove suffering from the mind was to make the body suffer instead. As strange as it seems, most people thought that the holiest of the holy were the ones who tortured their bodies the most! Since everyone seemed to agree with this, the Bodhisatta decided to find out for himself if it was true.
He stopped living as an ordinary everyday person and became a holy man according to the custom of the times. This meant that he gave up everything, even his clothes. He went naked, with his body covered only by dust and dirt.
So he wouldn’t be spoiled by the taste of good food, he forced himself to eat only filthy things – dirt, ashes, urine and cow dung.
So he could concentrate without being interrupted by anyone, he went to live in the most dangerous part of the forest. If he did see a human being, he ran away like a timid deer.
In the wintertime he spent his days under the trees and his nights out in the open. So in the daytime he was soaked by the cold water dripping from the icicles hanging from the tree branches. And at night he was covered by the falling snow. In this way, in winter, he made his body suffer the most extreme cold in both day and night.
In the summertime he spent his days out in the open and his nights under the trees. So in the daytime he was burned by the most severe rays of the sun. And at night he was blocked from the few cooling breezes of the open air. In this way, in summer, he made his body suffer the most extreme heat in both day and night.
This was how he struggled, trying to bring peace to his mind. He was so determined that he lived his entire life in this way.
Then, just as he was about to die, he saw a vision of himself reborn in a hell world. The vision struck him like lightning, and instantly he knew that all the ways he had tortured his body were completely useless! They had not brought him peace of mind. Lo and behold, as he gave up his false beliefs and held on to the truth, he died and was reborn in a heaven world!
The moral is: Even at the very last moment, “The truth shall make you free.”
Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta of Benares had a son. He grew up to be a mean and cruel he-man – the type that’s always trying to prove he’s tougher than everyone else. He was a bully who constantly pushed people around and picked fights. Whenever he spoke to people it was with a stream of obscenities – right out of the gutter. And he was always quick to anger – just like a hissing snake that’s just been stepped on.
People inside and outside the palace ran from him as they would from a starving man-eating demon. They avoided him as they would a speck of dirt in the eye. Behind his back everyone called him the ‘Evil Prince’. In short – he was not a nice man!
One day the prince decided to go swimming. So he went down to the river with his servants and attendants. Suddenly it became almost as dark as night. A huge storm came up. Being so rough and tough, the prince was always trying to show he wasn’t scared of anything. So he yelled at his servants, “Take me into the middle of the river and bathe me. Then bring me back to shore.” Following his orders, they took him out to midstream. Then they said, “Now is our chance! Whatever we do here, the king will never find out. So let’s kill the Evil Prince. Into the flood you go, good-for-nothing!” With that they threw him into the stormy raging river.
When they returned to the bank, the others asked where the prince was. They replied, “We don’t know. As the rain came up, he must have swum faster than us and gone back to Benares.” When they returned to the palace, the king asked, “Where is my son?” They said, “We don’t know, your majesty. When the storm came up, we thought he went back ahead of us.” King Brahmadatta collected a search party and began looking for the prince. They searched carefully, all the way to the riverside, but couldn’t find him.
What had happened was this. In the darkness and wind and rain the prince had been swept down the flooding river. Luckily he was able to grab onto a floating dead tree trunk. Frantically he held on for dear life. As he was being swept along, the tough he-man was so afraid of drowning that he cried like a terrified helpless baby!
It just so happened that, not long before, a very rich man had died in Benares. He had buried his treasure hoard in the riverbank, along the same stretch of river. His fortune amounted to 40 million gold coins. Because of his miserly craving for riches, he was reborn as a lowly snake, slithering on his belly while still guarding his treasure.
At a nearby spot on the riverbank another rich miser had buried a treasure of 30 million gold coins. Likewise, due to his stingy clawing after wealth, he had been reborn as a water rat. He too remained to guard his buried treasure.
Lo and behold. when the storm came up, both the snake and the water rat were flooded out of their holes and washed into the raging river. In fear of drowning, they both happened to grab onto the same dead log carrying the frightened wailing prince. The snake climbed up on one end and the water rat on the other.
There also happened to be a tall cotton tree growing nearby. There was a young parrot roosting in it. When the storm-flooded river rose up, the cotton tree’s roots were washed away and it fell into the water. When he tried to fly away, the wind and rain swept the little parrot onto the same dead log with the snake, the water rat and the Evil Prince.
Now there were four on the log, floating towards a bend in the river. Nearby a holy man was living humbly in a little hut. He just happened to be the Bodhisatta – the Enlightenment Being. He had been born into a rich high class family in Kasi. When he had grown up, he had given up all his wealth and position, and had come to live by himself next to the river.
It was the middle of the night when the holy man heard the cries of panic coming from the Evil Prince. He thought, “That sounds like a frightened human being. My loving-kindness will not let me ignore him. I must save him.”
He ran down to the river and shouted. “Don’t be afraid! I will save you!” Then he jumped into the rushing torrent, grabbed the log, and used his great strength to pull it to shore.
He helped the prince step safely onto the riverbank. Noticing the snake, water rat and parrot, he took them and the man to his cozy little hut. He started up his cooking fire. Thinking of the weakness of the animals, he gently warmed them by the fire. When they were warm and dry he set them aside. Then he let the prince warm himself. The holy man brought out some fruits and nuts. Again he fed the more helpless animals first, followed by the waiting prince.
Not surprisingly this made the Evil Prince furious! He thought, “This stupid holy man doesn’t care at all for me, a great royal prince. Instead he gives higher place to these three dumb animals!” Thinking this way, he built up a vengeful hatred against the gentle Bodhisatta.
The next day the holy man dried the deadwood log in the sun. Then he chopped it up and burned it, to cook their food and keep them warm. In a few days the four who had been rescued by that same log were strong and healthy.
The snake came to the holy man to say good-bye. He coiled his body on the ground, arched himself up, and bowed his head respectfully. He said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, and I am not a poor snake. In a certain place I have a buried treasure of 40 million gold coins. And I will gladly give it to you – for all life is priceless! Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out. “Snake! Snake!”
The water rat, too, came to the holy man to say good-bye. He stood up on his hind legs and bowed his head respectfully. He said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, and I am not a poor water rat. In a certain place I have a buried treasure of 30 million gold coins. And I will gladly give it to you – for all life is priceless! Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out, “Rat! Rat!”
Such grateful generosity from a snake and a water rat! A far cry from their previous stingy human lives! Then came the parrot to say his good-bye to the holy man. He bowed his head respectfully and said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, but I possess no silver or gold. However, I am not a poor parrot. For if you are ever in need of the finest rice, just come down to the riverbank and call out. ‘Parrot! Parrot!’ Then I will gather together all my relatives from all the forests of the Himalayas and we will bring you many cart loads of the most precious scented red rice. For all life is priceless!”
Finally the Evil Prince came to the holy man. Because his mind was filled with the poison of vengeance, he thought only about killing him if he ever saw him again. However, what he said was, “Venerable one, when I become king, please come to me and I will provide you with the Four Necessities.” He returned to Benares and soon became the new king.
In a while the holy man decided to see if the gratitude of these four was for real. First he went down to the riverbank and called out, “Snake! Snake!” At the sound of the first word, the snake came out of his home under the ground. He bowed respectfully and said, “Holy one, under this very spot are buried 40 million gold coins. Dig them up and take them with you!” “Very well,” said the holy man, “When I am in need I will come again.”
Taking leave of the snake, he walked along the riverbank and called out,’ “Rat! Rat!” The water rat appeared and all went just as it had with the snake.
Next, he called out, “Parrot! Parrot!” The parrot flew down from his treetop home, bowed respectfully and said, “Holy one, do you need red rice? I will summon my relatives and we will bring you the best rice in all the Himalayas.” The holy man replied, “Very well, when I am in need I will come again.” Finally he set out to see the king. He walked to the royal pleasure garden and slept there overnight. In the morning, in a very humble and dignified manner, he went to collect alms food in the city of Benares.
On that same morning the ungrateful king, seated on a magnificently adorned royal elephant, was leading a vast procession around the city. When he saw the Enlightenment Being coming from a distance he thought, “Aha! This lazy homeless bum is coming to sponge off me. Before he can brag to everyone how much he did for me, I must have him beheaded!”
Then he said to his servants, “This worthless beggar must be coming to ask for something. Don’t let the good-for-nothing get near me. Arrest him immediately, tie his hands behind his back, and whip him at every street corner. Take him out of the city to the execution block and cut off his head. Then raise up his body on a sharpened stake and leave it for all to see. So much for lazy beggars!”
The king’s men followed his cruel orders. They tied up the blameless Great Being like a common criminal. They whipped him mercilessly at every street corner on the way to the execution block. But no matter how hard they whipped him, cutting into his flesh, he remained dignified. After each whipping he simply announced, for all to hear: “This proves the old saying is still true – ‘There’s more reward in pulling deadwood from a river, than in helping an ungrateful man!'”
Some of the bystanders began to wonder why he said only this at each street corner. They said to each other, “This poor man’s pain must be caused by an ungrateful man.” So they asked him, “Oh holy man, have you done some service to an ungrateful man?”
Then he told them the whole story. And in conclusion he said, “I rescued this king from a terrible flood, and in so doing I brought this pain upon myself I did not follow the saying of the wise of old, that’s why I said what I said.”
Hearing this story, the people of Benares became enraged and said to each other, ‘This good man saved the king’s life. But he is so cruel that he has no gratitude in him at all. How could such a king possibly benefit us? He can only be dangerous to us. Let’s get him!”
Their rage turned the citizens of Benares into a mob. They pelted the king with arrows, knives, clubs and stones. He died while still sitting on the royal elephant. Then they threw the dead body of the one-time Evil Prince into a ditch by the side of the road.
Afterwards they made the holy man their new king. He ruled Benares well. Then one day he decided to go see his old friends. So he rode in a large procession down to the riverbank.
He called out, “Snake! Snake!” The snake came out, offered his respect and said, “My lord, if you wish it. You are welcome to my treasure.” The king ordered his servants to dig up the 40 million gold coins. He went to the water rat’s home and called out, “Rat! Rat!” He too appeared, offered his respect and said, “My lord, if you wish it, you are welcome to my treasure.” This time the king’s servants dug up 30 million gold coins.
Then the king called out “Parrot! Parrot!” The parrot flew to the king, bowed respectfully and said, “If you wish, my lord, I will collect the most excellent red rice for you.” But the holy man king said, “Not now my friend. When rice is needed I will request it of you. Now let us all return to the city.” After they arrived at the royal palace in Benares, the king had the 70 million gold coins put under guard in a safe place. He had a golden bowl made for the grateful snake’s new home. He had a maze made of the finest crystals for the generous rat to live in. And the kind parrot moved into a golden cage, with a gate he could latch and unlatch from the inside.
Every day the king gave rice puffs and the sweetest bee’s honey on golden plates to the snake and the parrot. And on another golden plate he gave the most aromatic scented rice to the water rat. The king became famous for his generosity to the poor. He and his three animal friends lived together in perfect harmony for many years. When they died, they were all reborn as they deserved.
The moral is: Gratitude is a reward, which is itself rewarded.
It is said that there are two ways to practice religion. One is to live apart from the ordinary everyday world as a monk, a nun or a holy one. Those who are sincere in this way have as their highest goal the direct experience of complete Truth – full Enlightenment. The other way to practice religion is within the ordinary world. Those who are sincere in this way have as their highest goal the harmony of an undivided world, living peacefully under a perfectly wholesome ruler – a ‘King of the World’. Once upon a time the Enlightenment Being was born and given the name ‘Clear-sighted’. As he grew up he developed ten rules of good government: absence of hidden ill will. absence of open hostility, harmlessness, self-control, patience, gentleness, charity, generosity, straightforwardness and goodness.
The people of the world began to notice the wholesomeness and fairness of Clear-sighted, who lived strictly according to these rules. Gradually those in his vicinity volunteered to live under his authority as king, rather than under the dishonest politicians of the time. As his reputation spread, every king in the world came to Clear-sighted and said, “Come, oh lord. You are welcome. My kingdom is your kingdom. Advise me how to rule in your name.” Then Clear-sighted said, “Do not destroy life. Do not take what is not given. Do not behave wrongly in sexual desires. Do not speak falsely. Do not take alcohol that clouds the mind. My commands to the world are only these five. As long as these five are obeyed, my sixth rule is freedom for all to follow local customs and religions.” After all the people on earth had come to live under his peaceful rule, he became known as Clear-sighted the Great, King of the World. His royal city, the capital of the whole world, was called Kusavati. It was a beautiful and prosperous city with four magnificent gates – one golden, one silver, one jade and one crystal.
Outside the gates, Kusavati was surrounded by seven rows of palm trees – a row with golden trunks and silver leaves and fruits; a row with silver trunks and golden leaves and fruits; a row with cat’s-eye trunks and crystal leaves and fruits; a row with crystal trunks and cat’s-eye leaves and fruits; a row with agate trunks and coral leaves and fruits; a row with coral trunks and agate leaves and fruits; and finally a row with trunks and leaves and fruits of every kind of jewel found in the world! When breezes blew through these marvelous palms the sweet sounds of gentle music were heard throughout the city. This music was so enticing and pleasant that some of the citizens were enchanted into stopping their work and dancing for joy! Clear-sighted the Great, King of the World, had a couch encrusted with jewels from the wonderful palms. After a long, righteous and peaceful reign, he lay on the rich couch for the last time. He knew that his end was near.
Of all his 84,000 queens, the one who loved him most was called, ‘Most-pleasant’. Sensing the state of his mind she said, “You rule over all the cities of the world, including this beautiful Kusavati with its four magnificent gates and seven rows of marvelous palms. Think about this and be happy!”
The King of the World said, “No, my dear queen. don’t say that. Instead you should advise me to give up attachment to the cities of the world and all they contain.” Surprised. she asked, “Why do you say this, my lord?” “Because today I will die,” he said.
Then Queen Most-pleasant started to cry, wiping away the tears as they flowed. And all the other 84,000 queens also broke into tears. And the king’s ministers and his whole court, both men and women, could not keep from weeping and sobbing. All eyes overflowed with tears.
But King Clear-sighted the Great said, “Your tears are useless. Be at peace.” Hearing this the wailing subsided and his subjects became silent. Then he said to Queen Most-pleasant, “Oh my queen, do not cry, do not lament. Anything that comes into being, whether it be a kingdom including the whole world, or just a tiny sesame seed – it cannot last forever. Anyone who comes into being, whether it be the King of the World, or the poorest petty thief – all must decay and die. Whatever is built up, falls apart. Whatever becomes, decays. The only true happiness is in the moment when becoming and decaying are not.”
In this way the Enlightenment Being got them to think about what most people don’t want to think about – that all things come to an end. He advised them to be generous and wholesome. Then the King of the World, like everyone else, died. He was reborn as a god in a heaven world, where in time, like everyone else, he died.
Once upon a time there was a world famous teacher in Takkasila, in north-western India. He had 500 high class students who learned sacred teachings from him.
It just so happened that one of these high class students had been named ‘Bad’ by his parents. One day he thought, “When I am told, ‘Come Bad’, ‘Go Bad’, ‘Do this Bad’. it is not nice for me or others. It even sounds disgraceful and unlucky.”
So he went to the teacher and asked him to give him a more pleasant name, one that would bring good fortune rather than bad. The teacher said, “Go. my son, go wherever you like and find a more fortunate name. When you return, I will officially give you your new name.”
The young man named Bad left the city, and traveled from village to village until he came to a big city. A man had just died and Bad asked what his name was. People said. “His name was Alive.” “Alive also died?” asked Bad. The people answered, “Whether his name be Alive or whether it be Dead, in either case he must die. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!” After hearing this, Bad no longer felt badly about his own name – but he didn’t feel good about it either.
As he continued on his way into the city, a debt-slave girl was being beaten by her masters in the street. He asked, “Why is she being beaten?” He was told, “Because she is a slave until she pays a loan debt to her masters. She has come home from working, with no wages to pay as interest on her debt.” “And what is her name?” he asked. “Her name is Rich.” they said. “By her name she is Rich. but she has no money even to pay interest?” asked Bad. They said, ‘Whether her name be Rich or whether it be Poor, in either case she has no money. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!” After hearing this, Bad became even less interested in changing his name.
After leaving the city, along the roadside he met a man who had lost his way. He asked him, “What is your name? ” He replied, ‘My name is Tourguide.” “You mean to say that even a Tourguide has gotten lost?” asked Bad. Then the man said, “Whether my name be Tourguide or whether it be Tourist, in either case I have lost my way. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!”
Now completely satisfied with his own name, Bad returned to his teacher.
The world famous teacher of Takkasila asked him, “How are you, my son? Have you found a good name?” He answered, “Sir, those named Alive and Dead both die, Rich and Poor may be penniless, Tourguide and Tourist can get lost. Now I know that a name is merely a word used to recognize a person. The name does not make things happen, only deeds do. So I’m satisfied with my name. There’s no point in changing it.”
The teacher summarized the lesson his pupil had learned this way – “By seeing Alive as dead, Rich as poor, Tourguide as lost, Bad has accepted himself.”
The moral is: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”