Who Could Memorize the Sutra
Would Be My Husband
Ven. Thich Nguyen Tang
Whenever beings still receive sufferings or cycle into the round of rebirths whenever Bodhisattva Avalokitesvera still under different forms, extends her love with full of compassion to comfort, to help, and to lead them to the right path for Nirvana.
For each year, in the early of 1980s decade, I used to work at the summer retreats in Trai Thuy Hill of Hai Duc Temple in Nha Trang City. Once, I heard Most Venerable Thich Tri Nghiem (1911 – 2003), who I had chance to be with for the duration of my working as an attendant at the retreats, narrating the story in Hoang Truc Am (Golden Bamboo Hut) , while I was fanning him each afternoon on the summer days.
The story was told as there lived peoples who were in a village in the land of China, did not believe in Buddha’s Teachings because they thought Buddhism was superstitious. It was a reason for Bodhisattva Avalokitesvera to come to help them understood their evil karmas those had covered their minds making them not to see the original spirit. One day, Bodhisattva, under a form of a pretty girl on her hand with a bamboo basket filled in some fishes, suddenly appeared, was slowly walking on village roads for selling her aquatic animals. All young fellows, of cause, were attracted by her beauty and wishing to marry her. Some millionaires wanted her to be a concubine. Some Mothers wanted her to be a daughter in law. Soon, peoples surrounded her making a crowd, a bigger crowd, and a much bigger crowd…especially the bachelors, who kept their feet contact on every single step she moved. All day long, she could not sell any fishes because peoples wanted to buy her but not her aquatic animals. Feeling that it was about time, a girl happened to say: ” Myself is could not for all. In response, I just have to select a top candidate. Who could memorize the whole chapter of Universal Door in Lotus Sutra within three days would be my husband.”Immediately, all of the candidates in that village went out to searching for the chapter of sutra to pack in their memories. The three days dead line had come, there were close to fifty of them passed the contest. A girl said: “Myself is could not for these many. Again, please, if any of you who could memorize the whole Diamond Sutra within five days would be my husband for the rest of my life.” Hum, it was really a higher step for who wanted to marry this pretty girl! Really, the contents of Diamond Sutra are difficult to read, difficult to memorize along with the repeating text with different meanings… It’s hard isn’t? However, after five days, there were still ten smart gentlemen got thru! A beautiful girl, one more time, set a prize: “It is still impossible for me to marry more than one. Because of by law and because of by morality, one more time, could you please accept my proposal. Who could memorize the whole Lotus Sutra within seven days would be my husband. Only just seven days! And on the honor of a person who’s selling fishes to the village, I swear by it.” Oh! Yes, the guys really faced with the challenge. No doubt about it. The first difficulty was they had to gather the whole set of seven books then next they had to read, to understand, and to memorize within a very short time, just seven days. It was extremely and extremely hard, wasn’t it? Well, because of love, the guys wouldn’t mind. One week had passed and the best of the bests was selected, finally. A smart elegant young man, last name Ma, was born in a wealthy and well respected family, had achieved his highest goal in life. Young Bachelor Ma was pronounced to be her husband.
Congrats groom! In the night of their wedding banquet, guess what happened? The bride suddenly felt pain at her tummy. She fell down on the ground and passed away quickly without saying a good bye. Oh! No! Poor young Ma! Why did she die? Of cause, dead is an event of life with no exception, but why her? What were happening to the newlyweds? People expected them to have wonderful lives together forever. How could he survive without her? Poor young Ma had tried the best to study and to memorize the whole set of Lotus Sutra in wishing the greatest reward, his fair lady, the only source of the true happiness in his life. Oh! No! The happiness without wings had flown away and left him a hard corpse in pale like a stone no more or less!
Oh! Life likes a light bulb, blowing wind, flying cloud. Being together and then apart within a blink. All are impermanent like a dream… poor life! Young Ma felt lucky minutes ago, minutes later felt unlucky alone on earth! He ended up with being himself and not to wed any girl. In his heart there was only her within. He continued living in the lovesickness and dragged his life from place to place without a real soul.
A special day had come. On the way to his no landing place, young Ma met an old man in purple dress. An old man was a priest. He looked at Ma and realized that this dumbfounded creature had been in boundless suffering. He gently comforted Ma so that this young man told him what did happen. A priest let Ma know that a girl he loved was Bodhisattva Avalokitesvera. Because of folks in the village did not believe in Buddha’s Teachings, this Bodhisattva under a form of a pretty girl was trying to awaken people in order to help them seeing the Truth. Really, in Buddhism, “attracting attention first, showing the Truth later.”
Shortly, young Ma went home. He told people what he had heard from a priest. No one believed on him. All together went to the cemetery to dig up her grave expecting to find her body. No one saw nothings in the grave hole. It was empty, no bones, nothings, but just a coffin. They then realized that because of the ignorance, they had lived in unconsciousness for long. In end, those folks then believed and practiced Buddha’s Teachings. Since the truth was discovered, Buddhism started to expand throughout the village and has passed from generation to generation.
About young Ma, what did happen to him after seeing the empty grave? He felt himself likes leaving his dream for a real life. He clearly understood the meaning of impermanence of human being’s life, devoted the rest of his time for practicing the Teachings and became a monk afterward. He went to the cave by a mountain and had stayed in there. No one could see him then. People, because of missing him, named the cave after his name, Ma Lang Cavern, which means the retreat place of young Ma. Today, this historic place is still maintained well as it had been in China.
From the above story, the Buddhists could pull out three highlighted points related to their mind cultivations. First, when people hasn’t studied Buddha’s Teachings, hasn’t listened to dharma talks, hasn’t recited sutras, then his/her mind is still full with greed, hatred, and delusion. Therefore, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvera in the story, in order to awake people, used the formand soundas the targets to attract people’s greed, a cupid causing the sufferings.
Second, even though living in the world of distress, people who lives in the consciousness, the true happiness is always within her/him. Therefore, intelligent young Ma, in the story, stood for the wisdom once the conditions have met he was easily to release the attachments for the enlightenment.
Lastly, the impermanence happens to every single being on earth. The phenomenon of birth and dead clearly helped young Ma and people in the village to live in the state of awareness, which would lead them to the path of Nirvana with feeling less pain or without pain while dipping in the habitat with fully sorrow and dissatisfaction.
I hope this story would help you to see the truth and to keep your mind awake in order to minimize the suffering now and then.
Written at Phap Bao Temple for the summer retreat, July 2006
Ven. Thich Nguyen Tang
Translated into English by Helen Quang Tue Nguyen