She was an elderly woman to have such a young child. This child had been born at the very end of her childbearing possibility. She was a poor, Tibetan widow. He husband had died a few months before the birth of this last child. Her other children were adults with families of their own to care for. She could not ask them to take on responsibility for this damaged child. He had been born with a cleft lip and he was also very slow to develop. She knew that his mind would never develop normally and he would be unable to make his own way in the world. She was sick. She knew she was very sick and soon to die. She thought about how to ensure this sweet child’s survival. He was sweet. His spirit was whole and bright in a damaged body and mind.
She decided at last to take this young boy to the monastery. She knew that he would be allowed to live there and be of some use to the monks. He could perform simple tasks. He wanted to be helpful. The sweetness of his spirit would surely be recognized by the monks.
She explained to him, over and over, that he would live with the monks when she went to rebirth and that they would certainly be together again in another life and that she would hold him, warm in her love, for all of his life. She wasn’t sure how much he understood, but she knew that he was certain of her love and that he took that fully into his heart.
She and the boy traveled for two days to reach the monastery. It took her to the limit of her endurance. But she had to see him safe before she could let go of this life and this sick, painful body. She explained her situation to the Abbot of the monastery and kissed her son goodbye.
When his mother left, the boy was shown the long stone hallways, lit with candles. He was given a little cot in a small alcove off the kitchen. He was to help the cook in any way that he was asked. He liked to set the tables with bowls and spoons for each of the monks. He loved using the broom and the mop to clean the stone floors after each meal. He was rarely spoken to. But some monks looked deep into his eyes and smiled at the light inside him. He loved this more than anything else in his life. He felt seen and known in those small moments and it filled his heart with the love that he had known from his mother. Other monks refused to meet his eyes. They ignored him as if he were an inanimate object. That made him feel so alone. He tried to engage those monks, but they avoided looking at him.
One of the happiest moments of his life happened one summer day when he was helping an old, wrinkled, bent monk who was working in the garden. He was helping weed the vegetables as he had been shown to do. The old gardener picked a ripe, red globe from a vine and held it out to him. As he reached to take the offered gift, the old gardener smiled at him and looked so deeply into his eyes that it warmed his heart completely. He felt the joy of being seen and known for the goodness that he was. He felt happy to be alive in this moment. He held that moment in his memory and he remembered it at nights before he fell asleep and relived the joy and warmth of the smile and the recognition he felt from the old gardener.
He lived for many years in the monastery. He did the simple tasks he was assigned and took satisfaction in being a useful member of the community. He especially enjoyed hearing the monks chanting and it brought a feeling of ease and peace to him.
At the end of his life, he was lying on a cot in a small, stone cell. It was dark night, but there were candles all around the room. Two monks were with him and they chanted beside him for a long time. At last, he felt the light of his life force being pulled up and out the top of his head. It felt so blissful. It was the best thing he had ever experienced—the light being drawn up and out into the universe. This life was over.
Veda for the Poplar Grove Muse