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Don't Know

Once a master sent his foremost disciple, who was an outstanding scholar, to test the learning of a prospective son-in-law for his daughter. The young man was from a simple family. So when the minister returned from his mission, he told, "He answered 'I don't know' to everything. I surely wonder about him . . . "

The master, "Great! I already love to have someone like that as my son-in-law."

Finding a Wife

King Songtsen of Tibet lived more than one thousand years ago. He had five queens. They lived with him in a stone citadel on top of the Red Hill overlooking his capital, Lhasa.

Tibet was a vast empire then. The king demanded a daughter from the Chinese emperor in order to ensure peace and mutual understanding.

Songtsen sent his clever minister Garpa to the court of the Chinese emperor, and the emperor could hardly refuse the demands. Tibetan cavalry had already reached the very walls of his palace, and he was fearful. So he promised to send one of his daughters to Songtsen, but only if the Tibetan minister could pass four tests. "That's how we do it," the emperor quickly added. "If you fail, you die; if you succeed, the girl is yours. Do not take offence," he added.

Garpa accepted the challenge, and the emperor then consulted his advisors, oracles and viziers. "Let Garpa attempt to rejoin to their original mothers one thousand lambs," advised one hoary-headed minister. For how could someone who did not know them, rejoin all the lambs and their parents?

When the herd of two thousand mewling sheep was shepherded before him, Garpa at once turned them all loose. The sheep sorted themselves into family pairs as they used to, each lamb huddled up against its own mother.

Thus Garpa passed his first trial. Then the emperor thought: "This Tibetan knows the ways of the animals. But I will set him an insoluble royal task."

The emperor had his bodyguards lead Garpa at night through a host of passageways, till he could not possibly know where he was. They bade him sleep for the night in a small room among the thousands of chambers, and explained his task.

"Sleep here tonight. Tomorrow you shall be led blindfolded to the central courtyard of the palace. If you can find your way back to this room then, you shall have passed the second test."

Garpa smiled and bade them goodnight. When morning dawned he was ready; he simply followed his nose back to the small chamber where he had spent the night. Thus he again foiled the emperor.

"What to do with Garpa?" the emperor cried, wringing his long-fingernailed, jewelled hands. "He wants my daughter! How can I thwart him?"

"Silk and jewels," a white-bearded old advisor whispered in his ear. "Let us see if the Tibetan can thread the Impenetrable Red Coral Bead from the late Empress Dowager's unstrung precious necklace. No one has ever been able to pass a silken thread through that tiny and twisted stone matrix. All have failed in that before." the wizard added.

The emperor's black eyes glittered. He himself had found this task impossible, and all his brothers and sisters too.

Garpa soon began the task that was set. In a trice he contrived to have an ant assist him. He tied the silk thread around the ant's midriff; and with a little honey he enticed the little creature to creep through the fabulous coral's secret matrix, pulling the thread along with him. At once Garpa drew the entire length of silk threw the hole, and had passed his third trial.

The emperor lamented, but one of his consorts had a plan. "Seat Garpa on a dais and let him choose a wife for his king," she proposed. "Make him pick the true princess from among a crowd of one thousand similar maidens."

The emperor agreed, and ten thousand young Chang'an maidens were examined and one thousand "princesses" were chosen. And then Garpa had to sit at the head of a vast imperial chamber, to review the girls and pick out the princess.

"Keep Wencheng in her room today," her mother whispered to the emperor. "The Tibetan will never know. Let him pick someone from the crowd and bring her to his king. Every Chang'an maid is a princess!"

But the emperor glared at her. "I keep my word, foolish woman! See to it that my little Wencheng is amidst the crowd of maidens," he shouted.

When the throng of demure young ladies slowly paraded in a graceful and stately procession before Garpa, he carefully examined them one by one. Suddenly he spied a pair of bees clambering upon the flowers adorning the hair of one of them. And since it was winter, he concluded that all the women before him must be wearing false flower hairpieces; for where would even an emperor suddenly find tens of thousands of fresh flowers? Only a real princess could have such lovely blossoming irises and lilies adorning her jet black tresses. Thus he recognized the emperor's daughter.

In this way the trials of Garpa were over. He gallantly escorted the princess back to his native land, where King Songtsen was delighted to make Princess Wencheng his queen. The good lady introduced silkworms to his country; taught him how to spin silk; and had him exchange his rough hide cloaks for elegant brocade robes. And the large Indian Buddha statue she brought as part of her dowry helped convert King Songtsen to Buddhism and its more peaceful ways.

She Saw She Had Been Dreaming

Once there was a young shepherd girl watching her family's sheep graze on a mountainside. The Himalayan sun high overhead was bright and warm, so she fell asleep and dreamed many dreams. In one of them she overheard Buddha telling some saffron-clothed monks in distant India: "When I am gone, whenever you invoke me, I shall be there too, on the threshold of your devotion."

The girl woke up and took the instructions to heart. Imagining Buddha, concentrating on his radiant face, she repeated his words, and there he was.

"Am I dreaming?" she wondered.

"Yes," Buddha replied.

"How can I wake up?" the girl asked.

"Who is asleep?" Buddha demanded.

At once she understood that she had been dreaming, and called out. "I am awake now!"

Buddha disappeared.

People gradually noticed that she had changed. Whenever someone asked her how, she answered: "I had a dream that I was dreaming, but Buddha woke me up."

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