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Ushered to a Better Place

IT WAS the custom in Tibet to summon a lama when a family member passed away at home. Certain rites would then be performed to usher the dying on on toward better scenes in the beyond.

One day the head of a nomadic household somewhere in the windswept Tibet passed away. Lamas were few and far between there, so the family members wondered what to do when they saw a ragged individual coming toward them on foot. It was a lama. The family asked him to do the rites for the dead one, and the lama agreed.. When he reached the man's deathbed, the family asked him to usher the dead one into a realm of great inner delight.

The lama, however, said: "I am just a poor, unlettered practitioner, but I think my faith in Buddha can do it." Then he began reciting a word, again and again. After recitation he hit the corpse with his prayer beads and asked him to travel to somewhere behind the setting sun.

After some time everyone noticed that hair fell from the top of the corpse's head, and there was a pleasant fragrance in the air. And after a large bump appeared at the top of the body's head, everyone rejoiced and thanked the travelling lama profusely.

The travelling lama soon continued on his journey. One day he met another traveller with rather long earlobes. The other man said: "It was a difficult feat we performed with the nomads there, wasn't it?"

Then he laughed and hit the other with his rosary.

Getting Crabby at the Sickbed

A YOUNG woman named Fali was ill for a long time, and no one could cure her. Therefore her family concluded that she must be possessed by some demon. The local shaman was called in to her village in the foothills of Nepal to exorcise the evil spirit.

First the shaman went to examine her. Then he and his son discreetly slipped into the rice-paddies to look for crabs. Finding quite a big one, the father told his son to put it in a tiny basket and keep it under his loose cotton shirt till his father began to rattle his drum and shout, "Ru-ru!" At that point the boy should let loose the crab at the feet of the sickbed.

The shaman went to the girl again. The parents were around her bed. She was moaning softly, clutching her stomach.

The shaman seemed to go into a trance. To the villagers it seemed that a voice spoke through him: "Mali has a crab eating her entrails. When the drum rattles and "ru-ru" are heard, the evil force will be driven out and the crab pushed out from her poor, suffering body."

Just then his son spoke up, clutching the basket beneath his shirt. "Father, is this the time to let loose the crab we caught in the paddy-field?"

The shocked villagers murmured angrily when suddenly the shaman's trance was over and he left in a hurry. He and his son never returned to the village again.

The Lot of the Woodcutter

RIGHT before nightfall a bent-over woodcutter was staggering under a large load of firewood. He had miles to go before reaching home. At last he cried: "If only death would free me from my toils and troubles!"

Death heard the man and came to meet him on his path. He wanted to take the man away at once, but the woodcutter had second thoughts: "I have my family to feed and care for. But if you make a deal with me, you can have my whole family after twelve years, perhaps."

"I get them all at last anyway!" said Death, and was deeper than night. "What can you offer me that I don't have?"

The woodcutter: "I can offer you a home. What can you call home now?"

"I find a home everywhere," Death answered. "What house have I not visited?"

"Forgive me for being so bold," said the woodcutter again, waiving his hand toward the east, "but I have been told there is an immortal hermit in a cave in the mountainside beyond this valley,. He is over one thousand years old; he has been sitting on the same spot for so long that his beard has grown to the ground and taken root. You have never visited his place, I figure."

"Where is that yogi!" roared Death in anger. "Who dares to claim he is immortal? I shall have him for breakfast tomorrow!"

In his fury Death stomped off and forgot about the little woodcutter, but he found no immortal yogi behind the valley, even though he kept looking and looking.

The woodcutter sighed with relief at how things had turned and hurried home, but he knew that sooner or later Death would meet him again. So he and his wife bowed again and again to Buddha to make amends for fooling Death a lot.

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