At left: Dhyani Buddha Amoghasiddhi, traditional Tibetan Thangka painting.
Another version of the story below is in the book THE JOY OF COMPASSION by Lama Zopa Rinpoche--which is free from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives.
This version is excerpted from Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat. (Soquel, California, 1999)
...As I mentioned once before, when the great yogi Ngagpa Chöpawa was going to Odi to practice tantra—probably the final part of the practice —at the river crossing there was a woman totally covered by leprosy sores, with pus and blood oozing out. She asked the yogi, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” The yogi didn’t help her and left. Later, his disciple Getsul Tsimbulwa, a monk living in the thirty-six vows, came along and she asked him the same thing, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” As soon as he saw this woman sitting there, completely covered with leprosy sores with pus oozing out, totally dark, just by seeing her, he felt unbearable compassion and immediately, without any hesitation, without thinking that he is a monk and she is a woman or that she’s covered in disease, something untouchable, with none of this, he just picked her up, put her on his back and started across the river. Getsul Tsimbulwa, with his unbearable compassion, completely sacrificed himself to carry this woman.--Venerable Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of the Foundation of the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.
However, when they reached the middle of the river, this woman suddenly became the deity Dorje Pagmo, the female buddha, Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to the pure land Tarpa Kachö. If you are born in this pure land, you are one hundred per cent certain to become enlightened in that life. So, in the middle of the river, this woman, who was covered with leprosy, looking very ordinary, in much suffering, became the buddha, the deity Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to her pure land, and in that way, he became enlightened.
In this story, the teacher, the yogi, didn’t help that woman but just passed by. However, his disciple, the monk, sacrificed his life to take care of her, to carry her across the river. Then, in this life, without first having to die, he was taken to her pure land in his ordinary body—in this life, not the next. He went to the pure land, not after death but in the body of this life, and became enlightened there. From the story, it seems that perhaps the disciple got enlightened before his teacher, the yogi.
Therefore, when we think of the benefits of cherishing one sentient being, sacrificing our life for one sentient being, they are like the infinite sky. The benefits are unbelievable; something to enjoy in life. The benefits of cherishing even one sentient being with bodhicitta are like the sky.
Cherishing others, seeing that even one sentient being is much more precious than yourself, is the most precious thing in your life, is most kind, is an unbelievable way to enjoy your life.
I’m not telling you why we should help others, why we should benefit others, because this is something new that you haven’t heard before. Those who have received lam-rim teachings have heard this many times. I’m doing it to inspire or remind all those who already know these things and to inform those who don’t but need to know. Why? Because this is the most important education of all. This is more important to know than anything else in life. This is the most important thing you will ever learn.
At left: traditional St Christopher medal, patron saint of travelers.
The Buddhist story above is very, very similar to the Christian story of St Christopher, which literally translates as "Christ-bearer":
[The hermit] suggested that because of his size and strength Christopher could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river, where many were perishing in the attempt. The hermit promised that this service would be pleasing to Christ.And Christopher was sainted, that is to say, granted eternal life.
After Christopher had performed this service for some time, a little child asked him to take him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child seemed as heavy as lead, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him and found himself in great difficulty. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were." The child replied: "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." The child then vanished.
These stories instruct us that we save ourselves through saving others. The persons saved turn out to be actual deities; this is a way of saying everyone could be a deity, no matter their outward appearance.
Therefore, love others as you love God.
And now for our hymn. This may not last long, so listen while you have the chance! My other David Crosby song, LAUGHING, was removed recently... and another version of WOODEN SHIPS has already been yanked, like, since last night.
So, here is the only one that remains on YouTube. Listen and remember ... and don't forget the edifying stories we have just heard!
Note Stephen Stills' dreamy-beautiful guitar lines, which are perfectly suggestive of waves on the water; every now and then some crashing and turbulence.
Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills and Nash
Have a beautiful Sabbath, everyone!