A Tibetan folk-tale, author unknown
Once there lived a very kind, generous man. He was loved and admired by many for his good works and kindly deeds. One day, a very famous lama came to his village. The man wished to speak with the famous lama, and when his wish was granted he prostrated himself at the feet of the holy man, and spoke to him thus:
“I would like to become an enlightened being, compassionate and wise, so that I may help all living beings, and devote my life to the teaching of the Buddha. What should I do?”
The lama saw that the man was sincere in his motives and told him to go to the mountains and spend his life praying and meditating. He gave the kind man a special prayer to chant, and told him if he did this constantly and with great devotion, then he would surely become an enlightened being, able to help all others through his wisdom and compassion.
The man did as the lama instructed. He went into the mountains which surrounded the village, found a cave, and began to meditate in earnest. For many years he persevered, but still he did not become enlightened. After twenty years had passed, the famous lama visited the village again. The kind man heard of his arrival and went down from his mountain cave to seek an audience with him.
He waited for days while many people lined up to see the famous lama and get his blessing. Finally, he was allowed to see the holy man, and after he had paid homeage by prostrating three times at the lama’s feet, and by offering him a white scarf, the kind man told him of his plight.
“For twenty years I have been meditating and praying as you instructed,” he said, “but still I am not enlightened. I must be doing something wrong.” The lama looked solemn. “What did I tell you to do?” he asked the man. The kind man told him everything he had been doing for twenty years. “Oh,” said the lama. “I’m afraid that is of no use at all, I told you the wrong thing, you will never be enlightened now.”
The kind man was shattered, he fell to the lama’s feet and cried. “I am sorry,” said the lama. “There is nothing more I can do for you.” The kind man, who by now was quite old, felt that twenty years of his life had been wasted. He went back to his cave.
“What am I to do?” he thought. “For all these years I believed I would become enlightened, now I have to abandon all hope of ever achieving that aim.” He sat down on the stone slab, that for twenty years had been his cushion, his bed, and his table, crossed his legs, and thought:
“I may as well carry on with my prayers and meditation, what else is there for me to do now?” So without any hope of attaining enlightenment he began to meditate and chant the prayers that had become so familiar during his long retreat.
Immediately, he became enlightened.
He saw the world in all its reality, everything was clear. He understood, at last, that it was only his grasping at enlightenment that prevented him from attaining it. Now he would be able to help all living beings find peace through his wisdom and compassion. Now he would leave his cave and go back into the world to spread the teachings of the Buddha.
He walked out of his cave and gazed at the village below. He had seen it so often before, but never so clearly as now. For a moment he thought he heard the soft laugh of the famous lama, as he looked up at the sky and the huge rainbow which was stretching its arc across the snowy peaks.