A Girl’s Journey to Enlightenment

It’s said that the enlightenment of Sakyamuni was on December 8; therefore, the Laba Festival is also called “Buddha’s Enlightenment Festival”. (Image:  Henry_Wang via   Pixabay/ CC0 1.0)
It’s said that the enlightenment of Sakyamuni was on December 8; therefore, the Laba Festival is also called “Buddha’s Enlightenment Festival”. (Image: Henry_Wang via Pixabay/ CC0 1.0)

In Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces during the Yuan Dynasty, there was a flood that submerged many villages and farmlands. Fortunately, it happened in the daytime, so many people who got the news made it out in time, but one family consisting of a 15-year-old daughter and her mother had trouble walking, and were not as fortunate.

Their house was located in a low-lying area, and as the water entered their home, the mother said: “Hurry up my child, you have to go now, leave me alone here.” The girl refused, and tried to carry her mother on her back.

It was very hard for her. At the final moment, her mother used all her strength to push the girl outside. Suddenly, the house collapsed, and her mother drowned. Once the girl saw this, she fainted.

When she regained consciousness, she found herself lying on a boat with a man guiding the boat and a lady beside her. The lady brought her hot water to warm herself once she saw that the girl was awake. She thought of her mother and cried bitterly, and she didn’t really know how to face this big blow. The boatman tried to comfort her by saying:

The girl then wondered. It was always said that God is compassionate and kind to human beings, so why didn’t God stop this disaster, and why should human beings have to bear the grief of losing their loved ones?

Several days later, there was another flood. Since they were on the boat, they were safe. The man and woman tried their best to save others, and several times they themselves were almost dragged into the water by the drowning people. During their last rescue attempt, the boat couple were both drowned.

The girl was left on the boat, which was too heavy for her to row, so she could do nothing except drift with the tide. Five days passed and the little boat finally beached on an island where the girl almost died of hunger and thirst. It was in the afternoon when she heard the sound of an old lady banging her alms bowl, exclaiming:

boat floating upstream three gorges dam river

A boat floating upstream of the Three Gorges Dam. (Image: Ray Devlin via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Once the young lady heard this, without knowing where the strength came from, she ran out and shouted: “Oh, my favorite flower is the lily that is as pure as a diamond.” Upon hearing this, the old lady hurried to hold the dying girl in her arms, looking at her as would a compassionate grandmother.

The little girl began to beg for alms with the old lady. Ten years later when they were hiding from a storm in a temple, the old lady asked her: “Why do you like lilies? And why do you like diamonds?” She replied with a smile: “I think a person should be as fresh as a lily, and as pure as a diamond.”

Hearing this, the old lady said:

wooden gilded Bodhisattva statue Chinese Song Dynasty Shanghai Museum ancient china philosophies

A wooden and gilded Bodhisattva statue made during the Chinese Song Dynasty, now located in the Shanghai Museum. (Image: via Wikipedia)

The girl was very surprised to hear this and asked:

On hearing this, the girl immediately understood, and she knelt down and asked the old lady to pass the ability to rescue people from disasters to her, so she would also be able save people. Seeing her sincerity, the old lady accepted her as a disciple and told her:

The girl was even more determined to follow the old lady once she heard these words. Many years later, when the girl was in her fifties, the old lady told her: “I have to go now.” She asked the old lady curiously: ”My master, where are you going to go?”

The old lady asked her to turn away. Once she looked back, standing in front of her was not the old blind lady anymore, but a Buddha with incomparable majesty, and a kind of compassion that no words in the world can describe. She fell to her knees and bowed.

Following the Buddha’s finger, she saw countless little boats drifting on the vast sea in a gusting wind, and the Buddha grabbed many little boats in her hands, while many others disappeared in the ocean.

She also saw that on the sails of those boats that were in the Buddha’s hand there were the words “Blessed” or “Virtuous,” while on those boats that disappeared in the ocean there was always a big black circle.

swastika srivatsa buddhist symbol

Srivatsa, also known as Swastika, a symbol of the Buddhist school and can be found in many ancient artifacts from around the world. (Brad T./China Gaze)

After showing her these, the Buddha gradually rose into the air. She knelt down to bid farewell to her master. When the Buddha was in the air, she said:

She was enlightened after hearing these words, and after that she wandered the coastal provinces, begging for alms and teaching people to be good and kind. At the same time, she kept on improving her own nature and returned to Heaven when she was 99 years old, and had finished her mission.

In Heaven, she saw her mother and the boat couple who saved her. Out of gratitude to her mother and the couple, she made them guards of the heavenly gods.

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