The Carpenter and his Karma
Story of a Carpenter and his Karma.
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In Himalayan Buddhist regions, people believe that there are many world forms. These worlds forms/universe are ruled by a specific Buddha at a specific time. The current Buddha is Buddha Shakya Muni. The future Buddha is believed to be Buddha Maitreya. This back ground is necessary to appreciate the following story.
This story was told to me by my father when he visited me for a few days from village in Far East of Bhutan, Trashigang.
In an earlier universe, during the time of Buddha Woe-sung, there lived a king who was a patron of Buddhism. When the Buddha Woe-sung died, the king collected many precious relics like fragments of bones and hairs etc. form the blessed remnants of the Buddha. The king kept the relics by the side of his bed, on a beautiful altar for many years, making offerings of scented water and aromatic herbs.
One fine day, the king thought it was selfish of him to store the Buddha’s relics in his bed room and worship all alone. So, he decided to build a stupa in the center of the city, so that all his people can also pay respect and generate good merits. The king summoned two carpenters to lead the task. The king had one condition for the carpenters. They should build the stupa in an overnight. Hearing the king’s orders, the two carpenters walked home with the relics.
That night, the four deities who protects the four directions appeared in king’s vision and assured him of their help.
The same night, the two carpenters set out to build the stupa. The first carpenter was very faithful to the king’s instruction and he was working very silently with joy. However, the second carpenter was a disgruntled man. He complained that the king must be out of his mind to instruct to build such a huge stupa in an overnight.
The next morning, when the darkness gave way to sunlight, both the carpenters were astonished to find that the materials for stupa were all precious jewels donated by the deities of four directions. Not even a single stone could be seen!
Seeing this, the disgruntled carpenter repented heavily for the blames he uttered all night. He realized that the stupa was a display of Buddha’s power of compassion. Thus, when the king called them to his place to pay them their wages, the disgruntled carpenter used the wage money to buy a bell and offered to be decorated on the stupa. He heavily repented and begged for forgiveness from the Buddha. When he died, he had only one prayer: To be born as a monk in his next life.
During the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, there was a very ugly monk that most people would throw up upon seeing him. His skin was dark as soot, he was short as dwarf. But that monk possessed a unique quality: his voice. His voice was so charming and tranquil that when he sang, even caravan of horses passing by below his medication cave would pause and listen to his songs.
One day, a merchant went to the Buddha and asked what made the monk look so ugly and why his voice could even make a deer running for life, to pause and listen to the monk.
The Buddha, using his immeasurable wisdom, told the merchant that the monk was a carpenter in his previous life. He was born short and ugly for blaming the king’s project and uttering foul speech to the words of the Dharma. And his voice was exceptionally good because he had donated a bell on the stupa in his previous life.
The essence of this story is karma: the law of interdependence. Nothing, not even a single thought goes to waste. It returns at some point later in our wanderings in samsara in the form of a karmic result.