A Word to the Wise: The Golden Sandals

In a certain province of old China, there was, alas, a time when the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha were disdained. But Kwan Yin, the merciful Bodhisattva, showered her compassionate benevolence upon them in the following way.

In one of the villages of that province, situated on the banks of the Yellow River, there appeared early one summer day a strange young woman of the greatest beauty and most noble grace. Her voice suggested the play of a breeze among jade beads. The villagers stared and questioned each other, but none could say whence she had come or who she might be.

She appeared this way every morning, and would disappear quickly that the people sometimes doubted she had been among them at all. The young men, of course, having taken notice, began begging her to marry them, but she answered, “O honourable young gentlemen, I do certainly wish to marry; but I cannot marry you all. If there were one among you, however, who could recite by heart the entire Sutra of the compassionate Kwan Yin, he would be the one I would wed.”

So deep was the darkness of the minds of these young men that they had never even heard of that sutra. Nevertheless, when evening came they met and vied with each other and when dawn broke there were thirty who had learned the text by heart. The young woman said, when these then accosted her, “But, O honourable young gentlemen, I am only one woman; I cannot marry thirty young men. However, if any one among you can explain the meaning of the sutra, he is the one I shall wed.”

The following dawn found ten youths waiting to claim the young woman’s hand; for ten of them understood. But she replied, ” O young sirs, I cannot marry ten husbands. However, if any one of you will in three days have experienced the meaning of the Sutra of the Compassionate Kwan Yin, him shall I marry gladly.”

And on the morning of that third day there was waiting for her just one, young Mero. And when she saw him there, she smiled.

“O Son of the House of Me, ” she said, for she could recognize his bearing, “I perceive that you have indeed realized the meaning of the blessed Sutra of the Compassionate Kwan Yin and I gladly accept you as my husband. My house is at the river bend, and my parents will be there to receive you this evening.”

When evening fell, Mero, alone at the bend of the shore, searched out and discovered her little house among the reeds and rocks. At its gate an old man and woman stood beckoning. He approached them and said, “I am the son of the House of Me, and have come to claim your daughter as my bride”; to which the old man responded, “We have been waiting for you a long time.” And the old woman leading the way, opened the door to her daughter’s room to let Mero in.

But the room was empty. From the open window he saw a stretch of sand as far as to the river, and in the sand the prints of a woman’s feet, which he followed, to find at the water’s edge two golden sandals. He looked about in the increasing twilight and saw no house now among the rocks. There was only a cluster of dry bamboo by the river softly rustling in the evening breeze. And then suddenly he knew: the maid had been none other than the Bodhisattva herself, and he comprehended fully how great is the merciful benevolence of the infinitely compassionate Kwan Yin.

She made a bridge of love, that he
might cross to the shore of Bodhi.
O Compassionate Avalokiteshvara,
most benevolent!
-A Chinese Tale


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