Excellent Birds

“I want you to change this into gold,” the man said to Lord Shantih, handing him a clay pot.

Lord Shantih touched the pot and it became a loaf of bread. He gave the bread to some nearby birds.

“My Lord,” the man said angrily, “you have wasted a perfectly good clay pot!”

“Perhaps so,” said Lord Shantih, “but I have fed some excellent birds.”


The Message Of The Flower

The Lord Shantih spoke seldomly and only after long contemplation. There was a time when a seeker confronted him, wishing to gain knowledge. He gave the Lord Shantih a flower and asked, “What is the message of this flower?” The Lord Shantih smelled the flower, smiled, and gave it back to the seeker. The seeker returned the next day and again gave the Lord Shantih a flower and asked, “What is the message of this flower?” Again the Lord Shantih smelled the flower, smiled, and handed it back. On the third day the seeker returned again, gave Lord Shantih a flower and asked the same question as before. The Lord Shantih angrily threw the flower in his face. “How many times do I have to repeat it?” he demanded.


Freedom And Death

One evening, the Lord Shantih sat near a small fire and rested after a long day of travel. He sat quietly and watched the dancing of the flames and the red sparks drifting in the air. A young man came to join him.

“May I sit with you, my Lord,” the man said, “for I am weary with travel.”

“Of course, my son,” Lord Shantih replied, and the man sat down and watched the fire dance.

After a time the man wiped his eyes. “It is sad to see the branches struggle so as they die,” he said, pointing to the frenzied movement of the flames.

Lord Shantih smiled. “No,” he said, “look how happy the flames are to be free.”


The Worship Of Sleep

At the Monastery of the Sacred Night the priests perform the ancient worship of sleep. By secret methods they fashion their dreams into a kind of prayer to the gods, and in this way they offer praise on levels which to ordinary men remain hidden.

Lord Shantih once came upon the monastery at the close of a day and sought lodging for the night.

“We worship the gods at night,” one of the priests explained to him, “through the power of our dreams. We cannot be disturbed.”

“This standing at your gate, these words I say, the breath I take — everything I do is dedicated to the gods,” said Lord Shantih. “My sleep tonight will be no different.”

The priest snorted. “If everything you do is a worship of the gods,” he said, “it matters not where you sleep.” He closed the monastery gate and left Lord Shantih outside.

That night Lord Shantih slept in an open field. He tossed and turned and was much disturbed by the stones and sticks he lay upon. He dreamed in bits and fragments of small dolls such as children have, and he dreamed that the dolls gathered round him and spoke with him.

In the morning Lord Shantih arose and thought of his dream and chuckled. “That must have been my worship,” he said.

And then he noticed an emptiness where the great Monastery of the Sacred Night had so recently stood. He approached and saw a small stone building as high as his knee. And from the building came tiny figures in yellow robes, and one of these figures was the priest he had spoken to the previous night.

“Kind Lord,” said the little priest, handing Lord Shantih a pillow as large as a fingernail, “may you sleep comfortably for the rest of your days.”