Monday, November 9, 2009

The Greatest Gift

A beautiful young bride expected a tremendous gift from her loving fiance. He had pledged his love and promised her the greatest gift that could be bestowed. She had been admiring a diamond ring, and she repeatedly hinted at exactly the one she wanted.

As her wedding day approached, she waited anxiously, hoping her husband loved her enough to get the right ring. Finally her fiance arrived with a gift in hand. He told her how much he loved her and how proud he was to be marrying such a wonderful person as he handed her a large and awkwardly wrapped gift.

It seemed too big to be a ring. She slowly pulled open the wrapping in search of a ring only to find a copy of the Dhammapada instead.

She looked old and ugly as she angrily raised her voice: "You say you love me and you give me a book?!"

"Look inside, look inside!" the man pleaded. But it was no use.

"You want me to've got the wrong girl!" she screeched as she broke off the engagement, leaving him for good. Instead she ran off and married a man with whom she had little in common. He had the sense to buy her with a big, flashy ring.

As she grew older and everyday less attractive, after she had begun a family with her unkind and often stingy new husband, she wondered about her former fiance. She was curious if he had ever married, given how poorly he chose gifts. She decided to pay him a visit.

When she returned home, she was sad to find his half opened gift, the wrapping, and the remnants of her life. It was too difficult to call him. But she remembered him pleading to look inside. She pulled out the copy of the Dhammapada.

With tears, she opened the book and began to turn the pages. Her fiance had carefully highlighted a single verse.

"The gift of the Dharma excels all gifts; the taste of the Dharma excels all tastes; delight in the Dharma excels all delights; the eradication of craving overcomes all ills."

As she read those words, she noticed a receipt from the jeweller's to pick up her diamond ring when the engraving, "LOVE YOU," was completed.

Moral of the Story
How many times do we miss a blessing because it is not packaged as we expect? The moral is simple: Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you do not have. After all, what you now have was once among the things you hoped for. The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be worn for everyone to see. The greatest gift comes through understanding.

This Dhammapada palm leaf manuscript written in Sinhalese characters (first and last pages shown) is believed to be the oldest extant copy of the text. (Image courtesy of K. D. Paranavitana, Assistant Archivist, Department of National Archives, Sri Lanka).

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