Anecdotes from the life of the great Tibetan master Gyalse Ngulchu Thogme (1295-1369) - IV

By Matthieu Ricard on November 05, 2012

When Gyalse Thogme was about thirty, a sick beggar used to stay outside near his door. His body was completely infested with lice. Thogme used to give him whatever food and drink he had, bringing it to him discreetly at night to avoid making a show of his generosity.

But one night the beggar was not in his usual place, and Thogme set out in search of him. Finding him at last as dawn broke, Thogme asked him why he'd gone away.
‟Some people told me I was so disgusting that when they walked by they could not even look at me, and they kicked me out,” said the beggar.
Hearing this, Thogme was overwhelmed by compassion and wept.

That evening he brought the beggar to his room, and gave the man his fill of food and drink. Then Thogme gave him his own new robes. Taking in exchange the beggar's rags, Thogme put them on and let the lice feed on his body.

It was not long before he looked as though he had been stricken by leprosy, or some other disease. He was so weakened and disabled by sickness that he had to stop teaching. His friends and disciples came to see him, wondering whether he had fallen seriously ill. They soon saw the condition he was in.

‟Why don't you be a good practitioner again?” they admonished him.
Some quoted from the scriptures: ‟If your compassion is not totally pure, do not give your body away.”
Others begged him, ‟For your sake and ours, don't carry on like this, get rid of these lice!”
But Thogme said, ‟Since time without beginning, I have had so many human lives, but they have all been in vain. Now, even if I were to die today, I will at least have done something meaningful. I will not get rid of the lice.”

He kept feeding the lice for seventeen days, but they gradually died by themselves and he was free of them. He recited many mantras and dharanis over the dead lice, and made tsa tsas with them.

Everyone now marveled at the purity of his mind, his loving kindness, and everywhere he became known as Gyalse Chenpo—the Great Bodhisattva.

From The Heart of Compassion, by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications