The Enlightened Vagabond, The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche – Part 3 : A Robber Sets His Sights on an Offering of Silver

Landscape Near Dzogchen Monastery

A landscape near Dzogchen Monastery, in eastern Tibet

Near the monastery of Dzamthang, Patrul was sitting on a grassy mound, having just finished teaching The Way of the Bodhisattva to a large crowd of people. An old man who had attended the teachings came up to him and offered him a large piece of silver called “horse-hoof silver” because it is usually cast in the shape of a hoof. Other than that silver ingot, the old man had few possessions, but he thought it would be a meritorious deed to offer his ingot to Patrul, toward whom he felt deep faith.

Patrul, as was his custom, refused to accept the offering, but the old man was persistent, laying the silver ingot at Patrul’s feet and briskly walking away. Soon after, Patrul got up and left, leaving behind him all the offerings that people had made to him, including the silver ingot.

A thief learned that Patrul had been offered a silver ingot and followed him, intending to steal it. Patrul often traveled alone and spent his nights sleeping out under the stars. The robber approached the sleeping Patrul under cover of darkness and began going through his scanty belongings—a small cloth bag and a clay teapot. Not finding the riches he was looking for, the thief started feeling around in the clothing that Patrul was wearing.

Suddenly awakened by the thief’s hand, Patrul cried out, “Ka-ho! What are you doing rummaging around in my clothes?”

Startled, the thief blurted: “Someone gave you a silver ingot! I must have it! Give it to me!”

Ka-ho!” Patrul yelled again. “Look what a dismal life you lead, running here and there like a fool! Did you come all this way just for a piece of silver? How pathetic!”
“Now, listen up! Go, quickly, back the way you came. By dawn you’ll reach the grassy mound where I was teaching. That’s where you’ll find the silver ingot.”

The thief was skeptical, but he had searched the master’s belongings thoroughly enough to know that Patrul was not in possession of a silver ingot. It seemed unlikely that the coveted offering would still be there, but nonetheless the thief retraced his steps all the way to the grassy mound. Searching around, he finally found the silver ingot that Patrul had simply abandoned there.

The robber, who was no longer young and was beginning to worry about his way of life, began a loud lament: “A-dzi! This Patrul is an authentic master, free from all attachment. By trying to steal things from him, I’ve created some very bad karma!”

Tormented by remorse, he retraced his steps again, looking for Patrul. When the thief found him again, Patrul cried, “Ka-ho! You’re back! Still running around here and there like a fool? What do you want this time?”

Overcome, the thief broke into tears, “I’m not here to steal anything. I found the ingot, and I really regret having acted so badly toward you, a true spiritual master. To think that I was ready to rob you of the little you have! I beg you to forgive me! Please bless me and accept me as your disciple!” Patrul said, “Don’t bother confessing or begging my forgiveness. Just practice generosity from now on and invoke the Three Jewels. That will be enough.”

Later, when some people heard about what the thief had done to Patrul, they tracked him down and beat him up.

When Patrul learned about this, he sharply rebuked the local people. “When you beat that man, you’re beating me,” he said. “So leave him alone!”

The Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications.