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The Three Boys and other Buddhist Folk Tales from Tibet

The Three Boys and other Buddhist Folk Tales from Tibet

Told and Illustrated by Yeshi Dorjee
Transcribed and Edited by John S. Major
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    The Three Boys and other Buddhist Folk Tales from Tibet
    Book Description:

    A virtuous young woman journeys to the Land of the Dead to retrieve the still-beating heart of a king; a wily corpse-monster tricks his young captor into setting him free; a king falls under a curse that turns him into a cannibal; a shepherd who understands the speech of animals saves a princess from certain death. These are just a few of the wondrous tales that await readers of this collection of Tibetan Buddhist folktales. Fifteen stories are told for modern readers in a vivid, accessible style that reflects a centuries-old tradition of storytelling in the monasteries and marketplaces of Tibet. As a child growing up in a Buddhist monastery, Yeshi Dorjee would often coax the elderly lamas into telling him folktales. By turns thrilling, mysterious, clever, and often hilariously funny, the stories he narrates here also teach important lessons about mindfulness, compassion, and other key Buddhist principles. They will delight readers of all ages, scholars and students, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6511-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[v])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)
    John S. Major

    Today, Yeshi Dorjee radiates the confident serenity that seems to be a hallmark of Buddhist monks, but his life got off to a tumultuous and difficult start. He was conceived in Tibet but born in Bhutan, a small, isolated country in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet and the northeastern border of India, where his parents had fled in 1960 to escape the consequences of the Chinese invasion of Tibet the year before. The Dalai Lama had already made his way to India, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans followed him into exile. But for Yeshi’s family, the safety of Bhutan...

  4. The Three Boys
    (pp. 13-26)

    Once upon a time, in a certain kingdom, there were three boys who were very close friends. The first, Jigme, was a prince, a son of the king who lived in a grand palace. The second, Wangchuk, was the son of a rich family; he lived in a big, beautiful house near the center of the city. The third boy, whose name was Dersang, was an orphan. He was very poor and lived alone in a hut. But in spite of how different their backgrounds were, the boys were the best of friends; they were together every day and always...

  5. The King’s Heart
    (pp. 27-45)

    Dersang made his way back to Nagarjuna’s cave, feeling exhausted and discouraged.

    “I’m so sorry, Lord Nagarjuna,” said the boy, “but he got away.”

    “He tricked you, did he?” said Nagarjuna.

    “Yes, my lord,” said Dersang. “He tricked me with a story.”

    “Well, Dersang,” said Nagarjuna, “don’t be too hard on yourself. He tricks everybody. He’s very good at it. I’ve been trying for years to get hold of him so I can turn him into a lump of gold, and I haven’t succeeded in doing it yet.

    “In any case, you have shown yourself to be a brave and...

  6. The Carpenter Who Went to Heaven
    (pp. 47-52)

    Once upon a time, there was a certain kingdom ruled by a king who was both wise and good. But although the king was not very old, he fell ill and soon passed away. Thereupon his son, the crown prince, became king in his turn.

    The new king, however, was good but not wise; in fact, he was slightly simple-minded, and it was easy for others to take advantage of him.

    Among the citizens of the king’s capital city were a carpenter and a house-painter. They often worked together, but they were not friends. This is because the house-painter was...

  7. The Woodcutter and His Son
    (pp. 53-56)

    Once there was a poor woodcutter who lived with his son in a small house near a big forest. The woodcutter and his son would go into the forest every day to cut wood, which they sold to people for firewood. It was very hard work cutting and carrying the wood, and they did not make much money. But they were content with their fate in life.

    The woodcutter was an ordinary, ignorant man with a terrible temper, but in spite of his faults, the son loved his father very much. The son himself was not very bright, but he...

  8. How Norbu Became a King
    (pp. 57-70)

    “You must learn to concentrate, Dersang,” said Lord Nagarjuna. “That’s what mindfulness means. You can’t let yourself be distracted by nonessentials. Your task is to bring Ngudup Dorjee back to the cave. He will try to distract you with a story. You already know that is going to happen. So you must learn to concentrate your mind.”

    “I know, Lord Nagarjuna,” replied Dersang, sadly. “But he’s very tricky. His stories confuse my mind, and I forget what I’m supposed to be doing.”

    “Well, the time has come for you to try again,” the sage said. “You’ve rested for long enough;...

  9. The Shape-Shifter’s Son
    (pp. 71-84)

    Once upon a time, in a certain small kingdom in a valley surrounded by high mountains, there was a king who loved very much to hunt and to eat meat. Hunting was his passion, and meat was his favorite food.

    One day, the king was out hunting with his ministers when he saw a deer and immediately began to chase it. Soon the king was out of sight in the deep forest, and the ministers did not know where he had gone. The king, meanwhile, had lost sight of the deer and was in such a deep and dark part...

  10. The King Stands Up
    (pp. 85-88)

    Once there was a king of a wealthy and powerful country who worried that people might try to take advantage of him. He realized that he himself was too honest and trusting to see through all of the ingenious schemes that people might have to try to get money from the royal purse, so he decided to appoint the cleverest person he could find to be his advisor. “If I have a really smart chief minister, my treasury will be safe,” he thought. He decided that the best way to see who the cleverest person in his whole kingdom was...

  11. Penba and Dawa
    (pp. 89-93)

    Penba and Dawa were very good friends. Dawa was a weaver, and so was his wife. They made their living by weaving and selling cloth, and although they were far from rich, they were comfortable enough. Penba was a magician who entertained people in the marketplace or at festivals and parties in the homes of rich people.

    Sometimes Dawa teased Penba about his profession. “Do you really think that being a magician is an honest way to make a living? All you do is fool people with tricks that aren’t real magic.”

    “Oh, what do you know about it?” Penba...

  12. The Dream Eater
    (pp. 95-121)

    “Dersang,” said Lord Nagarjuna, “you will have to try again. Just remember how tricky Ngudup Dorjee is. He will always try to tell you stories, and I understand how hard it is for you not to listen. Just be very careful not to say anything at all until you have brought him all the way back here to the cave.”

    “Don’t worry, Lord Nagarjuna,” said Dersang. “I’ve learned my lesson now. I’m sure I’ll be able to bring him back this time without saying anything at all.”

    “We’ll see,” said Nagarjuna, “but I hope you’re right. Anyway, here’s another container...

  13. The Boy Who Understood Animals
    (pp. 123-134)

    Once upon a time, there was a rich family that lived in a beautiful mountain valley in Tibet. Their valley was full of grassy meadows, and in those meadows the family kept sheep. There were hundreds of sheep because the valley was very green and the family was very wealthy.

    To look after the sheep, the family employed a young boy from a poor family who lived in the village in the valley. His name was Tenzin, and he was a very good boy. Sometimes he could be naughty, and sometimes he was even hot-tempered, but most of the time...

  14. The Cook, the Cat, and the Endless Story
    (pp. 135-143)

    Once there was a king of a very prosperous and peaceful country. The king lived in a grand palace surrounded by as many wonderful and luxurious things as anyone could ever want. But the king’s favorite thing in the whole world was not some beautiful and expensive work of art or some rare object that had been brought from far away beyond the seas; the king’s favorite thing in the whole world was his cat. She was a pretty, friendly cat, and she used to curl up on the king’s lap when he sat on his golden throne dealing with...

  15. The Boy Who Never Lied
    (pp. 145-155)

    “He did it again, Lord Nagarjuna,” said Dersang, sadly.

    “You meanyoudid it again,” replied the old philosopher. “I suppose he told you another story.”

    “Yes, and it was so exciting I made a comment out loud before I knew what I was doing,” said the boy.

    “You really must stop listening to Ngudup Dorjee’s stories,” said Nagarjuna. “He is very good at telling them, and you should know that he intends to trick you every time. I suppose we should thank him for the valuable lessons he’s giving you in self-control, but that doesn’t get us any...

  16. King Salgyel’s Daughter, Princess Dorjee
    (pp. 157-165)

    A certain kingdom was ruled by a wise and good king named King Salgyel. He married the daughter of the king of a nearby country, and King Salgyel and his queen were very happy together.

    After some time, the queen knew that she was pregnant, and she informed the king. “That is excellent,” said King Salgyel. “Whether the child is a boy or a girl, we will love it equally. Whichever God sends us will be a blessing to us.”

    After the months had passed, the queen began to give birth. She had an easy labor, and her daughter came...

  17. The Pig’s-Head Seer
    (pp. 167-184)

    “Lord Nagarjuna, I don’t think I’ll ever succeed in bringing Ngudup Dorjee back to your cave,” said Dersang, who was feeling quite miserable.

    “Nonsense, my boy,” replied the saint. “You just need to perfect your mindfulness and you’ll be able to succeed. You mustn’t give up. Keep trying, and I think you will succeed sooner or later.”

    “But he always tells a story while I am carrying him back here in the sack, and I can’t help listening,” said Dersang. “And when I get caught up in the story, I just can’t keep my mouth shut.”

    “Then here is your...

  18. Langa and Jatsalu
    (pp. 185-202)

    “Goodbye, Lord Nagarjuna,” called Dersang. “I’m off to the old cemetery. I really think I’ll succeed this time.”

    “I hope so,” said the saint. “And I’m glad you’re feeling confident. Just be sure you’re not fooling yourself.”

    “I know,” said Dersang. “I’ll see you soon.” He put his food container in his shoulder-bag, draped a new sack and leather strap over his shoulder, picked up the old axe, and set off.

    When he got to the old cemetery, Dersang called out as usual. “Ngudup Dorjee, where are you? Where is Ngudup Dorjee?” Ngudup Dorjee hardly made more than a token...

  19. Notes on the Stories
    (pp. 203-220)
  20. Suggestions For Further Reading
    (pp. 221-224)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)