Asanga and the Buddhist Understanding of Compassionate Living
Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko

Asanga, the learned sage, his heart set on realizing the inner wisdom, meditated in retreat for many years. The object of his meditation was Champa (Maitreya), the Buddha of the future who resides in the Tushita heaven awaiting his descent to earth. Asanga was patient in his endeavors, but even he, after many years of earnest meditation, was beginning to be frustrated by his attempts to attain the wisdom he desired.

Upon leaving his retreat Asanga came upon a dog mad with pain from a wound in its side which was infested with worms. Asanga felt great compassion for the dog and wished to relieve its suffering, but knew that if he removed the worms from the dogs side, then they would surely die for lack of food.

Asanga decided to remove the worms, and place them on his own flesh so that they could continue to live. Just as Asanga reached out to remove the worms, he held back. "If I remove them with my fingers," he thought, " then I may crush them." So, closing his eyes, Asanga leaned forward to lick the worms from the wound on the dogs side. Just as his tongue touched the dog, it disappeared, and in its place, bathed in a pool of brilliant light, appeared Champa, the future buddha.

Overcome with emotion, Asanga spoke to Champa: "For so many years and in so many ways I have tried to see you. Why now - now that my thirst is gone, do you appear before me?"

Champa replied: "It is only now, through your great act of compassion, that your mind is pure and therefore able to see me. In truth I have been here all the time."

Then Champa instructed Asanga to carry him on his back into the city so that other people might see him. This Asanga did, but the people, their minds clouded by impure thoughts, could not see Champa, and they thought Asanga was mad when he cried that he had Champa on his back.

Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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