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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko

Six years had passed since Tsong-kha-pa left home, and his mother often thought of him. She made a yellow cap, cut a lock of her white hair, and asked others to write a letter to him. Then she sent the letter, the cap, and lock of hair to Tibet.

Upon receiving these Tsong-kha-pa was greatly moved. He put on the cap and held the hair to his forehead, as tears fell to his kasaya and scriptures like unattached pearls. The next day, he bloodied his nose and drew a picture of himself with the blood. Then he sent Rje-dbon-graga-pa-rgyal-mtshan to his mother with the picture, a Buddha image, and a letter.

Xiangsaaqie was expecting a letter from her son after sending the articles.

One day, while she was sitting with her eldest daughter, Rjedbon-grapa-pa-rgyal-mtshan arrived with the letter, picture, and Buddha image from Tibet. Xiangsaaqie opened the picture roll and wept with both grief and joy when she beheld the likeness of her son.

The picture of Tsong-kha-pa exclaimed "Mother!" then said no more. It is believed that Tsong-kha-pa would have talked to his mother for three days from the picture had it not been seen by others [on the way from Tibet]: when Rje-dbon-graga-pa-rgyal-mtshan set out he was told that he must not unroll the picture before meeting Xiangsaaqie, but, unable to contain his curiosity, had opened it halfway to Tsong-kha. Afterwards Tsong-kha-pa could say no more to his mother [than the initial hello].

Regardless of how hard she wished, the picture of Tsong-kha-pa remained silent. The image of Tsong-kha-pa opened the letter, and one passage read: "Every child in the world thinks of his mother, and I am no exception. But at present I am too busy to visit you. If you think much of me, please build a tower with a Buddha image and pipal tree at the place where I was born. When you see the tower, you will then be as happy as though you were looking at me." In this way Tsong-kha-pa's mother was enlightened.

From Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 51, 1992: 219-242

Feng Lide and Kevin Stuart Qinghai Education College, Xining, Qinghai, PR China Folklore Concerning Tsong-kha-pa

This article is a selective translation of tales centering around Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419), the great Tibetan Buddhist reformer.

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

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