The Buddha’s Tooth

I read a story that Buddhists tell each other about a Tibetan mother who was a devout buddhist, and who had a son who traveled regularly to India on business.

Before his next business trip, his mother asked her son to please bring her back something that she could use as a symbol of devotion, to help her progress in her spiritual practice. India was the place, after all, where the Buddha himself had lived, and many bodhisattvas and sages had lived and taught there.

The son went to India and forgot to get her anything. He told her so when he returned.

Before his next trip she asked him again. And again he went, and forgot to bring her anything.

When he was about to go to India again, his mother came to him and said that if he does not bring her something back from India, that it will kill her. She told her son that he will watch his own mother commit suicide right before his eyes if he fails to bring her something from India that she could use to help her develop her own practice on her own spiritual path.

While arriving on the edge of his home town on his trip back from India, the son realized he’d forgotten again, and so he quickly looked around for something that he could use to pacify his mother.

He saw a dead dog carcass, rotting by the side of the road. He went up to it, swatted the flies away, and pulled out a tooth from the dead dog’s mouth. He washed it off in a nearby mud puddle.

When he returned from India, his mother approached him. He pulled out the tooth and showed it to her, saying that he was very fortunate to have been able to get her a tooth from the body of the Buddha himself.

She took the tooth and placed it in a place of worship, filled with deep and sincere reverence for what her son had given her.

She was able to generate so much love, so much devotion, and so much compassion because of her belief in the Buddha’s tooth that she achieved enlightenment in one lifetime.