Little Pearl

Kusala had been walking for the last two days, stopping only to eat and sleep, but his steps had not slowed, nor his eyes grown heavy. The sun, peering over the treetops to his left, found him smiling serenely, his robe gathered loosely around his body as though he did not feel the chill in the air.

Kusala’s ears did not miss a single bird’s greeting, his eyes caught every bug crawling across the trail he followed. He made sure not to step on any of those creatures as he knew that all life was precious.

“Be well, little one,” he softly called to a beetle watching his progress from an open patch of dirt. Kusala knew that there was another soul in that small, hardened body, to be treasured as much as his own, that it was simply at a different stage of the cycle of rebirth than he was. He spoke with insects often as they needed extra guidance and encouragement if they hoped to earn a human form in their next lifetime.

As he rounded a corner in the trail his eyes sparkled with peaceful joy when they found the tree stump he always sat upon when he came to the foot of the mountain to meditate. Kusala took his seat, spread his robes around himself and took up the lotus position.

Just as he was about to begin his chanted mantras he noticed the bundle of silks which had been left at the base of the tree directly in front of him. He nodded with satisfaction, a smile dimpling his sun-darkened cheeks - it was a fine gift for the mountain.

Some time later, as Kusala neared the end of his first mantra, the peace which had settled on the forest clearing was broken by a long, shrill cry. He blinked rapidly, cocked his head to the right and listened.

It came again, more insistent this time, and accompanied by a movement of the bundle of silks. Kusala rose quickly but gracefully to his feet and hurried across the clearing to the now squirming package. His long, soft fingers turned back the folds of the fine fabric and soon revealed the source of the crying.

“Please don’t cry, little pearl,” he murmured upon seeing the puffy, pearl-drop face of the baby girl. “Kusala is here now, Kusala will keep you safe.” He gathered the child in his arms and gently rocked back and forth, as his mother had taught him to do with his sister many years before. The child soon calmed but Kusala knew that she would need food soon and he had none to offer.

He bowed low to the mountain, giving thanks for the precious gift it had bestowed upon him, and turned to make the long journey back to the monastery. As he walked the trail he spoke softly and sang songs to the child, who he soon named little Zhen Zhu - his little Pearl.

The End

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