Sawang sits meditating
in front of the large Buddha image.
His loose top is gold,
his trousers gold and green.
He has short hair and a pleasant face.
He has been the Guardian deity
for five hundred years.
In the beginning there were many tigers.
The last tiger left nearly thirty years ago.
Now the nearest one
is five hundred kilometres to the south.
Is the story about the abbot and the tiger true?
Yes, but it wasn’t a real tiger.
The deva took on the form of a tiger
to test the monk’s state of mind.
Did he pass the test?
Does he know this?
Have you ever appeared to him again?
To anyone else?
Can you take on any form you wish?
Can you appear as a tiger?
Suddenly there he is! Standing straight,
a fully grown, gold and black Bengal Tiger.
Can you appear as a monk?
A middle-aged monk replaces the tiger.
Can you appear as the Buddha?
No. The reply is immediate.
There are hundreds of monks here.
Are any of them Arya-puggala? *
Are any of them Arahats?
I don’t know.
Is there still a snake in the snake cave?
We look; a large black and yellow python
as thick as a man’s thigh
in a hole in the back of the cave.
* The four classes of Noble Ones: the Stream Winner; the Once-returner; the Non-returner, the Holy One (Arhat).
(from BAMBOO LEAVES – poetry in Thailand)