The Miraculous Tooth

The power of personal sincerity
connects and resonates with
the power of universal truth.


Faith is like a ring, a grommet; the Buddha’s compassion is like a hook, or shepherd’s crook. The two can connect and Buddha’s blessings can enter wherever there is openness to such grace. This is illustrated by the tale of the old woman who attained spiritual awakening with the help of a dog’s tooth. The faithful have always venerated the teeth and bones of saints as sacred relics; these remains are thought to have become imbued with spiritual presence.

Once there was an old woman whose son was a trader. Often he joined a caravan and went to distant India on business. One day his mother said, “Bodh Gaya in India is the place where the perfect Buddha was enlightened. Please bring me a blessed relic from there, a talisman I can use as a focus for my devotions. I shall place it on the altar, pray and bow to it as a material representation of the Buddha’s blessed body.” Many times she repeated her request.

However, each time her son returned from a business trip to the holy land of India, he realized that he had forgotten his mother’s fervent plea. For several years he failed to bring her what she had asked for. One day, as he was getting ready to depart yet again for India, his mother said to him. “Son, remember my words on your journey. This time, if you do not bring me a relic from Bodh Gaya to use for my prostrations, I shall kill myself in front of you!” He was shocked by her unexpected intensity. Vowing to fulfill his mother’s wish, he left.

At last, after many months, his business affairs were completed and he approached his homeland. Again he had forgotten to acquire for his dear old mother a genuine relic of the Buddha. It was only when he approached his mother’s house that he remembered her words. “What am I going to do?” he thought. “I haven’t brought anything for Mother’s altar. If I arrive home empty-handed, she’ll kill herself!” Looking around in dismay, he spotted the dessicated skull of a dog lying by the roadside. Hastily, he tore a tooth from the jaw and proceeded to wrap it up.

Reaching home, he reverently presented this package to his mother. “Here is one of the Buddha’s teeth,” he said. “I acquired it in Lord Buddha’s native land, India. You can use it as a support for your prayers.” The old woman believed him. She had faith in the tooth, believing it to be from Lord Buddha himself. She constantly offered prostrations and prayers to it as the veritable embodiment of all the Buddhas. Through such practices she found the unshakable peace of mind she had long sought.

Miraculously, from the dog’s tooth emanated countless tiny translucent pearls and swirls of rainbow light. All the neighbours were delighted to find such blessings free for the taking at the old woman’s altar, where they gathered daily. When the old woman finally met death, a canopy of rainbow light surrounded her, and everyone recognized in the beatific smile on her wizened face that she had attained spiritual exaltation. Although a dog’s tooth in itself contains few blessings, the power of the woman’s unswerving faith ensured that the blessings of the Buddha would enter that tooth. Thus a mere dog’s tooth became no different from an authentic relic of the Buddha, and many were uplifted.

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