Saturday, January 09, 2010

[Folktales] Laos: A Story of Giving

In 1998 the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans and the Department of Children, Families and Learning produced 'Myths, legends and heroes,' that provided a profile of the Asian-Pacific community in Minnesota. The following Lao folktale was presented. It would be interesting to find out how and why this particular myth was chosen.

Laos: A Story of Giving
Once there lived a rich man and his wife. They were miserly and godless. They had a son who passed away when he was sixteen. They buried him and set up a shrine to honor his memory. According to tradition, offerings and food were to be delivered to the grave everyday. This was done for an entire year. One day while the maid was on her way to deliver the offerings to the son, a terrible storm swept across the countryside making it impossible for her to proceed. When the storm had subsided, the maid saw a Buddhist monk standing in the distance with an empty bowl in his hands. She approached the monk and kindly donated all of the food she had to him. Later that night, the wife and husband heard the son speak to them saying that he had died a year ago, but had not eaten any food until today. In the morning, the husband demanded an explanation from the maid. The maid related everything that had occurred the previous  day. The husband and the wife immediately set off to the temple to discuss their son with the monks. The monks explained that possessions could not be taken to the afterlife, and that through donation and respect for the temple could they be passed on to the deceased. Understanding this, the couple built a big temple for the monks where they prayed and brought offerings regularly.

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