The Lot of the Woodcutter

before nightfall a bent-over woodcutter was staggering under a large load of firewood. He had miles to go before reaching home. At last he cried: “If only death would free me from my toils and troubles!”

Death heard the man and came to meet him on his path. He wanted to take the man away at once, but the woodcutter had second thoughts: “I have my family to feed and care for. But if you make a deal with me, you can have my whole family after twelve years, perhaps.”

“I get them all at last anyway!” said Death, and was deeper than night. “What can you offer me that I don’t have?”

The woodcutter: “I can offer you a home. What can you call home now?”

“I find a home everywhere,” Death answered. “What house have I not visited?”

“Forgive me for being so bold,” said the woodcutter again, waiving his hand toward the east, “but I have been told there is an immortal hermit in a cave in the mountainside beyond this valley,. He is over one thousand years old; he has been sitting on the same spot for so long that his beard has grown to the ground and taken root. You have never visited his place, I figure.”

“Where is that yogi!” roared Death in anger. “Who dares to claim he is immortal? I shall have him for breakfast tomorrow!”

In his fury Death stomped off and forgot about the little woodcutter, but he found no immortal yogi behind the valley, even though he kept looking and looking.

The woodcutter sighed with relief at how things had turned and hurried home, but he knew that sooner or later Death would meet him again. So he and his wife bowed again and again to Buddha to make amends for fooling Death a lot.

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