A long time ago, in
a fight for justice -- a fight over strong beliefs about right and wrong -- a proud boy
chopped off another boy's arm with his family's sword. The victorious boy, believing the
battle was over, gave thanks, sheathed his weapon, and went home.
The boy lived with
his grandmother, who taught him to always be good and honorable; and with an orphan girl,
whom the grandmother had raised to be an honorable wife for her grandson.
Not long after the
fight, a call to battle reached their house. The king's messenger told them a great war
was beginning that would test the power of good against evil. Understandably, the boy had
two minds about responding. He believed in goodness and virtue, of course, and had proved
it in his fight with the wrong-headed boy whom he had maimed. But he was soon to marry his
fiancée, too, and was anxious to begin a family.
To resolve this
dilemma, the boy consulted his wise old grandmother (who had taught him everything about
the past), and his fiancée (who shared his dreams about the future), and asked them what
to do. Because the grandmother loved virtue and justice about all things, she said the boy
should go to war without hesitation. Because the girl loved the boy and also respected the
grandmother's opinions, she too said the boy should go and promised to wait faithfully for
him no matter how long the war should last.
So the boy went with
the messenger and was gone a long time, during which he distinguished himself in many
battles. When he returned, however, he found his home in shambles. The crops had failed,
the animals had run away, and the house itself lay in disrepair. When he opened the door,
he was greeted by his fiancée, who now looked as old as the grandmother he remembered.
happened?" he asked in astonishment. "Why has my home been ruined? Where is my
grandmother? What's happened to you?"
horrible," the fiancée said, falling weeping in his arms. "After you left, the
boy whose arm you cut off came back and took revenge against us. He killed your
grandmother and chopped her into pieces, then he raped me, pillaged our house, and burned
boy-turned-soldier already had his ancestral sword half drawn in rage when he cried,
"I will avenge this atrocity! Justice and virtue must prevail!"
On his way down the
road, he stopped at his grandmother's grave and prayed for the strength and courage he
would need to avenge her. While he was praying, his old enemy appeared. But instead of
striking him from behind or calling him to combat, the enemy fell to his knees and begged
the soldier to behead him for the wrong he had committed.
believing his prayer for justice had been answered, drew his sword and prepared to strike,
when a bell sounded in a nearby temple. The soldier paused as a song, born on the wind in
a chorus of ghostly voices -- now his grandmother's, now the victims he and his ancestors
had killed in war, now the voices of his own children yet-to-be-born -- filled the air
Hear the bell--
The bell wakes up
We must hurry to
We must kneel beneath the tree of
We must look into the face of god and
Forget the past--
To forgive our
brother is to forgive
We abandon our revenge;
Our lives have seen suffering enough.
We are tired and worn out with
If I take revenge,
it will be the cause;
The effect will follow me into my next life.
Look into the mirror: see the compassion in your heart.
The soldier, having
had his passion interrupted by the bell and his spirit awakened by the song, put away his
sword and helped his enemy get up.
"Go your own
way," the soldier said. "I took your arm, and that cannot be replaced; but I
could have had your life, and this I have returned to you."
"Go your way in
peace," the one-armed man replied. "I took your loved ones, it's true, and
what's done cannot be undone; but I, too, have returned to you your life: for my brothers
would have avenged me even though you had my head."
So the two men, no
longer boys, parted and began new lives. To commemorate the breaking of the circle of
vengeance, the temple bell now rings twice each day and reminds people to arrest their
passions long enough to think; and having thought, to hear the song of enlightenment.