The Scarlet Letter
Volume IV, Number 2 | June 1997
The Toothpick and the Feather
By Fr. Omega Bodhisattva
Donning their elegant headpieces, and fabulous robes, each one would grab their special Healing Feather. Then, in solemn process, they would march into a special Healing Room and surround a table with the patient on it. They would form a ring around the table with their feathers pointing in. [The villagers would lay the patient on the table and run outside to wait. This freed the Feather Healers to operate in secrecy, and freed the villagers to speculate on Black Majik and Sorcery.] A low AUM would begin, and it would increase in volume, but slow down until each AUM lasted a full minute, and the room would begin to vibrate.
By some unknown or unseen method, one of the Feather Healers would feel a Calling to the patient. He would step forward and touch the patient on the chest. After a few minutes he would begin to use his feather to heal the patient.
One of the Feather Healers was named RA-DALPH. Poor Ra-Dalph was what the other Feather Healers called Slow of Mind Stream. He never was able to learn Sanskrit, or read the Ancient Vedas, nor could he write in Sacred Verse. But, his heart was good, and through a chain of loving Masters, had finally attained to the Grade of Feather Healer.
One night a great whisper swept through the Brouhaha Temple. The Dali Lama was sick and was on his way to their Temple. He would die before morning if he wasn't healed this night. Everyone dashed off in a panic to get their elegant headpieces and fabulous robes. Poor Ra-Dalph was confused because he had never heard of the Dali Lama. But he got caught up in all the rush to and fro, and found himself standing in the Circle of Feather Healers around the dying old man.
The AUM went up, and for no special reason Ra-Dalph felt the Calling so he stepped forward to the patient. There was a lull in the AUMing and the Chief of the Feather Healers stepped forward to speak to Ra-Dalph.
“Sometimes,” the Chief said, “it is very important that exactly the right person should do the healing.”
“But I was called!” Ra-Dalph said. The Chief looked around at the other Feather Healers but they just bowed their heads. The Chief smile and bowed his head and went back to his place in the ring.
Ra-Dalph again felt the Calling and he stepped forward to the Dali Lama who was now very ill. Ra-Dalph went to use his Feather but discovered that he didn't have it. He had been in such a hurry that he must have forgotten it in his monk cell. In a panic he reached into the pocket of his sari and found a single used toothpick, left over from the evening meal. He looked around, but no one was really paying attention. He held up the toothpick over the belly of the Dali Lama and began to mark out the ancient signs that his teachers had passed onto him.
Soon, however, one of the monks saw Ra-Dalph using the toothpick and gasped. All of the AUMing ceased and the Chief stepped forward slightly in a panic.
But Ra-Dalph was done. His majik had been cast and the ancient formula was complete. Everyone held their breath and stared at Ra-Dalph. What had he done? How dare he? What would happen?
After a few minutes the Dali Lama rolled over and smiled. “Why thank you, dear Feather Healer, I am feeling so much better,” but Ra-Dalph was gone. A signal went up and the Dali Lama was carried out with a Bodhi Cheer.
No one spoke to Ra-Dalph the whole evening, or deep into the next day. He simply sat in quiet meditation on the toothpick laying before him. What had he done? Surely the Dali Lama was dead and he would be killed, or sent out to live the squalid life of a lowly non-monk.
But he had no sooner thought this than the door to his monk cell opened up and the Dali Lama strolled in.
“Just heading out, dear monk, and I am feeling wondrous. I shall save the world again today!” And smiling he went out to leave. The Chief Monk stayed behind to have a word with Ra-Dalph. As soon as they were alone the Chief Monk threw himself to the ground and said: “O, Ra-Dalph, you are the greatest of Healers. You have exceeded us in All.” And then he left.
That night there was a villager who was dying and he was brought in and placed on the table. All of the Feather Healers scuttled off for their garb. But this time Ra-Dalph took his time. When he finally arrived he saw that all the other monks were waiting for him before they started AUMing. A couple of them even smiled. Ra-Dalph also noticed that every single monk had brought their toothpick to use that night.
Except for Ra-Dalph. This night he had remembered to bring his feather.