So one evening I went to the area of Bodhgaya where there’s a tree grown from a cutting of the original tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I just went by myself, with the determination to take a vow of a bodhisattva — one who works selflessly for the benefit of all beings.
I sat under the Bodhi tree and prayed a little bit, and then circumambulated it three times while reciting the bodhisattva vow. The moment I finished, I felt something lightly glancing off my head. I looked down, and there at my feet lay a leaf from the Bodhi tree
What happened next was quite surprising. I’d been aware of people on either side of me, near the Bodhi tree. I thought they were chanting or praying — but they’d actually been waiting for a leaf to fall. It’s illegal to cut a leaf from the tree; no one can collect a leaf unless it falls naturally.
Suddenly, people began crowding in, grabbing for the leaf. I have to confess, I felt a similar urge, and since it had fallen right in front of me, I grabbed it. All of this happened in the space of a few seconds. I was holding the leaf, thinking, “The Bodhi tree had sent a leaf to me. I must be such a good person, such a good practitioner!”
As I walked away, though, I began to feel guilty. “You’re such a terrible bodhisattva,” I told myself. “You took a vow to dedicate your life to all sentient beings, but you can’t give up this leaf to someone else.” I felt so disgusted with myself that I almost ripped up the leaf and threw it to the ground. Then another voice came, from nowhere: “Keep this leaf as a reminder of how easy it is to break the commitment to work for the benefit of others. You might say the words as sincerely as you can, but it’s your actions that really count.” A few days later, I asked one of my students to put the leaf in a frame, along with a line or two I’d written about the experience. I brought it back to my home in Nepal, where it hangs over my bed. When I see it, I’m reminded that sometimes the most profound lessons are often learned through events and experiences that appear quite brief and simple