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Observations placeholder

David-Neel, Alexandra – The prophecy of the old and dying farmer



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

My Journey to Lhasa – Alexandra David-Neel

A little boy whom I had noticed on the other side of the river then crossed the bridge and ran toward Yongden. He bowed down three times before him as Thibetans do in their greetings to great lamas. We were most astonished. What could have made that child give such a deep token of reverence to a mere beggar pilgrim. Without giving us time to put any question, the boy addressed Yongden.

"My grandfather, who is very ill," he said, "has told us all, this morning, that a lama coming down that hill, was to make tea in the dry part of the river bed and that he wanted to see him. Since the sun has risen my brother and I have watched in turn at the bridge to invite the lama to our house. Now that you have come, please follow me."

"It is not my son whom your grandfather expects," I told the boy.

"We are people from a far-off country. He does not know us."

"He said the lama who would make tea on the stones," insisted the child; and as we did not comply with his request he crossed the river again and disappeared between the fences of the fields.

We had just begun to drink our tea when the boy reappeared, accompanied by a young trapa.

"Lama" the latter said to Yongden, "be kind enough to come to see my father. He is very ill and says that he is about to die. He only waits for a lama who will arrive to-day and who is the one and only person who can direct him to a happy place of rebirth in the next world. He told us all this morning that you would come down that hill and make tea, here on the stones, near the river. All has happened as he said. Now please be kind to us and come."

Neither Yongden nor I knew what to think about this queer affair. We persisted in believing that the sufferer meant some lama whom he knew and had some reason to expect on this road. Nevertheless, seeing the trapa weeping, I advised my companion to pay a visit to the sick villager. So he promised to go as soon as we had finished our meal.

The boy and the young trapa-his uncle, I understood-went to report our answer to the farmer. But presently I saw another boy seated near the bridge observing us. These people were certainly afraid that Yongden would fail to keep his promise, and therefore kept him in sight. No escape was possible, and why indeed should Yongden have disappointed an old invalid? The latter would evidently see that my son was not the one he expected, and all would end with no more than ten minutes' delay.

All the family had assembled at the door of the farm. They greeted Yongden with the greatest respect. My companion was then led into the room, and while he went toward the cushions on which the farmer lay I remained near the threshold with the women of the house.

The old man did not really appear as one who is near death. His voice was firm and his intelligent eyes showed that his mental faculties were in no way dimmed. He wished to rise and bow down to my son, but the latter prevented him from moving out of his blankets, saying that sick people need only mean the respectful salute.

"Lama," the farmer said, "I have been longing for your coming, but I knew that you were to come and I waited for you, to die. You are my true tsawai lama [spiritual father and guide] no one but you alone can lead me to the 'Land of Bliss.' Have compassion on me, bless me, do not refuse me your help."

What the old man wished was for Yongden to utter for his benefit the mystic words called Powa which are pronounced at the deathbed of a lay lamaist or of any monk who is not an initiate, when the latter is quite beyond all hope of recovery.

As I have said, the old Thibetan did not seem to be near to death, and for religious reasons whose explanations would be out of place here, my companion hesitated to yield to his wishes. He tried in vain to hearten the sick man, assuring him that he would not die, and offering to recite the spells which "mend" life and give it new strength.

This the farmer, however, obstinately refused, maintaining that he knew his hour to be at hand and had only awaited the spiritual aid of his lama to take his departure.

He then began to weep and order those present to entreat the lama on his behalf. The family did so, sobbing and weeping, with repeated prostrations, until, overpowered, Yongden finally gave in.

Then, deeply moved he recited the ritual words which loosen the ties of the "namshes," [consciousness] and lead them safely through the labyrinthine paths of the other worlds.

When we left him the old farmer's face expressed a perfect serenity, a complete detachment from all earthly concerns, having, it seemed, entered the true Blissful Paradise which, being nowhere and everywhere, lies in the mind of each one of us.


Those who had told us that the road across the Sepo Khang hills was a long one, were certainly right. We walked on from the dawn, meeting nobody and mistaking our way on several occasions at the intersection of trails leading to dokpas' summer camps. At dusk we were still far from the pass. A blizzard then rose, as we climbed a steep and waterless slope. There was no camping-place in the vicinity, and we had almost decided to retrace our steps and shelter ourselves much lower down at a place where we had seen some empty huts, when we heard the tinkling of horses' bells and three men appeared on the way up like ourselves. They were traders, and told us that a little farther along on the road there was a farm wherein we could get shelter.

It was pitch dark when we arrived. I understood from the large stables, that the place was a kind of inn for the use of travellers crossing the pass at a season when camping in the open is rather dangerous.  We were admitted to the kitchen with the merchants who fed us with soup, tea, tsampa and dried fruits.  These men belonged to a village in the same neighbourhood as the sick farmer.  Passing there in the morning, they had heard all about Yongden, and brought us the sad news that at dawn, when we ourselves had left the village, the old man had smiled and died.

The source of the experience

Tibetan Buddhism

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps