Short Story :Malika’s dream | Sunday Observer

Short Story :Malika’s dream

Bhikkuni Sumedha was watching her family members climb the steps to her nunnery. Not only her parents, but her sister and brother along with their small children accompanied by their in-laws had joined in visiting her today. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of her ordination as a Bhikkuni. They were going to commemorate it with a series of meritorious acts on this Poson day at Mihintale.

Bhikkuni Sumedha was born as Malika to a middle class family who managed to make ends meet without getting into debt. From their early childhood days the three siblings had been brought up to be “Good and well-behaved children”. The parents were devout Buddhists. They hardly missed the monthly visit to the temple on Full Moon Poya day. They had a special pahanpela, the single post shrine room, not far from their verandah where they offered flowers and lighted an oil lamp every evening. They used to kneel or sit down in front of it and take refuge in the Noble Triple Gem every evening. It was Malika, who always took the initiative in picking the flowers and lighting the oil lamp.

One night Malika had a strange dream. She was about twelve-years-old then. She dreamt that she was peacefully climbing Mihintale fanned by a cool, refreshing breeze, inhaling the swirling scent of araliya flowers. The araliya trees on both sides of the track were in full bloom with white sprigs. The five-petalled flowers were welcoming the devotees wafting at their feet. As far as the eye could see, the track was covered with white clad pilgrims with whom Malika too ascended. She was not sure whether she was alone or with the other members of her family. Suddenly she noticed an old man who looked like a hermit seated under a big araliya tree. He was dressed in white and had a long white beard. He wore a brown coloured rosary around his neck. The white turban which covered his head had a shining gem at the middle of his forehead, which glittered in the silver rays of the morning sun.

Malika looked around. There was no one in sight. She seemed to be all alone. She wondered where all the white clad pilgrims had gone. Somehow she was not scared. She was only amazed. The hermit raised his hand. Malika slowly approached him.

“You are blessed my child,” he said.

Malika knelt down and worshipped him. When she stood up there was no hermit! She wondered what had happened.

The next moment she found herself awake and sitting on her bed. She then realized it had been only a dream.

“What if we go on a pilgrimage to Anuradhapura this coming long week-end?”

It was their father who brought up this idea the next morning when they were having tea.

“That’s a good idea,” pat came her brother’s response.

“We visited Anuradhapura last, eight years ago,” added their mother.

Malika was ruminating to herself how strange it was that she visited Mihintale in her dreams only the previous night. However, she was too shy to come out with her dream thinking that the others might laugh at her. She revealed it only to her mother later, secretly.

As arranged, they started on the pilgrimage travelling by train to Anuradhapura. They spent the night at the rest house and the next day was spent worshipping at the eight great places of Buddhist worship. They enjoyed strolling through the ruins listening to their father who had taken this opportunity to teach them about the lives of our ancestors. He told them how much the place had changed now, describing what it was like when he himself had visited the same place as a small child.

They were to climb Mihintale the next morning and were eagerly awaiting it. It was a novel experience for they could not remember much of their earlier visit, being too young at that time. They started early morning with fresh energy and great enthusiasm.

Malika remembered her dream and was vaguely visualizing whether something would happen on the way. She joined the others to climb the mountain while the soft breeze made the wafting white temple flowers fall on them as if to bless them on this sacred journey. Her mother, the only one who was aware of Malika’s dream was a little worried although she in no way exposed her uneasiness to anybody. However, she made it a point to walk beside Malika throughout the climb up and down the mountain.

Half way through, Malika suddenly stopped, rooted at a spot, holding to her mother’s hand and expressed amazingly but softly so that only her mother could hear her, “Amma, there, there, the hermit I saw in my dream is there.”

She was pointing to the hermit seated under a big temple-flower tree on the wayside. However this hermit was different to the one in her dream. This one had no turban or shining gem. Instead, his fluffy white hair formed a halo around his head. Dragging her mother, Malika went towards the hermit. The others stopped to watch what was happening. As mother and daughter approached, the hermit slowly opened his eyes and raised his hand. Both mother and daughter knelt down and worshipped him.

“You are blessed my child,” said the hermit still keeping his right hand up as if to bless them, until they stood up.

They then joined the others who looked as if they were frozen until the two of them joined the climb. When they heard about Malika’s dream, no one knew how to decipher the dream. All were silent and wrapped in their own thoughts until they reached the summit.

On their way back there was no hermit there. Although that incident ended there, Malika felt that she had an inclination that her life should be more religious. She started observing atasil every Full Moon Poya day. She joined in all the religious activities arranged at the temple as well as the school. She became a vegetarian. Soon after leaving school, she told her parents that she wished to become a Bhikkuni. Her mother, an intelligent woman, already knew that she would have to face this one day and was prepared for it. Thus with the blessings of her parents and her family members Malika became Bhikkuni Sumedha.