Marpa drifted in and out of consciousness as he lay dying at the monastery. His fellow monks carried him to his favorite spot, to the chamber with the large open-air window that overlooked the snow-capped mountain. The full moon gave the chamber a pale glow. It illuminated their breath as it hung like fog in the cold mountain air. The stillness of the night was broken only by the swirling wind and the mumblings of Marpa as he made his journey to the other side.
Marpa’s eyes opened and he looked around the chamber. He was startled for a second, until he saw the face of the mountain. For over eighty years he had lived in the mountain’s shadow. He stared up into its beloved face. He felt it beckoning for him to come home. Marpa, once again, fell back asleep.
In his dream, Marpa walked on top of the mountain- on the roof of the world. He heard the mountain ask him if he was ready to go. Marpa nodded yes. The mountain then asked him if he had learned the true meaning of life. Marpa answered it by barking like a dog.
His fellow monks smiled when they heard Marpa bark. They didn’t know why he barked, but they recognized the joy in their friend’s voice. They were happy for him, for this was a happy time. They didn’t mourn his passing, for all must make the journey, but they would miss him. They brought Marpa’s most prized possessions to him; his walking stick, pipe, pen, and prayer bell. The monks set them at his side. Perhaps he would choose one before he left.
The mountain swirled around Marpa and lifted him up. The heaviness and pain of life were gone. They traveled together to a place of immense size where Marpa sensed a large gathering of souls joined together in communion. As he approached, Marpa felt the gathering stop as it turned its undivided attention towards him. His entire life lay bare before them. His judgment day, his time of reckoning, occurred in a flash, a mere moment in time, and then the moment was gone. Marpa joined in the communion and he forgot about the man called Marpa. Then, the mountain asked him a curious question.
“Do you want to go back to say goodbye?”
Marpa once again remembered his past, and he thought that yes, it would be nice to say goodbye.
The next instant, Marpa woke up and looked into the faces of his friends. They were his family and to each, in turn, he said his goodbyes. A monk gestured to his possessions.
“Choose one, if you want.” He said.
Marpa looked and with a squeal of delight he picked up his prayer bell. He patted it against his stomach. Then, with a final nod, Marpa’s eyes closed, and his breathing stopped.
The monk gently took the now-sacred relic from Marpa’s hand. He cradled it protectively against his body. Tonight, it would join the other relics of the past in the great hall, and take its place of honor.