This article excerpted from "The Moon in the Well: Wisdom Tales to Transform Your Life, Family, and Community." Reprinted with permission of Open Court Publishing Company.

Kuan Yin's influence spans the centuries and enriches traditions from Taoism to Buddhism. She's come back in many forms to teach humankind, and to bring out the best in humanity. Once she took the form of a fisherman's daughter. She lived at the edge of the river in a little cottage with her parents. Each day she brought her basket of fresh fish to the market. She was such a lovable child, she won the hearts of many customers. When womanhood began to dawn across her flesh and countenance, she became so beautiful people went weak at the sight of her. They lined up to buy fish, just to get a closer look. All they could do was point to a fish and hand her a few coins, for the fishermaiden's beauty left everyone speechless.

One day a young man wishing to woo her gathered all his courage. He went to the market early and watched for her to come. Soon he could see her approaching, strolling as gracefully as a lily swaying on the breeze. He waited until she reached the very center of the crowded market. Then he stepped before her and in a clear voice announced, "With all my heart, Fishermaiden, I wish to be your devoted husband." The fishermaiden stood before him, smiling most compassionately. She did not reply, but she did not turn away either. Everyone waited in silence to hear how she would respond. Then suddenly, another young man rushed forward and cried, "But I too wish to be your devoted husband!" Then another rushed forward with the same pronouncement, and another, and another, until dozens clamored for her hand.

The fishermaiden bowed her head, and the crowd drew silent. Then she said, "So may fine suitors, how can I possibly choose? Can any of you by chance recite the Sutras of the Compassionate Kuan Yin?" The young men stood silently, for none had studied the sutras, let alone learned them by heart. "Ahh," replied the fishermaiden. "Whosoever shall learn to recite the sutras in one month's time, he shall be my husband."

You can imagine how fervently the young men set to reading, studying, and reciting. They worked like true scholars seized by a frenzy of academic passion. One month later they gathered in the market. Each took his turn before the crowd, reciting as clearly and sweetly as possible. Never had the young men of this village been so learned. It was a miracle. Mothers wept at their eloquence, fathers beamed with pride and grandparents fainted in shock. "Such excellent recitation," said the fishermaiden when it was finished. "But surely I cannot marry all of you! What would I do with so many husbands? Can any of you suitors explicate the meaning of the sutras?" All the suitors stood silent. They had recited well, but none had thought to consider what the sutras might mean. "Let us meet again in one month's time," said the fishermaiden. "If at that time one of you can explain the meaning of the Sutras of the Venerable Kuan Yin, he shall be my husband."

All month the young men pondered what the sutras might mean, but they couldn't make much headway. One young fellow named Mero, traveled far down the river and into the hills to meet a wise old sage. The wise sage held discourses each day. Gradually Mero began to understand. At the end of the month, Mero grasped the meaning of the sutras. When everyone gathered again at the market, Mero was the only one who could explain the sutras and he explained them magnificently. The fishermaiden smiled and said, "It takes a wise and compassionate heart to grasp the Sutras of Kuan Yin. I will be pleased to marry a man with such heart." She told Mero to come for her the next day at the little hut on the river's edge.

The next day Mero went as instructed. He knocked at the door and the fishermaiden's parents greeted him kindly. "We have been waiting for you," they said. "Come this way." They led him to a small room at the back of the house and told him to enter. He went inside to find his bride, but all he found was an open window. Outside the window he saw her footprints in the sand. He climbed though the window and followed the prints. They led all the way to the river's edge. There Mero found a pair of glistening golden sandals. Instantly he knew that the fishermaiden was none other than the beloved Bodhisattva herself, the Venerable Kuan Yin. His heart swelled with humility and gratitude for the sacred teachings which now burned in him. For without the mysterious interventions of Kuan Yin, he never would have discovered nor nurtured his higher gifts. Mero went on to become a great teacher, consulted by many far and wide for his wisdom and compassion. He started each and every day with this prayer, "Sainted Lady, thank you. Mystical Wife, Bodhisattva, Fragrant Lotus, Eternal Flame, Guiding Hand, Shining Pearl, thank you, thank you, for guiding me to my self, and the greater truth." And that is the story of Mero's bride. May it inspire us all to find and embrace our beloved disciplines with devotion, so that we may go forth into the world and offer our greater gifts.

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