Dukkha, the state of suffering, craving, dissatisfaction and want, begins our tale. Upon this background the curtains rise on three monks, performing their daily duties at a nameless monastery. They cut wood, carry water, tell stories.
On the monastery grounds there is an olive orchard, where the monks work and meditate. One night, while the monks are meditating under an ancient olive tree, Avalokiteshvara, an enlightened being, appears to them in a vision. He tells them to leave the orchard and become Bodhisattvas, and wander the earth spreading good works. They immediately depart, giving their lives over to public service, each having a grand adventure and struggle greater than the next. By and by, they live out their lives, gradually winding down, passing peaceably into the spirit world without malice or despair. Their bodies are sent back to the monastery for burial.
Upon death, each of them sees for the first time the transient nature of all things — a movement of lightness and air enters them. They pass through the bardos between death and rebirth, first re-experiencing their lightest thoughts and moments of fleeting grace, followed swiftly by a re-telling of their darkest, most selfish thoughts, and moments of weakness. Unable to remain coalesced into a separate Will, facing an unknowable choice between rebirth and nirvana, each monk’s selfhood is torn apart in the transition.
Years pass, and three children are born, each somewhere in the first world. They come of age in an ailing society, overfull with violence and thoughtlessness, and struggle with the desire to take the right action instead of the easiest action. Desperate for an answer to the deepest questions that plague them, they each search for their own Truth, wherever it may lead. By and by, through hill and vale, the children find themselves at the doors of an ancient monastery. The scent of fruit oil and brine fills the air with peace and sweetness.
The abbot of the monastery meets with each child. It is clear from their meeting that this is not the first time they have met. The children know too much at too young an age. The children and the abbot talk long into the night, contrasting stories of a bygone time of a natural rise and fall with those of woes of present unmet wants. Exhausted from the revelation, the children stay the night at the orchard, sleeping under an old half-dead tree.
During the night, the children are visited by Avalokiteshvara in a shared dream. They see that their seemingly separate personalities are actually three emanations of a singular presence as their consciousnesses merge with that of the transcendent being. They awaken at once to the brightness of the full moon, she having suddenly slipped off her blanket of cloud. Having momentarily stepped into a larger world, they are struck still by the realization of Anatta, or no-self; that there is no difference between themselves, the old monks, and the Bodhisattva nature of all sentient beings. They rise with the Knowledge, the Sight, and the Truth. Whether they live long and well, it is not for us to say. But having experienced Moksha, they are free.