Naropa experiences several “trials” trying to find Tilopa, the guru. Literally, each one is a test of recognition, character, common sense and decency, and intuition. And with each person, animal, or circumstance, it is Tilopa in disguise. Usually Naropa fails himself, his common sense, moral or ethical decency, and the basics of the teachings of the Buddha that he knows so well. He also does not recognize the guru, the opportunity for awareness of guru, the moment, his patterns, ego, or compassion, and thus elongates his journey-Path, more frustrated at each encounter.
We recall that his first encounter-test was with a leper woman “blocking” the path. Turns out that she was not a leper, there was no path, and Naropa’s thoughts about compassion and selfish motivation were the only things blocking his Path. After she vaporized into rainbow light with words of counsel about his limiting thoughts, he determines that he will ask the very next person he sees for spiritual instruction. Ah, he figures, the guru will be that next person and will again try to trick me. And so it was!
Strolling along with mantra on his lips, he encounters a bitch “crawling with vermin.” Once again he closes his nose and jumps over the situation. As he does the animal appears in the sky in a rainbow halo and says:“All living beings by nature are one’s parents.
How will you find the Guru, if
Without developing compassion on the Mahayana path
You seek in the wrong direction?
How will you find the Guru to accept you
When you look down on others?”
And with that the rocks, the narrow path, and the rainbow halo dog all disappear.
Naropa’s story is our own. Life, its lessons, loves, and opportunities for awareness build upon themselves. One leads to two which leads to three and so on. He is first told by a leper woman to free his mind and that only that will reveal the Ultimate reality of sameness. With that instruction, he encounters the maggoty bitch. He has forgotten his own advice to ask instruction of anyone he next meets, and encounters the dog not as a teacher, teaching, opportunity to practice his first lesson, or as revelation of sameness. Instead, he makes the same mistake again. Caring only for his goal – which to him is a destination – he “closes” himself to the scent trail of awareness. He then “jumps over” the opportunity to apply everything he knows. He is reacting, trying to control his destiny and arrive at his goal. But this goal, and maybe all goals, requires not his speed or ability to move factors of life around. The goal of awareness requires living awareness, and that he stop, drop, take note, and meet the moment as it is.
Twice in a row, Naropa was offered the chance to express compassion and care, kindness and simple common sense. He did not. With the leper thoughts of judgement, pride, misogyny, disgust, and his personal need all took precedence over kindness. And he repeats his performance with the maggoty dog. The symbolism of it being a bitch is important. First, it is a female reminding us of the general attitude toward all things female in his time. But second and more deeply, it is a mother, a source. Hence the symbolism is blatant, such that when the celestial rainbow voice speaks it reminds Naropa that “all living beings are by nature one’s parents.”
Once again Naropa is reminded that the thoughts he holds in his mind are not serving him. “How will you find the Guru to accept you when you look down on others?” Spiritual allegories are mines of precious wisdom. Every phrase is calling us to simple recognition. Pages could be written on the fullness of meaning of this and the first of Naropa’s encounters, but I’ll leave that to you and your contemplation.
Add a comment with your experiences as you use simple recognition of the guru through your day!