After each rainbow encounter, Naropa swoons back to unconsciousness. Everything related to the encounter disappears and is absorbed into the rainbow light which represents the many presentations of emptiness that he/we encounter everyday. Just as a rainbow appears out of nowhere and will disappear again, so is Naropa being shown that all that he experiences is nothing more than the shimmer and glimmer of molecules temporarily gathered together. How he labels those aggregates, relates to them, as well as the karma he creates through both are entirely up to him, just as it is for each of us with the rainbow of experiences through our day. Events will arise and disappear, all our desires will arise and disappear, and eventually all the people, pets, trees and flowers will also disappear. Everything that is expressing is temporary. Therefore Naropa is being hazed, but not by Tilopa. Tilopa is merely holding a mirror. Naropa is being hazed by his mind and all that it conjures as labels, shoulds, must be’s, and fabrications. Eventually, when Tilopa takes Naropa on as a student, he will repeat the same question to him 12 times: “Naropa, what is wrong with you?”
And we ask ourselves the same when we’ve eaten half a box of cookies (again), or have been impatient or rude to someone, or have not been present with our child or loved one, or spent money on something we don’t need, or … We’ve all said to ourselves “Why did I say that?,” “That didn’t help.”, “That was stupid.” or have said “I’m sorry,” to someone we have wronged. A rainbow of possible meanings, interactions, non-actions, and compassionate responses present themselves countless times a day. The colors of the rainbow are options of how to meet the moment or not to, how to label the moment or interaction or not, and how to experience what personally arises and gathers inside us or change the color of our inner rainbow response to one more life enhancing, kind, free. What is wrong with Naropa is the same as afflicts us: ego or our entrenched and clung to sense of self. All emotional and mental afflictions dissolve back into the emptiness from which they came when we let them. All of them, just like a rainbow.
Naropa comes conscious from his faint and starts on his path again, chanting mantras and hoping that the guru will appear. The guru has four times already, but Naropa has not understood that his mind and its labels have made him not perceive the obvious teacher and teaching.
Beyond another mountain he encounters a man who is cutting the intestines out of a human corpse and cutting them up.
“Have you seen Tilopa?”
“Yes, but before I show him to you, help me cut up the intestines out of this decaying corpse.”
(I don’t think so!, you’re thinking, right?) Naropa thought the same and began to walk away. The man radiated into a rainbow light and the voice from the emptiness said,
“How will you find the Guru if
You cannot cut Samsara’s ties
With the Unoriginatedness of the Ultimate
In its realm of non-reference?”
You’re thinking, “wow, these get more abstract each time. I wouldn’t get it either.” Maybe so, but what makes something be abstract to us? Our frames of reference, that which we know and are comfortable with knowing is our current set of references. Something outside of those parameters of known would be abstract or unrecognizable for use. We might not like some of our frames of reference but being known we are comfortable with our level of knowledge about them. If we were not or when we need to we find out more, but unless prompted we don’t. We stay in our box of the mind with its firm walls of value, beliefs, convictions, and a tidy sense of self at the center. What makes anything abstract is that it is unfamiliar to our current set of references or the frames, lenses, or doors that those references create in our mind.
I am reminded of an excellent movie from HBO, “Temple Grandin” with Claire Danes. Temple is told as a teenager by one of her few mentors that every new situation is a door to walk through. Temple thinks in pictures with precise literality. His words became an immediate image of a bright door to be opened and walked through. As an person with autism, newness had been extremely stressful, sometimes paralyzing but this reframe remained with her throughout all the moments of opportunity that presented themselves in her life. In that teenager-mentor moment, she began to change her now to her New, and with joy and excitement walk into the unknown knowing that it would be all new. Her frames of reference that had limited her movement and relation to the new were left behind, her mind became a blank sky for a new rainbow to aggregate in.
Intestines are the guts, twisted, turning, a number of feet long, and impacted with fecal matter. Intestines assimilate what runs through them and send the essence of whatever that is to our blood which carries the essence to every part of our body. Our intestines are the engine of health, but like any engine it must have the right fuel in order to produce health. Our intestine can only work with what we give them, in other words everything that we ingest. Our intestine cannot say no to anything coming down the pipe, instead it relies on our knowledge, self respect, and if necessary self-restraint to feed ourselves that which will produce healthy essences to be offered to our blood and thus to ever cell in our body and brain.
As a metaphor, the intestine represents the twisted pathways made in our understandings of reality, all being the result of how our sense of self digests its current interactions with reality. We forget that reality is self-made. We conveniently put that vital piece of information aside just as we put aside common sense, or compassion, integrity, wisdom, or respect for ourself and others. These put asides all stem from ego’s fear base or pride. The twisted result of living from the limitations of ego’s self-referencing mind is that the sources of excellent essence are incrementally decreased, day by day, year by year, and our reality gets smaller, less kind, more protective, more anxious. Like the fecal matter gunking up our intestine, sourced from non-essence producing food and drinks that we’ve fed ourself, we have feasted too long on the small things in life provided so that the ego can try to control instead of engaging in the expansive or expanding.
Samsara is the Sanskrit word for suffering. Sanskrit predates Christianity by thousands of years and the teaching of the Buddha predates the Christ by 2600 years, so the word suffering does not self-include guilt, shame, and blame. Instead, suffering means all that is unpleasant, unsavory, or clearly not life-enhancing. Sickness, aging, dying and death are the basic types of suffering that Buddha meditated on, as these are universal to all forms of life on our planet. He wondered why. 1600 years later, Tilopa is trying to show Naropa why: it’s all in our minds. And we keep the sources of suffering in our minds because of the contracted sense of self that clings to its sense of itself and thus must remain contracted in order to control a small self-made, self-engendered reality.
Cutting up the intestine of the decaying corpse is to ask Naropa to disgorge himself of all that has fed his limited self-cherishing ego, the essence of which has then created how he views and interacts with the world. He is to cut the ties that bind him to the repeated patterns that do not produce well-being for himself or others, that produce karma that keep repeating the pattern so that one day he will notice and break free, cut the ties that bind us to the mortal coils of desire and attachment. The decaying corpse is how dead he is to so much of Life. And we are too until we chose otherwise. We will remain mortal, will experience sickness of body, spirit, and mind, will age, will repeatedly experience death until we free our mind from the smallness that the contracted sense of self requires for its sense of illusory well-being.
The realm of non-reference is just as possible a state of Mind as is various frames of reference. We learn to free our mind of this and thats and their frames of reference by not immediately reacting mentally to something. This morning I said, “oh, your up early,” to someone who normally is not. (my frame of reference) His immediate response was an argumentative statement about three times this week being up. In that moment, any number of responses was possible and the one chosen was ego based: simply I’m right and your wrong. It’s a simple example of how innocuous the ego is, how reactive the mind is (as was mine with my frame of reference and saying something about being up early). Did it matter that I said it with joy? I don’t know in the overall point being made through the Naropa story.
Unoriginatedness is the Ultimate. In other words, every thing and moment is pure until we react to it. It is the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty and the quantum science reality that the observer changes the outcome. Buddha taught both 2600 years ago. As we choose to meet some of the millions of moments of a day with non-reaction, non-self-referencing, with Unoriginatedness, we will experience a bit more of the rainbow of possibilities already here right now. We will experience the essence of the Ultimate for our imbibing.