Without his knowing, our friend Naropa has been on a roller coaster ride. Nor does he know that he’s coming to the part where you get whipped around, up and down very fast purposefully to disorient. Walking along, he comes to a man with a pack of dogs, and a bow and arrow. “Have you seen Tilopa?”
“Yes but, before I show him to you, take this bow and arrow and kill that deer.” Naropa will not and goes on his way. No rainbows, but the hunter says,
“A hunter, I have drawn the arrow of the phantom body
From which desire is free in the bow of radiant light, the essence.
I shall kill the fleeing deer of this and that on the mountain of a body believing in an I.
Tomorrow I go fishing in the lake.” Naropa fainted.
When he recovered, he continued saying prayers to find the Guru and came to the shore of a lake filled with fish. On the field near the lake, two old people were ploughing and eating insects from the furrows. “Have you seen Tilopa?” “Yes,” the man says, “he stayed with us but before I show him to you – wife, fix this monk something to eat.”
The old woman took some fish and frogs from a net in the lake and started to cook them live. When invited to eat, Naropa told her that as a Buddhist monk he no longer takes an evening meal, and besides that he does not eat meat. In truth he was thinking, “It would be against the Doctrine of the Buddha to eat with this old woman who cooks fish and frogs alive.” Then the old man came up with “an ox on his shoulders” and asked the woman, “Have you not prepared food for the monk?” “He seems stupid,” she said. “I cooked him food but he does not want to eat.” Then the old man threw the pan into the fire. The fish and frogs flew into the sky, and said,
“Fettered by habit-forming thoughts ‘tis hard to find the Guru.
How will you find the Guru if you do not eat this fish of habit-forming thoughts
But instead hanker after pleasures which enhance the sense of ego?
Tomorrow I kill my parents.” He disappeared along with everything else and Naropa collapsed.
Pattern, Tilopa is doing his utmost to make obvious to Naropa that he is a man of patterns. He thinks along culturally habituated lines, and that he holds to doctrines whether or not he understands their inner or deeper reason. Naropa also has the habit of saying no in word or action to circumstances and people based upon his “habit-forming mind” and his thoughts of “this and that.” Tilopa began the illuminations by being an old lame woman in the middle of Naropa’s path. She couldn’t move and he wouldn’t help her due to labels, judgement, and pride. He has followed that pattern of behavior based on patterns of thought ever since.
Tilopa also keeps seeking to engage Naropa’s sense of inter-connectedness. Leprous and lame old woman, maggot infested dog, someone disemboweling a corpse then a live man and fried frogs. What does it take to get his attention? In each case, pride-elitism wins the day. He judges the current old woman and the meal she has prepared for her unbidden guest instead responding with gratitude and respect.
The pack of dogs with the hunter represents a trained mind and its ability to “heel” and be ready for whatever the consciousness requires, or to “hunt” and seek out the tricks of unreality. A deer often symbolizes intuition but just as often depicts the fleeting nature of importance which we live as “this and that.” Today, gluten-free or a Reese Cup or your child’s soccer practice or the New York Times might be important. Tomorrow an apple will replace the Reese Cup, the laundry will replace the soccer practice, and the perfect organic pizza will override gluten-free. This is the nature of this and that. Capitalism, patriotism, religion, and the majority of ways that humanity’s money, time, energy, and affections are spent are “this and thats.” Tilopa’s point to Naropa is to call his attention to the prison that his mind has become. And since our mind makes our reality and our relation to our perceived reality, then Tilopa is trying to give Naropa the key to his freedom. Or in the words of Morpheus to Neo from The Matrix, “Free your mind.” Like Neo, Naropa has to jump to a new reality.
As to the meaning of “the arrow of the phantom body” and “the bow of radiant light?” Our physical body is a collection of light particles and space. Its density is a phantom in our mind. I type right now with seemingly solid fingers on a seemingly solid computer, but that is not the case. Long before quantum physics, the ancient meditators knew and wrote of the nature of form and that it is not and never was dense. Believing in an “I” and that “I” believing in a dense form AS itself is the fundamental prison. All other thoughts of ego, separatism, loss, lack, or incompleteness stem from the phantom illusion of an “I” and its body of thoughts. However, when we understand that our beingness is the arrow of illumination streaking through the space of consciousness, then the arrow of the phantom body has been loosed from the bow of radiant light: the bow of perceptive awareness.
A lake full of fish represents the relation of our emotions to our thoughts. Water is ever associated with emotions. Fish, like deer, flit about, are hard to catch, glistening, attractive, and quickly moving on. Our desires move on or disappear when given the chance. The trouble is that we act upon them so immediately that the money is spent, the effect is in motion, and we’re usually not any better for it. The lake is full of fish like our life is full of potential desires and reactions.
Tilopa tells the unaware Naropa, “Tomorrow I kill my parents.” We are reminded that parentage has come up before. Let’s see if Naropa remembers.
Art: Surplus by Sparky 650