Human nature is an interesting complexity. We often desire what is not good for us, and that which would fulfill our deep yearnings is overlooked. We might be given directions about something and yet chose an independent route. We preach but do not necessarily practice the pearls so readily espoused to others. Equally, we beings who give and give more. We laugh and enjoy simple things like beauty, friendship, or a fresh picked apple. In short, we care.
Naropa finds himself at a hermitage, perfectly placed along his path. The two men there recognize him, as he had been well known in parts of India as a scholar and an abbot. They offer him due honors which Naropa says is unnecessary and asks if they have seen Tilopa. Yes they think they have, as there is a beggar inside the hut who might be him. Naropa gets excited, and finds the beggar frying fish. The other two men come in and start to come at the beggar saying that he has done evil in the hermitage because he is frying fish. As Naropa watches, the beggar says a magical word, the fish fly back to the lake, and the men disappear. Naropa understanding this must be Tilopa, folds his hands, bows, and begs for instruction. The Guru passes him a handful of lice and says,
“If you would kill the misery of habit-forming thoughts and ingrained tendencies on the endless path to the ultimate nature of all beings, first you must kill these lice.”
Naropa did not, so the Guru disappeared and a voice said,
“You will find it hard to find the Guru if do not kill the louse of habit-forming thoughts, self -originated and self-destructive. Tomorrow I will visit a freak show.”
Tilopa is a guru, a mahasiddha, and a mahamudra practitioner. Translation: guru – a teacher who teaches from his direct experience, mahasidda – a person who can bend the laws of Nature because he/she no longer perceives him/herself bound by laws of density. In other words, a mahasiddha has spiritual powers. Mahamudra as a practice that consistently challenges the perceptions of the mind and the tendency of the mind to believe its perceptions leading eventually to the undoing of the tendency which actually frees the mind. Mahamudra, then, defines the result of the practice which is a mind freed and thus able to participate in unfabricated essence as the vibrational tapestry-wave of Allness. In other words, an enlightened state.
Tilopa is consistent with Naropa in giving him opportunity to notice his labeling of his experiences and encounters and, to at some point, respond differently. Yet Naropa, like most of us, defaults to the habits of his mind and the storehouse of thought forms and beliefs that have been his compass for his life. Tilopa has pointed out that sometimes those thoughts are judgmental, some are unnecessary and don’t serve, and others are simply prideful. In the case of the lice, clearly they are a metaphor of how small things can be quite a nuisance, like many of the small shoulds, coulds, woulds, worries, and reactions that are common to a human being. Tilopa is suggesting that many of those habits of response or reaction are so under the threshold of awareness that Naropa doesn’t notice them, and in not noticing he can’t change them or see their results. We do the same: “Ohh, its raining,” with disappointment in our voice; lottery tickets and wishing that through doing nothing something will happen or change; playing ignorant as if it actually worked to protect us from the ill done, such as with pesticides or genetically engineered food, or any number of things that require being informed and not waiting for the information to possibly come to our email box. Had Naropa scooped up the lice and put them in his mouth, they would have tasted delicous because he would have engaged his perception of reality and that’s all the Guru has been asking.
The story of Naropa as with many others from traditions of the world is asking a simple thing: be more not less, be aware not sleep-walking, be light. In this set of stories, Love or Wisdom is calling for recognition just as in the stories of the world.
Register for my lecture: The Caduceus becomes the Circle about the changes in the Path for Humanity, our evolution, and the circle of becoming Being. $3 tuition pays for the webinar service infrastructure. Thursday, September 27 at 8 p.m. ET. It is available by webcast for those who cannot make that time. You must register to obtain the webcast.