At that exact moment, a young couple from the village was coincidently walking down the path with some food they had prepared for me. When they saw me emerge from the cave with this creature from hell, they were understandably horrified and dove into the bushes, as they had never seen such a hideous thing and were certain that I was about to be killed.
The beast slowly uncovered its eyes, and for the first time in its tortured memory looked at a dazzling, golden sun hanging in an azure sky, with majestic clouds of cotton slipping by over deep, green forests. The creature was overwhelmed and began to weep, and as its tears splashed to the ground, each one changed into a small white dove that flew away. Its whole body then began to shrink, smaller and smaller until it transformed itself into a beautiful white tiger.
The white tiger stood at the entrance to the cave looking at me with its tail twitching for a few moments, and then dashed into the forest not far from where the young couple was hiding in the bushes. They had seen everything, and all they could do was drop the food on the ground and run back to the village as fast as they could.
I would not eat today - nor would I be eaten.
The cave was finally peaceful, and now that I could practice my inner work undisturbed, I was determined to spend the next three years in utter solitude with no interruptions. The next morning, however, when I walked to the entrance for the food offering, I found myself surrounded on all sides by cheering villagers!
"You have ended the hell being's siege of the cave! But not only have you ridded the cave of this menace, you have done it mercifully by helping it to go on instead of killing it!" exclaimed the excited village elder. The crowd quieted down and pressed their palms together, as he continued, “Such great courage and compassion have never before been witnessed by the people of this humble village, and we ask that you give us a few words of wisdom before you retire to the cave for your solitary endeavors. "
The villagers patiently waited while I ate my food, washed my clay bowl, and placed it in the sun to dry. I walked a short distance from the cave, took a seat on a rock, and then asked permission to speak.
I told the story of the beasts decent into the hell realms after its previous life as a murderer of innocent families, and then cautioned the villagers, “Do not harbor the slightest thoughts of jealousy or hatred toward your neighbors, because thoughts precede words, words precede actions, and it is your actions which determine your kamma and how you will fare in subsequent lifetimes. The beast's kamma was so atrocious that if someone would not have intervened, it was destined to remain in the cave until the granite mountain was worn down to the ground.
"At any given moment we have either love or fear in our hearts; there is not room for both. Love will encourage more love in return, and fear will promote more fear and extensive suffering in return. It is well to be aware of which is in your heart at all times and reflect upon this. Just a simple awareness of your heart, and what is in your heart at each moment will by itself create a change in your actions.
"When we have jealousy in our hearts, this is an expression of fear, where we are afraid that we will not be the center of someone's attention. Therefore, we are really interested in ourselves instead of the other. If we truly love the other, then there can be no jealousy, as there cannot be real love and fear together. Real love is unconditional; it is unlimited and flows out to everything.
"If there had been fear in my heart when the creature confronted me, I would have fought desperately to save my life, but with love in my heart there was simply a concern for the beast and how to help it. If it had killed me while I had love in my heart, my rebirth would have been in a beautiful realm of peace and happiness. If on the other hand, I would have been killed in a fearful fight for my life, I would have been reborn into a frightful realm to satisfy my illusory struggles at the time of death.
"I once knew an innocent blacksmith who before dying in the dungeons forgave the one who sentenced him death. He therefore died in peace and acceptance, whereas the cruel prince who was responsible for his death knew only fear and confusion. I was that prince, and I can truthfully tell you that you have the opportunity to find peace in your hearts, for if I; a torturer of men can find peace, then surely you can can find peace as well. Every one of you is already well advanced beyond what I was, which was not much different from the beast of the cave.
"So this is how you should live your life; with love, which is more important than riches or property, for love is the treasure which will bring untold happiness. "
I joined my palms and bowed to the gathered villagers. The elder said they were very moved by the wise words of “the prince with one eye" and that I left them with a feeling of lightness and ease.
I made my way back toward the cave and noticed a middle-aged man waiting near the entrance; he had his hands clasped, indicating he would like to speak with me. When I walked over to where he was waiting, he said, “Thank you for a moment of your time. I must make a difficult decision and was hoping that you could help. "
I nodded my head in acknowledgement.
"When I first came here, " he began, “I was very happy. The weather was beautiful and I had many new things to see and do in the village. I met interesting new friends, was able to find satisfying work and felt that this place was where I would live for the rest of my life. Lately however, I have been thinking I might be happier if I move to the large kingdom to the east. Now I find the weather too hot, and as I become more familiar with many of the people I once admired, I find them to be not as interesting as I once thought. I am tired of my job selling carpets and no longer derive any satisfaction from it.
When I first began my job, I was very happy and sincerely interested in the trade, and in my customers. As time went by however, I found myself only pretending to be interested in the people who came to look at my carpets, for my only interest became to persuade them to buy so that I could accumulate gold. I found this to be a subtle form of manipulation and I am not sure that I can continue to do this. So, I think that perhaps I should move on. "
The man was not simply troubled, but on the verge of a spiritual awakening, in that he was becoming aware of how he cleverly controlled people to satisfy his ambitions. Why else would he want to discuss his life; he would simply go about his business without seeking advice from a humble key seeker.
"Why are you distressed by this impending decision, " I asked him.
The man stared at the ground for a moment and then confessed, “The way I am feeling now is no different than when I decided to move here - I was fed up with everything where I was living. Now I am tired of everything here and want to make another fresh start somewhere so that I can be happy again. "
I knew that a new place and new things would certainly make the man temporarily happy. When I asked him why he was uneasy regarding this, it was a rhetorical question, because I already knew the answer, readily remembering how quickly I tired of everything when I was a young prince.
The man agreed that everything would be fine for a while in a new place and said, “I will be honest with you, I am uneasy because I have moved around quite a bit in my life. Now as I get older, however, I am becoming frightened, because my amusement lasts a shorter period of time after each move.
Now, the satisfaction fades more quickly with each move, and lately, I find difficulty in being amused at all, with anything, and with this feeling of boredom and depression, I have no recourse other than to continually move on. I am afraid that someday the moving won't help, or that I will be unable to move. Then what will I do?"
The man hung his head again, and I couldn't help feel a great compassion for him and his fellow human beings, so desperately trying to find happiness, and so afraid of the emptiness. And I was no different.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com