Miraculously, I was still alive when I woke up, having slept well. I lit my lamp to see what the monster was up to, and could see the beast slowly licking some tiger bones. It was carefully watching me out of the corner of its eye, and it was perplexed. Last night brought up things that were buried so deep in the creatures past existences that it could not remember ever having such feelings before, and it was somewhat confused.
The monster's past lives that Ariya revealed were truly hideous, including the one that sent it to hell. I knew that if I could just communicate the experiences to the creature, there might be a chance that it would remember its bad kamma and resolve to make amends. This recollection and remorse would be the only thing required for the hell being to escape its horrific fate and begin its journey back. The difficulty would be in somehow convincing the beast that I could, indeed, help. My lamp oil was running low so I extinguished the flame. We sat in silence.
After a while I said, “I know why you were thrown into the hell realm. "
"Really?" said the monster, sarcastically.
"Really. " I answered, curtly. Do you want to hear about it or not?"
"Not necessarily, " it said matter-of-factly, “but if it will keep your mind off being eaten, go ahead and tell me all about it. "
"Once, a very long time ago, " I began, “you were living on a sphere of incredible beauty. The people were gentle and kind, with their lives centered on peaceful trade and commerce between the various countries, one of which was governed by you. During your rule, foreigners immigrated to your country who were exceptionally skilled traders, and because of their proficiency, they prospered more than the natural born citizens you represented. Knowing that they would eventually erode your political power with their increasing numbers and influence, you became resentful of them and their accomplishments, and they became a thorn in your side. Any news of their achievements only enraged you more; so much so, that eventually you made a decision to convince your supporters that these immigrants were dangerous and you began a crusade to exile them.
"The people believed your persuasive arguments as you were very charismatic and clever. You even practiced hand motions and speech techniques to become a shrill voice against these innocent immigrants whose solitary sin was to be successful in what they were proficient at, which was blameless commerce. Your proclamations became increasingly strident, and your support increased as well, encouraging you to begin ruthless acts against these people, going as far as sending them far away from the main centers of your country and imprisoning them in compounds. Then, as the expense mounted to maintain these prisons, you began killing these poor people until every one of them was exterminated . . . with the exception of one young man who was overlooked.
"This young immigrant, whose life was destroyed and his family murdered by your politics, hid in the countryside, and watched helplessly while his entire race was wiped out. When the carnage was over, he slipped into the city, and while you were dining and celebrating your victory over these unfortunate people, he came into the hall disguised as a server and buried a dagger in your heart. "
I lit my lamp, risking the small amount of oil that remained. Now I could look directly in the monster's eyes as I continued, “When you died, your kamma consisted of nothing but evil actions - killing and hatred - and you immediately were chased by the beings of hell until you finally relented and became one of them, and then you dove into this cave for refuge. And here you will remain until the gentle rains wear this mountain of solid granite down to the ground, or until you see a different way to live. "
"Good!" The beast laughed. “I knew I was rotten, and I'm glad I killed those stupid people. And I would do it again if I could. "
The creature then became quiet . . . for a long time. The influence of my inner work from the previous night affected it deeply, and it started to remember the horrifying things it had done. It was all extremely disquieting, even to a monster.
I was definitely becoming a thorn in the beast's side. Things were coming up in the hell being's mind and heart which were dormant for eons in this cursed cave, and the creature was becoming increasingly confused. Kamma, however, is a stubborn thing, and since the monster's cruelty could not be diffused that quickly, it decided there was no alternative but to eat me.
The creature shuffled across the cave and grabbed me with its long claws, but since I was wearing my heavy coat, the beast only managed to grab a claw-full of fur, and as the coat was ripped off my body, a small, yellowed piece of paper fluttered to the floor.
I had forgotten all about it until now, and then remembered that Sahmad had given it to me many years ago on the mountain. The monster glanced at it with a momentary curiosity, and then for some strange reason was compelled to pick it up. Astonishingly, he found that he could read the enigmatic writings on the water stained document!
It was a letter written in the ancient text from the sphere and era of the beast's last lifetime, and was addressed to the boy who had driven the dagger into his heart. It was from the boy's mother, writing him from a death camp. Every prisoner was destined to die in a short period of time; the men killed on the day of arrival and the young girls separated out and given to the soldiers for a few days to do with as they pleased before they were killed as well.
The old women and children were barely kept alive, starving, and slaving for the soldiers until they were eventually herded into a building where they were killed by poison gas. The soldiers would not waste gas on just a few people, so sometimes a month or so would go by before they had enough women and children to fill the building.
As the creature recalled this nightmare in light of its recent exposure to my inner work, its conscience began to bother it, and there was a definite change in the monster's heart as it began to read a condemned mother's last letter to her son:
"My dearest son,
I hope this letter finds you safe. We are all well, arriving here last month. Your father has a job at the camp keeping the fences repaired and your sisters are helping in the hospital. There is plenty of good food and we have been put up in nice houses. It is almost like home and we are like a big family.
Anyway, we will not be here too long, and look forward to seeing you soon so we can to tell you of our adventures.
I miss you so very much, and must to tell you how much I have always loved you. You were such a treasure to me ever since you were little and you have brightened my life so much. It is so hard being away from you at these times as I worry about you, as I always have, but trust somehow you are safe. I could not bear to know otherwise.
Please take care of yourself and always be kind to others, for they all suffer greatly in their own ways.
And please, always remember your mother, and how much she always loved you.
Goodbye my son. "
The beast glanced toward the front of the cave. Everything was silent; the only sound that could be heard was the creature's deep, steady breathing. With the letter still in its claw, it sat down and stared at the floor, thinking of this anguished woman whose husband had just been murdered and daughters raped, knowing she and her grandchildren were soon to be killed as well.
She had to touch her son one last time but couldn't risk telling him of the horrors she had witnessed; the murders of her husband and two daughters and all of her people, for fear that her son would react angrily and do something that would endanger his life.
And although she could not tell him the truth, her heart was breaking. She knew her time was short. With nobody to confide in, she reached out to the only thing she had left in the world, with a last letter that would never arrive. And although she courageously tried to keep the letter cheerful and full of hope, it slowly fell apart when she said had to say her last good-bye.
The creature had merely understood with its ‘head’ when I first told it of its previous lifetime, but now it had ‘seen’ something with its heart, opening up a possibility that the beast could exit this hell realm and escape into the animal world. The only thing required would be for the monster to decide to do it, for it was only the creature, itself, that was holding back a change of heart.
I sat in silence waiting for the hell being make its decision. Would it continue down its path of certain destruction, or would it embark on a difficult journey to certain freedom?
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