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Surrendering to Monkeys: Letting Go of the Self
July- September 2011
By Dana Lissy
We can try to give all sorts of intellectual explanations about the “non-findability of the self,” but nothing is more valuable than an experiential taste. A few months ago, I was walking down from upper Dharamsala to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives to attend philosophy classes. The sun was shining; my heart was light and happy. The last part of the walk is a steep shortcut leading from the road above to the Library below, curving through beautiful pine trees. As I was about to walk down this last bit, I noticed, down the path, a couple of monkeys hanging around.The best technique to deal with them is to ignore them and walk prudently but confidently by. Usually, they don’t bother you; they just keep a seemingly detached eye on you. As long as you don’t have something edible in your hands, they just ignore you as you ignore them. No big deal.
But before I even realized it, I found myself in the middle of an unusually large group of big, grey macaques. There were mothers with young ones and many males. I could feel their aggressiveness growing. I closed my eyes, paralyzed. There was no escape. I thought that if one of them decides to jump and attack me, the rest would follow and I’d be dead.
I could sense them getting closer, almost touching me. My heart pounded. Fear swept across my body. I felt a huge, solid stone right in the middle of my chest. But something surprising happened. I started to think, Oh, this is it. This is the one they talk about. This is the “self” they say does not exist. Let’s see where it is to be found. And I did my little investigation: not in the heart, not in the brain, not in the trees and not anywhere.
As I was increasingly convinced that this “stone” was just a stupid and useless creation of my mind, something began to shift. My fear started to dissolve and I reached a state of total acceptance and surrendering. Despite a sudden vision of my body being savaged by the monkeys and torn to bloody pieces, I thought, That’s all right, whatever happens is fine, whatever happens is perfect, otherwise it would not happen. There were no more aggressive monkeys, no more ”me” in danger. My eyes were still closed, the monkeys were still growling, but my mind was perfectly at ease, in tune with what was.
Then, perhaps because of the vivid green color of the pine trees, a beautiful transparent Tara appeared in my mind and I felt totally safe. At this very moment, I felt that the whole group of monkeys started to gently leave. I waited, amazed, and slowly opened my eyes. The monkeys were indeed walking away. I had classes and continued to walk down to the Library as if nothing had happened.
The power of our mind is beyond our comprehension. If a muddy and lazy mind such as mine can surrender to the monkeys, then imagine the power of a pure, clean-clear mind – the kind of mind our precious teachers have! The kind of power that really benefits others.
May we meet many “monkeys” on our paths!
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Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
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