Essay Eleven: The Buddha at the Gate.
Let me tell you a story. There was a young monk who was sent by his Abbot to beg for food in a nearby town. The town had a wall around it, with a main gate placed at each cardinal direction. The young monk was a little nervous during his first alms round but the townspeople were very generous and quickly filled his bowl. Late that morning he decided to leave by the North Gate. Sitting to one side of the gate was a bedraggled, dirty old beggar who stirred himself at the sight of the young monk and started to spit and curse at him. The monk jumped to one side in alarm and quickly passed through the gate as fast as he could. As he walked away he could still hear the beggar’s curses ringing in his ears.
On the next day once his bowl was full he decided to leave by the West Gate to avoid the dreadful old beggar. But the beggar was there, spitting and cursing at him once again. The young monk was angry this time and shouted at the old beggar “Don’t you know who I am? I am a student of the Buddha!” At which point the beggar picked up some dirt and threw it into the bowl, spoiling the monk’s collection of food. Angrily the young monk walked back to the monastery, knowing he would have to endure an enforced fast, wondering why he should be treated in this way. So he made up his mind to breathe and calm himself and to totally ignore the beggar if they should meet again.
As he left by the South Gate next day he met the old beggar, still cursing and spitting at him. He protected his food with part of his robe and kept his head down as he endured the abuse from the old beggar once more. His heart was in turmoil, his mind in so much distress that he could eat nothing from his bowl once he reached the monastery. Next day he left by the East Gate and to his dismay the same old beggar was waiting for him. As he heard the curses and endured the spitting, the young monk raised his walking staff to strike the old beggar, who just cackled in glee at the young monk’s discomfort. With a moment’s pause the monk stayed his hand and walked quickly through the East Gate.
He was deeply ashamed at how close he had come to violence. He felt he was a wretched student of the Buddha and totally confused as to why all this abuse was happening to him. He suffered so much from the anger and violence inside himself that he knew he needed his Master’s guidance. He sought out the Abbot and asked for forgiveness and guidance after he told the story of his past four days. The Abbot listened deeply to the young monk then smiled very gently with understanding.
“My child, you have met the Buddha at the Gate. He is asking you to look deeply into the depths of your reactions and anger. He is asking you to listen instead to the deep source of Love and Compassion in your heart. He is asking you not to lose your Joy and Equanimity. He encourages you to develop your Equanimity so it is solid and strong, not easily moved. These are the Buddha’s teachings on Love and you must meditate deeply on these teachings.”
The Abbot instructed him on the Buddha’s Teachings on Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity; the Four Immeasurable Minds. Also known as the Four Brahmaviharas, these teachings were first given by the Buddha to a Hindu gentleman who wished to find the way to be with Brahma, the Universal God. The young monk was instructed to deepen his practice, to listen deeply to his heart and always to stop and look deeply into the causes and conditions of his reactions, anger and violence. The young monk bowed in gratitude to his Abbot and diligently practiced meditating on the Buddha’s teachings, immediately putting them into daily practice. This enabled him to pass by the beggar without reaction, until one day no beggar was to be found at any of the four gates.
This simple teaching is something we can all put into practice and not activate the demons in our own mind. A better world is the end result.