One of my favorite books ever is called “Opening the door of your heart” by a Buddhist monk named Ajahn Brahm. He teaches through Buddhist stories which are heart-touching and often very funny. One of my favorites was one called “the anger eating demon”, a pretty common allegory tale in Buddhist tales, but I love the way he tells it. I will l share that here in a bit.
My teacher, Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha, is emphasizing greatly right now the importance of removing anger from ourselves. He teaches that anger, and all it’s sometimes sneaky manifestations, are one of the main stumbling blocks on the spiritual journey. He uses a quote often,
“Anger burns virtue like a fire.”
Master Sha uses the visual analogy of two people fighting and being angry, and literally throwing their virtue back and forth at each other, giving their spiritual capital away through anger. Anger is a big container, and carries lots of smaller versions of itself. It embraces irritability, crankiness, criticism, judgmentalness, nagging, fussiness, rage…you know. The lot. Anger spills you. I remember clearly seeing an energetic image of a dear one having a fit about some mechanical thing, and seeing the energy blurp out of him. We feed the demon with these dark and often hurtful actions and reactions. Here is the story as told by Ajahn Brahm.
So if you’re sitting comfortably, I will tell you the story. A long time ago, in one of those times
when there were palaces, not with politicians and
dictators, but real emperors. Emperors who were there because they were smart, they
were wise, they were strong and very effective rulers.
And, it just happened that the emperor was away on some sort of business. And in his
absence, a monster came in. It was a demon. Ugly, frightening, terrifying.
And because this monster was so frightening, all of the soldiers, guards and people who
were supposed to stop visitors coming in at the wrong time — they froze in terror, allowing
this monster to walk right into the centre of the palace, and sit on the Emperor’s throne.
And when that monster sat down on the Emperor’s chair, that was going too far.
So the guards came to their senses, said “Get out of here! You don’t belong! Who do
you think you are?! That is our Emperor’s chair, you can’t sit in there.”
And, at those few unkind words, and unkind deeds, that monster grew an inch bigger. More
frightening, more smelly, and more offensive. And that really upset all the people in the palace.
They got out their swords, they clenched their fists, “if you don’t move your butt, we’ll
carve it out with our swords, get out of here! Quick!” But every unkind word, unkind deed, even
unkind thought, the monster grew an inch bigger every time, more ugly, more stinky, and the
language got worse. And this had been going on a long time, when
eventually the Emperor came back. And he came back into his palace, into his throne hall,
and he saw this incredibly big, frightening monster there. It was so big, it took up most
of the throne room. Huge. Talk about fat and obese. That monster, I’ve got nothing on that
monster. The only reason I’m putting on weight by the way is because Buddhism is expanding,
so am I. Anyway back to the monster. This was one fat monster.
And, he was so ugly, I mean really frightening It was terrifying.
And as for the stench, coming off this monster, it smelled so bad that the maggots crawling
over his body threw up — they were sick. They vomited.
And the language, the language of this monster was worse, much worse, than you’d hear in
Northbridge after the West Coast Eagles (an Australian football club) got beaten.
It was one very sick monster. But, that Emperor, the reason he was the Emperor, was because
of his great wisdom. He saw that terrifying, huge, stinky monster, and understood what
to do. He said the wonderful word “welcome”.
Welcome monster. Thank you for coming. And at that, the monster grew an inch smaller.
Less ugly, the maggots stopped throwing up, and his language got better. And the people
around realised their mistakes. Instead of saying “get out”, and getting angry, they
started being kind to the monster. Welcome, you want something to eat? How about
a pizza? Monster size. About three or four of them, got on the monster’s feet to give
him a foot massage. You’ve had a foot massage? Oh it’s so rare getting a foot massage if
you’re a monster. That monster — “ooh, just over there a bit, ooh that’s just right, there.”
And they gave him cups of tea as well. They said do you want a cup of tea or a cup of
coffee. You know we have, we have Dilmar, from Sri Lanka. We have peppermint, it’s good
for your health. And there were … you know one lump or two of honey.
They were so kind to that monster. And every kind act, word or thought, the monster grew
an inch smaller, less ugly, less smelly, less offensive.
And soon that monster was back to the size when he first came in. They didn’t stop there.
They carried on with their kindness so much, that soon that monster was so small, that
one more act of kindness, and the monster vanished completely away.
And that’s how the monster was removed from the Emperor’s palace.
Not with “get out of here, you don’t belong.” But “welcome, thank you for coming. What can
I do for you.” The Buddha told that story, that’s a real
story, from the Uddana in the Tipitaka. Only I added in a few details like the pizza, that
wasn’t … that wasn’t .. same for the foot massage, I added that.
But, the essence is there. The anger … and the Buddha said, to the monks, he said we
call that an Anger-Eating Demon. And when I first read that I thought “wow”.
That’s a powerful message, anger-eating demon. You give them anger, that’s what they eat.
That’s what they grow with. That’s how they become more powerful. That’s what makes them
bigger, stronger and more negative. They feed off your ill-will. And I’ve seen that so often, you know
with people I’ve looked at and worked with. — anger, “get out of here, you don’t belong.”
Monk Brahm did the heavy lifting here, but tells it so well! Thank you. What can we take away from this? If we don’t want to be a smelly terrifying monster, we must learn to embody peace, breathe before speaking, and curb our tongue.