I downloaded Douglas J Penick’s book The Brilliance of Naked Mind to my new Kindle (thanks, kids!) and this story was in the first few pages. It made my heart soar.
Gesar was a Warrior Hero of Tibet. This is the story of the Battle Visions he experienced when he went to slay the demon, Satham of Jang.
It is a tale of an infinity of lives.
”There is an inner story of this epic conquest, a secret account, and it is far more strange and unsettling. Here Gesar experienced not just a single great encounter but innumerable encounters. The inner story of Gesar’s conquest of Satham of Jang comprises so many tales that Gesar himself could later recall only a relatively small number. Indeed he was or is unsure whether he was or is still experiencing them. However, even if many of Gesar’s adventures in the great body of Satham of Jang have become blurred, he has been able to bring back some longer accounts of great spiritual masters and enlightened rulers. How this has come to pass is as follows.
Early one evening as King Satham is indulging in yet another lavish feast amid his generals, followers and family, he raises a toast with a great golden cup of wine. And he slakes his thirst with one huge gulp. Gesar, now a small iron bee with furious wings of razor steel, flies into the demon’s mouth and down his throat.
He streaks past the sharp bronze teeth, and is, sucked in deeper by the demon’s gasping breath. Bobbing above the descending purple waves of wine, he hurtles down through the coal black throat. As he presses forward, he slices little holes in the demon’s throat. Satham grunts in pain, but thinks it is merely some passing irritation. Then Gesar begins to move though the demon’s innards in deadly earnest. He nips and slices at organs, cavities and tendons. Satham now roars in pain. His whole body vibrates like the meeting of two huge cymbals, crushing Gesar until he passes out.
The Great Destroyer of Demons now falls down and down until he crashes to the floor in the depth of the Satham’s body.
When he wakes, he finds himself in a vast space filled with dazzling light. Gesar shakes his head and stares in amazement. He has no idea where he is. In front of him is a huge glass tower extending up and up, becoming increasingly brighter at its height. Beyond is a glassy sky of blazing rainbow light, and beneath Gesar’s feet is an expanse of dark red glass.
Gesar finds himself lying on a couch of lavender glass; ten chairs of emerald glass and a pink glass table stood nearby. On the table is a black glass tea-pot, a lemon-colored tea bowl and a turquoise glass bell. There are seven red glass windows in the surrounding walls.
Gesar is dazed and puzzled. It takes him some time to realize that all around him the glittering walls are actually made of hundreds of millions of mirrors, mirrors of every size and shape. Ranging up the walls one above the other, they reflect each other’s light back and forth, and their light becomes ever more intense. Some of the mirrors nearest Gesar are immense, others are tiny, some are square, others round, still others are as irregular as rain puddles. Some are very old, while others are of a manufacture that can only be imagined as coming from a future. Some are perfect, some are cracked. Some seem to stare at Gesar as if they were alive, while others loom like holes that open onto empty space.”
And these are not ordinary mirrors; each bears a label to indicate its special nature. Gesar looks around and sees the Heavenly Emperor Mirror with its gold tiger hook; he sees the White Jade Heart Mirror, the Mirror that is Archer Li, the Blossom Mirror, the Mirror of Torture, the Wind Mirror, and the Self-Doubt Mirror. He sees the Mirror of Man and Woman, the Mirror of Birds, the Mirror of Melody, the Corpse Mirror, the Mirror of Water, The Ice Terrace Mirror, the Mirror of Lust, the Mountain Mirror, the Iron Mask Mirror, the Mirror of Deceit, the Mirror of Me, the Mirror of the Moon, the Mirror in the Shape of the Yong Le Emperor, the Mirror that is Seven Vanished Nations, the Mirror of a Princess pining for a Prince, the Stillness Mirror, the Mirror of Warfare, the Mirror of Nothingness, the Mirror of Bitter Sorrow. He sees the Mirror of the Hangman’s Noose, the Mirror of Crushing Fists, the Mirror of Repetition, the Mirror of Saliva, the Mirror with No Words, the Mirror that Holds Back Reflections, the Mirror that is the First Concubine of Emperor Hsuan-yuan, the One Smile Mirror, the Mirror of Rape, the Mirror that is Rice Farmer Chen, the Pillow Mirror, the No-Reflection Mirror, the Flying Mirror, the Horse Mirror, The Mirror of Milk, the Mirror of Perfume. These are only the first mirrors which King Gesar sees within the magical body of King Satham of Jang.
And when he looks into these mirrors, Gesar does not see himself. When merely he glances in one of these mirrors, Gesar enters a completely different world. The world within each mirror has a different sky, different rivers and seas, different plants, suns, moons, stars, animals, cities, men and women. Some are bygone worlds; some are alternate versions of the present and some are unknown futures. Some mirrors show worlds with different physical laws, different customs and different forms of cause and effect. Some worlds are even without light or sun or solidity or space or any movement or thought or emotion. Some are beautiful beyond imagining, others are hells so vile one shrinks to think of them.
And in each of these innumerable new worlds, though Gesar sometimes is someone almost exactly like himself, in others he finds himself to be a new and unimaginable being. He becomes one who is intelligent, stupid, warm, cold, weak, strong, male, female or something in between or both at once or neither at all; sometimes he is human, sometimes a god, hell-being, ghost or beast. He meets gods, warriors, noblewomen, scoundrels, gurus, courtesans, murderers, vagrants, pilgrims, housewives, children, animals, beings of every kind. Sometimes he is an inanimate object and his life, lasting from creation to destruction, is that of a crystal goblet.
In every world, what he must know, must believe, what he must cultivate as wisdom or love, what he must recognize as crime, degradation or virtue, and what he can actually experience as happiness or misery, all are utterly unfamiliar and must be learned anew, if he can learn at all. In some realms, he receives profound, world-altering teachings that he forgets immediately. In others, he has insights that he struggles to retain. But in the torrential succession of experiences, nothing, or almost nothing remains. Gesar glances into each mirror and takes such a new form, he experiences a whole entire life as a new being in a new world from beginning to end; in whatever dramas and struggles that world presents, he lives it out from birth to death.”
”In uncontrollable frenzy, Gesar flies in and out of mirror after mirror. He is like an insect that must rush from flower to flower to sustain itself. Some worlds seem to last only as long as a caress or the sound of a single note. In other realms, it seems that movement is as slow as the changes in a great mountain range. But he cannot make things go more quickly and he cannot stop to find rest. Worlds begin to blur and blend; only realms that resemble his own original time make the slightest fleeting imprint. His mind becomes nothing but a racing silence or a roaring motionless expanse.
He continues spinning through endless worlds and endless selves. Like a golden bolt of lightning, he flashes from mirror world to mirror world.
And each time he enters a world, takes form and dies there, that world dies too; the mirror through which he entered it is shattered. Thus one by one, but at the speed of light, Gesar is destroying every cell in the terrible and wondrous being called Satham of Jang.
So, beginning at the bottom of his torso and rising through his bowels, his stomach his liver and heart and finally to his brain, the Demon King’s inner organs desiccate and collapse. At the same time, friction from incessant movement causes the iron bee that is Gesar to become hotter and hotter until he glows like a branding iron. As he passes through King Satham’s body, everything he brushes past begins to smolder and catch fire. As he reaches the apex of the demon’s skull, the world around him smokes and burns. When finally he escapes through a crack in the Demon King’s skull, he hears the faint buzzing of a small black fly following. This insect, the carrion essence of all that once was Satham of Jang disappears in the smoke.
For a few moments or possibly much longer, Gesar is not sure what world he has now entered. He is not certain that he has returned to his true home world. The sky seems not quite so high or bright, the grass seems a different shade of green. When he sees the Miracle Horse, Kyang Ko Kar Kar waiting for him, his steed seems slightly different; the way he shifts his weight is not quite the same. And when Gesar resumes his accustomed guise, his armor seems heavier, his helmet tighter; his weapons have a slightly different balance. He wonders if indeed he has entered a slightly different realm. And he realizes that there is no way that he will ever know.
Gesar, Lion King of Ling, Destroyer of the Demons, The Peerless Warrior has no choice. He leaps into the turquoise saddle of his horse of miracles, Kyang Ko Kar Kar. The two fly up into the pale blue cloudless sky, where they seem to fuse. They become an enormous golden garuda, floating on immense vulture-like wings in the center of the sky…
When Gesar has returned to Ling, he sits on his throne and wears the golden robe that commemorates his triumph over Satham of Jang. Now he feels millions upon millions of other worlds nearby and myriad other Gesar beings very much alive. He feels that in every instant, with each blink of an eye or turn of his head, he shifts slightly from one world to another. When he sleeps, he feels he is living out other fates in other realms. Every world he passes through calls forth waves of his love and his devotion, but there is no certainty or substance. His victories over demonic obsession, for all their courage, pain and sacrifice, will never bring a sure conclusion.
Gesar does not know if the heroes he believes in exist or ever existed in this world, whether their stories are or ever were true here, or whether they will later find a world where they may yet be true. He does not know if he heard accounts of renowned mahasiddhas in his dreams. He does not know why he would find descriptions of the rulers of Shambhala familiar. Nonetheless, he writes them down as he might write a wistful love poem to a woman he knew by name only.”