One day, in the transcendent realm atop Mount Mehru, the mountain of heaven, a devoted soul was able to scale its slippery cliffs of detachment and reach the abode where it was said the Buddha himself resided.
As this was a world of wish-fulfilling trees, the traveler prostrated himself. In sincere supplication, he requested a vision from the enlightened one.
In a flash, the Buddha manifested in his visitor’s awareness – an understanding of all phenomena. No matter where the new arrival cast his gaze, there he experienced instantaneous comprehension. Reflecting for a moment, he asked himself what it was he still longed to know.
In an instant, an understanding of the nature of suffering unfolded before him. He was transported to a scene above a dungeon in which an embittered soul was shackled. Moved by compassion for the suffering before him, he insisted on knowing why this had to be so.
The Buddha responded, “The chains and shackles are of his own making. They are but the negative habits of mind he has yet to purify, and the anger and curses he continues to unleash, only prolong his own suffering.”
“But why is he imprisoned in a lonely place?” to which the Buddha responded, “His prison cell too is the product of his own mind, only, it is the result of his own deeper compassion to isolate himself from harming other sentient beings. It is the only gift he can at present offer others, which is why you are moved to pity him.”
Upon hearing these words, the devotee prayed that the prisoner might come to see the origination and nature of his own bondage, and to be fortified in his resolve to curb his tendencies toward negative emotions through discipline and practice.
In that moment, the prisoner felt a great shaft of warm light bathe his awareness, a light which, despite its warmth, cooled his anger, loosening the grip of his own self-induced chains. This brought a tearful smile, for in that moment, the prisoner realized he was the devotee atop that sacred mountain, with that awareness now manifested as both a smile and a tear upon his face.
Paul LeMay Nov. 24/1998