Monday, September 24, 2012

The Anger Eating Demon

Here is a little story that I heard some time ago, supposedly first told by Buddha himself:
Once upon a time there was a wise king who had to leave his palace for a business trip. During the king's absence, a demon (asura) arrived, walked right into the palace and sat down on the king’s throne. Upon seeing this, the guards became afraid, but soon their fear was replaced by anger and they started shouting, "Get out of the throne, how dare you sit on the throne of our ruler? who do you think you are!" As the guards became angrier and angrier, the demon grew taller, stronger and more powerful. This continued with each insult and with each threat coming from the guards, until the demon had become so huge, he took up most of the room.

When the king returned and saw this enormous demon in his throne, he knew immediately what to do. He entered the throne room and said, "Welcome friend! How nice of you to visit me! Has anyone offered you something to eat yet? Would you like something to drink?" With the king's friendly words the demon started shrinking. And with each kind word and kind gesture it became smaller and smaller. The king continued until the demon disappeared completely, and the king was able to retake his throne.
(I've found several versions of this story, and this is how I remember hearing it. But you can read the "original" here).

When I first heard the story, I understood the message to be that we should respond to anger with kindness, but at the time I was thinking about other people's anger. When I was writing my last post, this story came back to me, and I saw that there is another way of interpreting this story. Perhaps the story is not only about other people's anger, but also about your own anger and inner demons. When you ignore or resist your demons they grow bigger, stronger and more powerful. But when you address your demons, acknowledge them, name them and embrace them...they start to shrink and to loose their power. Until at some point they dissolve and disappear completely.

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