I was recently reminded of this powerful instigative tale by a recording of Bill O’Hanlan presenting it. It has two powerful lessons. First, remember that what you experience is a construction within your own bodymind. Second, whatever you experience, keep moving. Nothing lasts forever.
I hope it is an inspiration to you today.
Once upon a time, a long long time ago in Tibet, there was a ceremony held every one hundred years which Buddhist students could undergo in order to attain ‘enlightenment’. All of the students would line up in their white robes, and the Tibetan priests and the Dalai Lama would line up before the students.
The Dalai Lama would begin the ceremony by saying, “This is the ceremony of The Room of 1,000 Demons. It is a ceremony for enlightenment, and it happens only once every one hundred years. If you choose not to go through with it now, you will have to wait for another one hundred years. To help you make this decision, we’ll tell you what the ceremony involves.”
“In order to enter The Room of 1,000 Demons, all you have to do is open the door and walk in. The Room of 1,000 Demons is not very big. Once you enter, the door will close behind you. There is no door handle on the inside of the door. In order to get out, you will have to walk all the way through the room, find the door on the other side, open the door (which is unlocked), and walk out of the room. Then you will be enlightened.”
“The room is called The Room of 1,000 Demons because there are one thousand demons in there. These demons have the ability to take the form of your worst fears. As soon as you walk into the room, the demons will show you your worst fears. If you have a fear of heights, when you walk into the room it will appear as if you are standing on a narrow ledge of an extremely tall building. If you have a fear of spiders, you’ll be surrounded by the most terrifying eight-legged creatures imaginable. Whatever your fears are, the demons take those images from your mind and seem to make them real. In fact, they’ll be so compellingly real that it will be very difficult to remember that they’re not.”
“We can’t come in and rescue you. That is part of the rules. If you go into The Room of 1,000 Demons, you must leave it on your own. Some people never leave. They go into The Room of 1,000 Demons and become paralysed with fright. They stay trapped in the room until they die. If you want to take the risk of entering the room, that’s fine. If you don’t want to go in and decide that you want to go home instead, that’s fine. You don’t have to enter the room. You can wait until you are re-incarnated, come back in one hundred years time, and try it again.”
“If you want to enter the room, we have two hints for you.
The first hint: As soon as you enter The Room of 1,000 Demons, remember that what the demons show you isn’t real. It’s all from your mind. Don’t buy into it; it’s an illusion. Of course, most of the people who went into the room before you couldn’t remember that. This idea is very difficult to keep in mind.
The second hint has been more helpful for the people who made it out the other side and became enlightened. Once you go into the room, no matter what you see, no matter what you feel, no matter what you hear, no matter what you think, keep your feet moving. If you keep your feet moving, you will eventually get to the other side, find the door, and come out.”