One day an angel, flying back to heaven, saw below him a luxuriant forest enveloped in a great, glowing halo of light. Having traveled through the sky many, many times before, he naturally had seen numerous lakes, mountains and forests, but had never paid much attention to them. Today, however, he noticed something different – a forest surrounded by a radiant aura, from which beams of light radiated to every part of the firmament. He reasoned to himself, “Ah, there must be an enlightened being in this wood! I shall go down and see who it is.”
Upon landing, the angel saw a bodhisattva sitting quietly under a tree absorbed in deep meditation. He thought to himself “Now let me find out what meditation he is practicing. And he opened his heavenly eyes to see on what object or idea this yogi had focused his mind.
Angels can usually read the mind of yogis. But in this case, much to his surprise, the angel could not find anything at all. He circled and circled the yogi. And finally went into samadhi himself but still could not find anything in the bodhisattva’s mind.
Finally the angel transformed himself into a human being, circumambulated the bodhisattva three times, prostrated himself, and said:
“I make obeisance to the auspicious one; I pay my homage to you, O lord of all sentient beings! Please awake, come out of samadhi, and tell me upon what you were meditating. After exhausting all my miraculous powers, I still have failed to find out what was in your mind.”
The bodhisattva smiled. Again the angel cried, “I make obeisance to you, I pay homage to you! On what are you meditating?” The bodhisattva merely continued to smile and remained silent.
It is one of the most beautiful parables in all the records of Zen mythology, Zen approach towards life, Zen insight into truth. But the first thing to remember is, it is a parable, a myth. It signifies many things, but it is not a historical fact. Angels don’t exist factually, but they have a great importance mythologically.
No mythology in the whole history of humanity is without the idea of angels. Religions differ almost about everything, but all the religions have some place for the myth of angels. Hence there must be something significant which cannot be related without bringing in the myth of the angels. First that has to be understood.
The angel is thought to be a divine messenger. Man does not exist in a vacuum, man does not exist like an island. He is in constant communion with God or with the whole or with Tao. He may be aware of it, he may not be aware of it – that will make lot of difference. But the fact remains true, whether you are aware or not aware of it, that man is in a constant communion with existence. That is the first thing the myth of the angels represents, that man and existence are deeply in communion. The angels are thought to be messengers of God bringing messages to human beings. They are running between heaven and earth constantly.
If you drop the idea of the angels and just look around you will find thousand and one things continuously running between the earth, the earthly plane, and heaven, the divine plane. As one becomes more alert one finds more and more connections. We exist in a cosmic net and we are part of it.
In the East it is said that the universe is like a spider’s web. If you touch a single thread of the spider’s web, the whole web will feel the vibration Touch a single blade of grass and you have touched the greatest star, the farthest away star, because the whole is an organic unity; nothing is unrelated. It is only human ignorance that has created the idea of the ego.
And man lives in a kind of self-exile; it is self-imposed exile. We have made a small capsule around ourselves; we have become encapsulated, alienated. And then we suffer, then we are miserable. Then we can’t find any meaning in life, any significance in life. Then we feel uprooted, ungrounded. Then we feel accidental, as if we are not needed at all, as if existence would go on running in the same way whether we are or we are not. That gives us a deep wound. We lose confidence, trust in ourselves. We become something futile, unneeded, useless; just by accident we have come into existence.