invite the enemy to tea

 
Pogo, by Walt Kelly

Epiphany 7 (year A)
“give, pray, love”
Matthew 5:38-48
(love your enemies)
http://edgeofenclosure.org 

I went to the Rubin Museum (http://www.rmanyc.org/)  recently for a tour and talk on the exhibit Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism. In one corner a large map of Samsara showed souls ascending through the realms of becoming, only to slide swiftly down slippery ramps all the way to hellish regions after embracing, say, Pride. The Samsara painting was paired with a Christian Icon of a ladder of St. John Climacus, with demons pulling at souls ascending the ladder toward heaven and dragging them into hell. The guide pointed out that in Buddhism you have many lifetimes to get off the wheel of becoming, that is, to reach Nirvana, and that in Christianity you have only one chance. She also said that the demons in Buddhism are the demons within yourself, and in Christianity, the demons are external.

Well, the lecture was not a time to argue and I had a train to catch.

But on the way home I thought about St. Anthony and his loud battles with demons, trampling, purging, wrestling and singing Psalm texts at them. And I thought about my inner demons and the story of Milarepa, the Tibetan yogi and poet. Milarepa began his life training as a sorcerer impelled by resentment and the desire for revenge. After killing his mother’s enemies during a wedding party, he repented, attached himself to spiritual teachers, and, according to legend, became the only sage to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime.  Several stories of demons attacking Milarepa in his cave exist, but I like the way my friend Brother Bede tells the story.

“How kind of you to come,” said Milarepa. “You must stay to tea. And you must come again tomorrow. And from time to time we must converse.”
 
Like everyone, I have enemies: people who have injured me deeply either deliberately or passively.  But my worst enemies dwell in the cave of my own heart. “Love your enemies,” said Jesus. “Pray for those who persecute you.”

So for the past few days, when my demons show up, I mindfully invite them to tea. Surprisingly, the bad spirits are less chaotic when I pay attention to them than they are when I ignore them.

The great Lynda Barry encourages her readers to find their demons through playing with ink and brush or pen and shares some of her own in her brilliant book One! Hundred! Demons! based upon a Zen exercise. She writes, “Discovering the paintbrush, inkstone, inkstick and resulting demons has been the most important thing to happen to me in years. Try it! You will dig it!”

page from One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

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2 Responses to “invite the enemy to tea”

  1. claire Says:

    So for the past few days, when my demons show up, I mindfully invite them to tea. Surprisingly, the bad spirits are less chaotic when I pay attention to them than they are when I ignore them. Thank you for showing me the way, Suzanne. I have a demon-day today. I must put the kettle on 🙂

  2. ammaguthrie Says:

    Oh, lovely, Claire. I hope the demons makes some sense. It’s so tiresome when they are irrational and make lots of unnecessary noise. Have a nice tea!

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