Friday, April 17, 2009
A number of years ago I read a beautiful book called Masters of Enchantment: The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas. The book contains translations of ancient tales from the Vajrayana or tantric buddhist tradition which depict unusual and unlikely cases of enlightenment. In the spirit of that tradition I offer you my own mostly serious but somewhat satirical story of a Mahasiddha. It is known as...
The Tale of Comecaca, The Shit Eater by Douglas McElheny
A long time ago in ancient Spain there lived a man whose birth name has been lost to history. Perhaps even the people of his village had forgotten his birth name for ever since he was a small child he was known to all as Comecaca, the shit eater.
The reason for this was quite simple. From the time he was a toddler Comecaca was possessed of an uncontrollable urge to eat human feces. For the young boy excrement was a delicacy without compare and the sweetest of all ambrosia. Naturally this earned him scorn and ridicule from all in the village, including his family. In fact, it was his own father that first called the boy Comecaca. Only Comecaca's dear mother, with the understanding that only a mother can have, continued to love and cherish her son in spite of his rather repulsive habit. In fact, she would even lovingly feed the boy her own feces as if they were milk from her breasts.
Thus Comecaca grew to adolescence enduring a life of unbearable shame and suffering, the life of an outcast. He had no friends and suffered relentless teasing from other children. Knowing that Comecaca could not control himself, they would present him with a heaping plate of excrement and laugh cruelly and pelt him with stones as Comecaca would greedily gobble up every morsel. The adults refrained from the more blatant forms of cruelty, but few could bear to even look at or speak to the boy so revolted were they.
Once he became a teenager, Comecaca attempted to curb his shit eating behavior but to little avail. Always he returned to his habit. Then when he was sixteen his mother became very ill and died. The boy was completely crushed having lost his only friend. Then came the worst of all betrayals. His own father called for his banishment from the village. The villagers voted unanimously for the banishment and with a heavy heart Comecaca left his village under an assault of jeers and stones.
For four long years he wandered friendless and alone. His only comfort was the eating of his beloved feces, his only joy in life but also the bane of his existence. Time after time he was run out of villages and cities for his shit eating ways. Night after night he cried himself to sleep thinking about his beloved mother. Sometimes he almost felt she was there with him whispering sweet words into his ear and stroking him with her soft and gentle hands.
Then one day Comecaca had had enough of life on earth. Having just barely escaped with his life from a nearby village, Comecaca stood by the sea. He longed to reach his end in her deeps, so he plunged into the water and began to swim away from the shore. And so he swam and swam until finally fatigue began to overcome him. Soon he knew, all his strength spent, he would sink below the waves freed from the burden of his existence. Then, to his utter surprise, his mother appeared on the waves before him. She said nothing but only smiled lovingly and he knew that she wanted him to live. Then she disappeared and Comecaca's felt a strength, a force descend into him and possess his limbs. He turned around and began to swim towards the shore. Such was the strength of the force that with little difficulty he reached the shore, but once he was on the beach the force withdrew and exhausted Comecaca dropped to the sand and swooned into unconsciousness.
For a while all was blackness. Then Comecaca found himself in a dream with the awareness that he was dreaming. He was in front of a large temple the likes of which he had never seen before. The front gate swung open and an old man emerged. The man had strange slanted eyes which Comecaca had also never seen, but Comecaca hardly noticed. What he did notice was the peace and love that radiated from the old man. He smiled kindly at Comecaca and said, “Long you have suffered young one. Would you like me to teach you the means to end all suffering?”
“Oh yes,” said Comecaca, “I would be most grateful. What must I do?”
“You must learn the ways of the Buddha,” said the old man, “And you must make a long journey to reach this temple you see before you. There I live and there you too shall live for a time. It will take you many years to reach me but in the meantime I will guide you and teach you through dreams.”
Then the old man briefly showed Comecaca how to sit in meditative posture and gave him instructions to concentrate his attention on his breathing. Then he said, “When you awake walk towards the north following the beach.”
Then Comecaca awoke to find it was morning. He was excited and full of hope for the first time in a long long time, and so he set out on the first day of his long journey. He traveled through many lands and had many adventures too numerous to mention here. As he traveled the old man would come from time to time in his dreams to teach and guide him. Slowly and with numerous relapses, Comecaca overcame his shit eating ways and peace and detachment became his intimate companions in the realm of self-mastery.
Eight years after setting out, Comecaca arrived at the temple of his master and seven years later he attained enlightenment.
Afterwards Comecaca ventured out again into the world and wandered as a pilgrim spreading the message of the Buddha and guiding young disciples on the path to enlightenment. After many decades of selfless service to humanity Comecaca ascended bodily into the paradise of the dakinis with a proud host of over 400 disciples.