Q, What does ‘a monkey before a mirror’ mean?
A. This is a phrase used to express the difference between the enlightened and sentient beings. Sentient beings are said to see the world like a monkey seeing the reflections in a mirror. It is deluded by the reflections. It, mistaking the reflections of fruits for real fruits, tries to get them. It, seeing its own reflection as another monkey, tries to attack it. This shows that sentient beings are deluded by illusions just as a monkey is deluded by the reflections in a mirror.
The enlightened are said to see the world like a mirror seeing a monkey. Whatever things may come before a mirror, the mirror just reflects them as they are and never discriminates them. No matter how attractive a lady stands in front of it, it never thinks of her as attractive or beautiful but just reflects her as she is. Even though an ugly thing is put before it, it never regards it as ugly but just reflects it as it is. This is the way the enlightened see the world.
So, it is said that sentient beings see the world like a monkey seeing a mirror but the enlightened see the world like a mirror seeing a monkey.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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