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Tibetan Mystery Play (Part 3)

"...In the Tibetan mystery-plays all states of existence are present: the worlds of gods and men, of animal-headed monsters and hungry spirits, the spectres of deaths and annihilation and the human and super-human incarnations of love and compassion, through which all forms of existence are freed from their limitations and reunited with that greater life that encompasses all.

The struggle between the forces of light and darkness, between the divine and the de-
monic, between the titanic forces of decay and dissolution and the innate urge for eter-
nal life - this struggle is depicted both on the historical as well as on the timeless plane of the human soul.  The coming of Padmasambhava and his victory over the black mag-
icians and the host of evil spirits, whom the latter tried to appease with bloody sacrifi-ces, both human and aminal, is the main subject of the first day's performance in the monasteries of the Old Schools (Nyingma, Kargyid, and Sakya), while the Gelugpas depict the slaying of King Langdarma in the bow-and-arrow dance of the hermit, who appears in the guise of a black magician, attired in the robes of the Bon priests.

More important, however, than the historical  allusions are those related to The Tibetan
Book of the Dead {Bardo Thodol}, Padmasambhava's greatest work, which makes it clear that all the gods and demons, the forces of light and darkness, are within us, and that those who want to conquer the Lord  of Death will have to meet him and to recognize him in the midst of life.  TAhen Death will appear as the revealer of the ultimate mys-
tery of life, who under the guise of the terrible bullheaded King of Death, and accompa-
nied by all the frightful spectres that a terrified human conscience can conjure up, slays
the demon of egohood and selfishness and thus performs the only sacrifice that the Buddha recognizes: the sacrifice of one's own 'ego'.  The Lord of Death {yama-raja} is none other than the Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteshvara.  THus the bloody sac-
rifices of the past were replaced by that of our own little self that has held us in bon-
dage for aeons and will keep us in the unceasing rounds of birth and death until we have grown beyond it and freed ourselves from its clutches.

Padmasambhava, one of the wisest teachers of all time, thus gave a new meaning to the
magic ritual that had been handed down by the Bon priests from times immemorial, when sacrifices of blood seemed to be the only way to appease the gods and the dark powers of the universe that threatened man's very existence.  Now the human heart had become the stage of the universe, and instead of a living human being or an animal, the effigy of a man, made of coloured dough, was carried into the arena by skeleton-like cemetery ghouls, who performed a wild dance around it, until the Lord of Death and his frightful retinue appeared on the scene and drove them away."

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