Master of the Lie
To release water in the ear,
Inject water into the ear.
To see truth,
Contemplate all phenomena as a lie.
Thaganapa was born into a low-caste family in eastern India. Early on, he showed criminal tendencies, and in time his entire life and livelihood came to depend upon exploitation and deception.
One day, he was sitting on a log at the edge of a town plotting a beautiful con job, when a wise monk chanced to pass by.
“Why are you so deep in thought, my friend?” asked the monk. “It’s a long story, venerable sir,” Thaganapa began.
But the monk interrupted. “You’re about to tell me a lie, aren’t you? Haven’t you learned that the more you lie, the more you believe lying is normal, and the more your habit of lying will be strengthened. If you continue on this way, when your karma matures, you will be reborn in hell.
Thaganapa turned pale and began to tremble.
“Lying has physical effects as well, you know,” the monk went on. “Your tongue gets furrowed, your breath stinks, and your speech becomes ineffectual and unconvincing. A liar’s karma makes all fields infertile and the seeds you sow dry and impotent.”
Thaganapa had not heard the doctrine of karma applied to lying before, and the monk’s apt analysis hit home. “You’ve seen right through me,” he admitted. “They call me Thaganapa because I cannot speak so much as a hundredth part of a hairsbreadth of truth. I lie to everybody--no exception. But what can I do about it?”
“Do you think you’re capable of practicing a sadhana?” asked the monk.
“Well, I suppose I could try,” said Thaganapa doubtfully. “But I’ve been lying for so long I don’t know if I can stop.”
“You’re not the only liar since time began,” said the monk kindly. “There are precepts even for those such as you.”
“All right then,” said Thaganapa, relieved. “Go ahead.”
The monk began to give Thaganapa instruction in the yoga called “removing water in the ear by means of water”--a meditation that uses deception as an antidote to deception. Next, he gave him the initiation that matures the immature mindstream. And then the monk taught him these precepts: “All that you see, hear, touch, think you perceive with the six senses, indeed, all that you experience, is nothing but a lie.”
Ignorant that all phenomena is a lie,
You say you are a liar.
But if knowledge and the knower,
The six senses and all that is sensed,
Are lies, then what is truth?
Childish ignorance of the universal lie
Holds falseness to be true.
When we tell ourselves that deception is truth
We bind ourselves to the round of existence
Like the liquid drops on the rim of a water wheel.
All experience as inherently deceptive,
All form as inherently deceptive,
All sound as inherently deceptive.
In time, you will discover
That even your belief in deception is a lie.
For seven years Thaganapa meditated upon all perceptual knowledge as deception. At the conclusion of his sadhana, he gained the understanding that all experience of the phenomenal world is a fiction.
Gaining perfect detachment, he came to see all phenomena as dream, hallucination, castles in the air, reflections of the moon in water, images in a mirror. And with his detachment he acquired the qualities of clarity, control, and equanimity. Thinking that he had gained the ultimate goal, he sought out his guru for confirmation.
The monk said simply, “Experience is neither deception nor truth. Reality is uncreated, indeterminate. Now you must meditate upon your experience of all things as emptiness rendered empty by its very nature.”
Thaganapa obeyed his guru and returned to his practice. His path was one of resolving paradox, of weaving conflicting thoughts and feelings together into a tapestry of the inherent emptiness of all things.
Gaining siddhi, he was known to all as “Master of the Lie,” and he taught those with good karma how to “release water in the ear by means of water.” After many years of selfless service, he was assumed into the Paradise of the Dakinis.