I have been trying, without much success, to find ways of feeling more positive about the Monkey whose year it is in the East. So far I’ve come up with imagery of cute chimps, snow monkeys in hotsprings, intimate group grooming (so not my thing) and, more promisingly, but still not exactly, for the moment, sparking off constellations of inspired connectivity: apes as our deeper time evolutionary ancestry.
What I dread about the monkey, in particular, is being dogged (pardon my domestic zoo!) by what modern culture is particularly prone to: the Multi-tasking Monkey Mind.
I set off on a walk before the extreme cold set in feeling as if I had a monkey on my back. I’m at a low ebb. A prescription for relief seems mysteriously and graciously to have worked out, however, and on three weekends in the past month I have found myself crossing the thresholds of three different hillside temples.
The gates of the temples are presided over by Two Benevolent Kings (the Ni-O). They do not look benevolent in the least: they look angry and fierce and thoroughly badass. Their flashing eyes are wide open; their mouths are pulled back into scary haka-like poses, one has his mouth open (Ah = the alpha, agyo), the other one has his mouth closed (Um = the omega, ungyo). (The sounds Ah + Um made together produce the sanskrit seed syllable, the cosmic sound, the sacred ‘Om’.) They are colossal in size, these gatekeepers, with six-pack naked torsos and strong, muscular legs. There can be no doubt that they mean business.
And yet, I find them very comforting, grateful for the sense of protection they offer. They face the outside world whose burdens and entanglements are behind you as you face the wooden temple building within. Entering the grounds of a temple, between these blokes, well, there is no way a monkey on someone’s back gets in.