The idea that our misapprehension of reality is like a person who sees a piece of rope and mistakes it for a snake crops up throughout Indian and Tibetan contexts. Here’s 20th century Tibetan master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, for example:
“Sentient beings, self and others, enemies and dear ones—all are made by thoughts. It is like seeing a rope and mistaking it for a snake. When we think that the rope is a snake, we are scared, but once we see that we are looking at a rope, our fear dissipates. We have been deluded by our thoughts. Likewise, mentally fabricating self and others, we generate attachment and aversion.”
I’ve lived more than twenty nine years of this life and I can confidently say I don’t know the difference between a rope and a snake. That’s alright. What’s not alright is that I’m almost thirty and I still can’t tell the difference between Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel. I watch ‘The New Girl’ and grin to myself and think ‘Wow, Katy Perry’s like, such a quirky actress!’ I see a meme about shark costumes and go wonderingly ‘Woah man, I always forget Zooey Deschanel can sing!’ How do you guys do it? Is there like some mnemonic aid you have, like we had for mastering trigonometry and stuff in school? ‘Kay before Zee except after…’ AFTER WHAT. Is Katy Perry the rope or the snake even? Does it matter? Please help me.
I would really like to make some small progress toward clarifying my perceptions in this new year.