initiates who come frequently to the New Jersey Center may have seen
a kind of invertebrate animal about five or six centimeters long and
half a centimeter wide. It has about a hundred pairs of legs. That is
why it is called the myriapod. It is usually found in the loose soil
under grass or under a thick layer of humus. Its back is black and has
many dark red rings. It resembles a centipede. Therefore, many of our
fellow initiates are a little afraid of it. But actually, it moves very
slowly and is very mild by nature. If you touch it gently, it coils
often appear in the meditation hall at the Center, which has a rear
entrance leading to an area of uncultivated land. A fence in the back
yard has been built to keep small animals out, which means that the
myriapods have little chance of sneaking in through the back door. Myriapods
feed on humus in the fields, unlike ants, which love candy wrappings
and cookie crumbs occasionally dropped by careless fellow initiates
in the meditation hall. So if the myriapods do visit the meditation
hall, it must be for some other purpose than food.
On a Sunday
morning in July, fifteen minutes before the 4:00 AM group meditation,
about ten fellow initiates and I were in the meditation hall. Feeling
drowsy, I stood up and got ready to go out for some exercise and cool
fresh air. As I walked down the stairway, an interesting scene attracted
my attention. On the slightly white carpet, about ten centimeters from
the first step of the stairway, was a well-developed myriapod about
six centimeters in length, stretching its body in a straight line and
moving toward the stairs leading to the meditation hall. It seemed to
be using its full strength as it rushed toward the hall!
I had the
impression that this type of animal moves very slowly. But it was moving
very quickly very early in the morning, and the meditation hall was
its obvious destination. It would not be an overstatement to say that
I was truly very touched by the scene. The myriapod seemed to be rushing
to an important occasion and, moreover, it seemed to be running late.
You could almost see its legs moving together in pairs. Its rapid speed
and the accurate direction of its movement impressed me very much.
It was almost
four in the morning and there should not have been any good food for
it in the meditation hall. From the front door to the hall, it had to
pass through the living room, computer room, kitchen, and laundry room,
which were all open. Furthermore, the library that our fellow initiates
most enjoy is right by the stairway. But it showed no interest in any
of these areas; instead, it was heading directly for the meditation
hall. It seemed to be rushing to attend the morning group meditation.
It must have come far from its habitat to the front door, not to mention
that its life was at great risk at each moment after it entered the
building. At that time, many fellow initiates were coming for morning
group meditation, and someone might have stepped on it.
So I touched
its forehead gently. Startled by this unexpected disturbance, it coiled
up into a flat circle. I picked it up and went outside. It shrank all
its legs so that it could slide away from my palm at any time. Sympathizing
with its spiritual loss that morning, I placed it on my right hand and
started to recite the Holy Names silently. After I had recited only
three Names, I attempted to put it on the flower terrace. But surprisingly,
it stretched out its legs and clung onto my palm, refusing to go. Therefore,
I said to it silently, "Our merciful Master will take care of you.
Don't be afraid. Just go!"
is very simple, but highly inspirational. First, the unusual actions
of the myriapod must be related to the high spiritual atmosphere in
the meditation hall. Obviously, the meditation hall in an ashram is
a very holy place. So we should always keep our actions, speech and
thoughts pure in order to protect the spiritual atmosphere in a meditation
In addition, the myriapod's actions demonstrated its longing for spiritual
nourishment, regardless of any difficulties or risks it might have encountered.
In retrospect, if we fellow initiates, who are already Bodhisattvas,
still listen to our minds and make excuses for not attending group meditation,
we are really unworthy of our precious human body and the grace that
Master has bestowed on us.
response to the Holy Names indicates their sacred power. This is a reminder
that we should always remember to recite the Holy Names, particularly
when we are working, driving or walking outside at night, so that all
visible and invisible beings around us can benefit.