The 17th Century Zen Master, Hakuin quotes an earlier teacher, Rinzai, describing a story “When the Titans fought the King of the Gods, and on losing the battle he led his eighty-four thousand troops into the holes of the lotus threads, where they hid. Unable to attack them there, the King of Gods withdrew.” For a while he wonders why the Titans, who apparently could fit anywhere, including, including “the eye of a moth, the nostril of a mosquito, or on the tip of a needle,” would choose to hide in the stem of the lotus. After some consideration, he comes to the thought that, with the Lotus being symbolic of wisdom, and though, I do not like the word, let’s call it, “enlightenment,” that there is no enlightenment without a full accommodation of the demons. He says, “What you do not realize is that the demons have gone into these subtle thoughts of joy and are hiding there, completely intact.”
I learned about this story in a talk called Demons in the Lotus Threads by Roshi Enkyo O’Hara at the Village Zendo‘s summer Ango in 2007. It’s a talk I recommend to friends so often I thought it would be nice to have it right here, close at hand.