In some point in our lives we encounter a person who tests us beyond limits of our endurance. We view it often as a curse for meeting such person. We avoid. We run away at the very sound of his/her thumping shoes. The very thought of it simply evokes an eruption of negativity.
It is normal I guess to take flight most especially if we are in the disadvantage. Even the emotions of repulsion, fear, gloom, helplessness are justifiable and appropriate for the psyche. It allows us to cope at the danger and even to avoid it.
However, as I read on with Carlos Castaneda’s The Fire from Within I came across a story of Don Juan and a time when he met one of the most violent and vicious individual that delivered him to hell and back (both literally and metaphorically). They were called, in the Toltec’s words, petty tyrants. They are the people who wrought suffering to others without guilt or remorse.
Even though the story happened decades ago before and during Don Juan’s apprenticeship as a sorcerer these petty tyrants, as we could see, exist even today with different faces and statures in our society. As they exist so there would be victims under their dreadful clutches. On the other hand, how Don Juan dealt with the fiend of an individual was astonishing that made me rethink of my own dealings with my so called “villains” in everyday life. It would be a great pleasure to share the story.
Don Juan worked at a sugar mill as a laborer when he was barely twenty. He was not only strong but also well-built for his early age. One day a rich domineering woman in her fifties came by. The woman looked at Don Juan and spoke to the foreman. She left immediately afterwards. Then the foreman called on him and said that for a price he could have a job in the boss’s house. Being, then, a lowly Indian who lives from hand-to-mouth this felt like a grace from the divine as he agreed to pay large amount in installments.
When he got to the mansion he was asked by a huge ugly somber man questions. And he grinned maliciously when Don Juan said he doesn’t have any family. He promised that the pay is sumptuous and he could save some money for he would be eating and sleeping at the mansion. The man then laughed sinisterly, so diabolic that Don Juan was terrorized and run out of the house for he knew he had to escape. But the man out paced him and cocked a gun and rammed it on his stomach. “You are to work yourself to the bone!”
There were men hovering around with machetes making the place look almost like a fortress. Everyday Don Juan was given the most dangerous and toiling tasks without break, and worse he was bullied to no end. “You’ll work here until you die…and when you die another Indian will replace you as you replaced one!” the petty tyrant exalted. He was threatened that if he run away he would be sent to jail for an attempted murder of the Lady as the foreman will falsify everything. He had the leverage in court trial anyway. As he survived a day all it meant the next morning after opening his eyes is that he needed to undergo in the same inferno. It was hell!
What served as the final wick to it all was when Don Juan asked for a time off to pay the other foreman but he was denied and was told that he was already in greater debt for having worked in the mansion. Don Juan knew these traps. He then understood that the two foremen were in cahoots. Their strategy was to work the laborers to their deaths and split their earnings.
This thought made Don Juan exploded with anger and ran inside the kitchen then to the outside screaming. Everyone was surprised but as he went by the road he was shot by the foreman and left to dead.
His benefactor found him and healed him. Upon hearing the story Don Juan’s benefactor urged him to go back at the mansion and face him again. It’s a rare opportunity to be with a petty tyrant he said.
Three years later, armed with the strategies and teachings he got from his benefactor, Don Juan returned to the sugar mill where he worked before. Nobody noticed him for no one gives a fig about laborers there, especially an Indian laborer. Again the same woman came, looked at Don Juan—who was even stronger than before—and talked to the foreman. He told him that he could get a job at the mansion for a price. But Don Juan refused to pay this time. No one ever rejected such proposition before so the man was taken aback. He threatened to fire Don Juan from his job but retorted that he knew where the Lady lived and would come see her to report about the foreman’s actions, and about the job. In the end, the foreman gave in and paid.
Upon arriving at the mansion Don Juan ran and looked for the Lady, and when he did he dropped on his knees and thanked her for her kindness. The two foremen were livid upon the sight. As it was before, the petty tyrant was an ogre of a man and gave Don Juan the most dangerous jobs especially at the stables where the horses and wild stallions are. The petty tyrant again bullied Don Juan to no end.
As part of the strategy, he has managed to note the weaknesses of the tyrant: he loves his job completely which he doesn’t want to endanger; he is a family man whose shack is near the mansion; the most fatal, he is nauseated by the scent of the horses’ stable. His strongest point would be his adamantine violence.
Meanwhile, Don Juan’s shield from the petty tyrant was the Lady who got him the job. He kneeled and thanked her every time he saw her. He even asked for the medallion of the lady’s patron saint so that he could pray for her health and well-being.
The petty tyrant was shocked when the Lady gave Don Juan the medallion. Even more, when Don Juan assembled all the servants to pray at night his temper become intensified. He decided to kill the vexatious Indian. Sensing this, Don Juan never slept in bed he climbed the roof and saw the murder in the eyes of the man while he twice searched for him. Don Juan’s countermeasure: he arranged all the servants to pray the rosary, which the Lady of the house praised him for and believed he has the elements of piousness. The tables were about to turn.
One day, Don Juan, in front of all the servants, and at the view of the Lady, insulted the petty tyrant. He called him a coward for mortally being afraid of the boss’s wife. The man was so infuriated, but the Indian had already run and was kneeling at the Lady, Don Juan knew that he won’t dare kill him at the sight of the lady nor use a gun due to its noise. Moments later, he was called at the back of the house by the foreman’s friends asking him to do something. He acquiesced but he knew their ploy.
Instead of going to them he ran into the stables in hopes that the horses would make a ruckus sending the owners curious enough to go outside. The petty tyrant white with rage ran after Don Juan. He jumped inside the stable of the wildest stallion. Having blinded by rage, the petty tyrant forgot about the stables stench and the stallions ready to end the fool. However, while he was armed by a knife, Don Juan was hiding at his planks that he made for protection from the brute strength of the beasts something the tyrant never knew about. So with just one kick from the stallion the petty tyrant fell.
The strategy that Don Juan employed was the four attributes of warriorship: control is to be in command of the self, aware at the moment while in fulfillment of the idiotic behests; discipline is focusing on his tasks intended, gathering all the information needed—the weaknesses and quirks of behavior of the petty tyrant; forbearance was the simple joyful holding back to what is due to be given; timing is the essence or quality that regulates what is held back. “Control, discipline, and forbearance are like a dam behind which everything is pooled. Timing is the gate in the dam.”
The literature further adds that what transpires in the chanced encounter was the shattering of self-importance. “Any man who has an iota of pride is ripped apart by being made to feel worthless.” Don Juan said. Truly worthlessness exist upon the presence of pride and vice versa, therefore our own causes of misery. If that self-importance is torn apart we felt victimized, often or not seeking vengeance but Don Juan doesn’t have any a virtue honed in his apprenticeship.
What is more astonishing is that Don Juan in spite of the barbarism of the petty tyrant, even though his tears might be falling, while his blood and sweat dripped at the soil, while he shivered in the stench and dangers of the stables, he didn’t hated the petty tyrant nor did he plotted against him, there he was smiling inside—he was happy!
Here, I realized the Buddhist premise, “your enemy is your greatest teacher.” They could teach you something that you weren’t able to learn, they will help you to go far beyond yourself. Like a glass rigid with self-importance placed at the furnace fires, molded into something new. It all starts at taking a different perception, taking a different stand.
These encounters are either a curse or a blessing. It all depends on the choice that we make, either we choose to be victims or become impeccable warriors. The first leads to misery while the latter to knowledge. And nobody can run away from these we are automatically pushed to decide—we become either one—we will have to inevitably pick upon finding ourselves face to face with the fiend and beast—the petty tyrant.