Perception and Virupa

The fact that Dharmapala changed his name to Virupa, (which means ugly), could be viewed as a demonstration of his humility. Or this very same act of changing his name could be viewed as shameful, an accurate and literal name, depicting Virupa’s harmful nature. Depending on the way one chooses to see this, the quality of their experience will be affected. For example, if one chooses to see Virupa’s name change as an act of humility they will have a positive experience towards him and good feelings will arise as a result. Where as, if one see’s his name as an accurate and literal depiction of his character, they will have a negative experience and bad feelings will arise as a result.
I think that the fact that Virupa’s actions can be explained as positive and demonstrative of his virtue, and can simultaneously be explained as negative and demonstrative of his immorality- is indicative of the significance perception has on one’s feelings about others. Furthermore the way one feels about others usually affects the quality of how one is feeling. In my post I would like to describe some of the acts Virupa made and then analyze them, demonstrating the significant role of perception in one’s experience.
One time Virupa wanted to cross the Ganges river without touching the water, so he asked a sailor if the sailor could sail him across the river in his boat. The sailer said yes, but also asked Virupa what he would be getting in return as a boat fare. Virupa said to him that he would  give him the river as his fare. Virupa then pointed at the river with a scary mudra and the flow of the river reversed direction. Many people who lived on the banks of the river felt like they were put in danger by the rivers reverse of flow. The sailor told the people that Virupa was the one that caused the river to reverse direction; so the people began bringing offerings to Virupa requesting that he let the river flow in its natural way. Virupa gave all of these offerings to the sailor saying that the offerings were his fare.
One could view Virupa’s actions regarding the river and the people that inhabit it’s shores as positive or as negative. In the end, the sailor viewed Virupa’s demonstration of power as only achievable by a great master. He threw himself at Virupa’s feet, saying that he didn’t want any of the offerings, and that now all he wanted to do was become his follower. Virupa accepted the sailors request and returned all the offerings back to the people. Based on this story one could argue that Virupa was a nice, generous and compassionate person because he gave back all of the offerings, and allowed the sailor to be his student.
On the other hand, one could say that Virupa’s actions were a cruel demonstration of his power. He tortured families on the bank of the river by reversing its direction and causing them fright, and that this is no way for a master to use his power. Therefore his power is worthless and he is not worthy of followers.
Depending on the perceptions of those affected by Virupa, they have either obtained a new blessed teacher or a new worst enemy, causing them to feel either very sad or very happy. This is the significance of perception in relation to Virupa.

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1 Response to Perception and Virupa

  1. Star Lord says:

    Interesting paper and I liked how you brought in the idea of perception because I think it is very important to the situation. Like it was mentioned in class, based on how enlightened or not enlightened a person was, their perception on Virupa was effected and they saw different things. Virupa sort of reminds me of the concept of Holy Fools in Christianity. As Holy Fools usually perform actions that to others seem crazy, mean, incomprehensible, etc. but in the end their actions truly mean something and is for the greater good of the people. Just because they did things in a nonconventional way, didn’t mean there wasn’t any purpose behind their actions or that they were terrible people because they were actually acting out of their love for God. I’ll end my comment with a quote from the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland that I think applies here, “I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”

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