Buddhism, Dreams and Intimations of Mortality…

IMG_1559The Burmese came for me that night. I don’t know what I’d done wrong, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out, either. They did not look too happy, any of them, waving arms and guns, and shouting orders, and calling out rude names. So I split, left, took a hike, and quickly, out the back door and down dark alleys, hiding in shadows and avoiding all lights, for fear of being ‘outed’, me and my white skin, ripe for plucking, and easy to bruise and abuse…

So I headed for the river, since they were no hills, and I didn’t know where else to go. I needed a path out, and that’s what a river represents—a path out. Mountains represent something else—maybe infinity—and that’s my preference, but a river will have to do. They have to lead somewhere: that’s a law of nature. If I ever get out, then I’ll decide what to do next, and where to go…

The only problem is getting there, through bottom lands and marsh, privet hedge and canebrake, nature gone wild and possessive, willing to do anything to impede my passage, like putting up walls and fences, and the illusion of solidity, when all the while the real trap was beneath me, the muck and the mud; and the going is hard…

So I lightened my load as light as I could make it, just me and rude nature, thickets and wild roses, probably beautiful by daylight, but treacherous by night, thorns ripping my flesh and bugs howling around my ears, like the roar of lions and the wail of coyotes—but wait! That must be the dogs, getting nearer, hot on my trail, and presumably thirsty for blood and hungry for meat…

I can’t go on any more. The muck is too deep and the weeds are too thick. I must be near the river, since the muck has now turned to water, but it’s now too late to survey the situation, since I’m tangled up in green, tangled up in wood. There is nothing left to do but lie low, bide my time, limit my actions, and hope for the crisis to pass. If I can bury myself in the water, then maybe the wind won’t carry my smell, which must be considerable by now…

So that’s what I do, watch and wait, biding my time, until I eventually fall asleep. When I open my eyes again, the sun is up, but just barely, dim light just enough to see by. I seem to be in a room somewhere, but where? Where am I? What’s the last thing I remember? The Burmese, of course! But there are no Burmese here. I’m in a bed, somebody’s bed. Oh, right—my bed. But I can’t move. I seem to be severely tangled up in—sheets. I can fix that, but I still can’t move. Oh, right—the accident…

Weird dream. No, I don’t need a prophet to interpret this dream for me. I understand it quite well, I believe. The bed is our prison, scene of many trials, many triumphs, and much turmoil—inner and outer. The nightmare is the sum of our worst fears, all gathered together to suppress oppress and repress us with false narratives. Enlightenment is the door outside, just begging to be opened, not knowing what lies on the other side, and not knowing if it’s even possible…

I’ve been in this bed now for almost a month and it still doesn’t get any better—until I can get up, and out, if then, I hope. I won’t know until I get there. Such is life. But I’m betting that it is. And I’m betting that it’s just like I remember it, from before, or at least very similar, since nothing is ever quite the same as we remember it, whether in fact, or in fiction. But I know I’ll have to try for it. To stay in this bed is unthinkable. I was born here, and I’ll die here, but to live my entire life here is not my best option, I truly believe…

To submit to less than I am capable of is not the best use of resources, for myself, or others, though I should certainly be prepared, and be capable, of doing just that. After all, I may not be able to walk again regardless, no matter how hard I try. Stranger things have happened. Wheelchairs sell briskly. So I need to be prepared, and I need to bide my time…

To accept circumstances stoically is the small path of Buddhism. To overcome them is the greater path. But I realize now that the door outside is not the path to Enlightenment at all—the door inside is. The door outside is the great unknown. And to assume that I know what is there is an article of faith, and knowledge, however reliable my information may or may not be…

I don’t like the terms Mahayana and Hinayana, though they do make an important point, which is NOT that my vehicle is bigger than yours, but that one path is wider, and longer, and more fraught with difficulties and risks. The narrow path is safer and more certain, and more defined, if less exciting…

But that’s not a happy ending to the story, because there is no happy ending to the story, just surviving, and hopefully thriving, no matter how meek the circumstances. A wry little smile of provisional victory should suffice. Any more would be human hubris. There is no reason to be proud of ourselves, because there is no self, not really, only circumstances, and prior conditions, and will and knowledge and power, the power of truth…

So the Burmese didn’t come back the next night: but the Cambodians did, and their tactics were milder, and more conducive, and more endearing, and more receptive. So I guess it’s no surprise that they were more successful. How do I know that? Because that’s where I am right now, still seeking Enlightenment, still test-driving small vehicles, and large ones, on narrow paths, and wide ones, with multiple payment options, in several familiar currencies…

 

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