Posted Monday, March 26th, 2007
Two eyes are gazing at the golden Buddha, she thought. The two eyes, hazel, mine but not-mine, are connected to a brain, which in turn is connected to a nervo-endo-musculoskeletal system sheathed in pale white skin. The sky above is in inter-being with this body, mine but not-mine, and the Buddha of gold. All are impermanent manifestations of the same reality. Even the red sun that lights the Buddha’s crown and the peacocks calling through the dusky dawn.
“Good morning, Madame, I see you are observing the Buddha in the courtyard,” said a voice from outside Jackie’s consciousness. An Indian man shuffled in her direction until he stood before her, bolt-upright, leering. One observation about India: eager old men were always coming out of the shadows, often to share some irrelevancy or bide the time practicing their English.
“Hallo,” she said amiably. “Are you Buddhist too?”
He looked at her askance and chuckled.
“Oh no, Madam, not at all,” he said and peered around them. “Hindu. Saivist.” He was only about five feel tall, and she could see the shiny bald spot on the top of his head. This was, as far she could tell, a very typical elderly Indian. Bright little eyes, a long, shrunken torso, crusty bare feet, and a raggedy diaper-like outfit crisscrossed between his thighs and tied around his waist. His smile remained in place. “Saivist worships Hindu god Siva. Very historical god manifesting in everything and presenting his most holy self in the lingam resembling the phallus of males. All things are embodiment of Siva. Siva teaches that bondage of enjoyment results in self-delusion just as the sprout, bran, and husk hide the soul of the soul.”
“Aha,” Jackie said. These long, strange statements, these sustained ragas, were clearly a mode of communication in India that she would have to uncritically accept. At the Pure Planet Institute she was working on the principle of Interconnectedness, finding Self in Other and Other in Self and seeing that all is Self and Non-Self. It was the third of thirteen steps she and Brad had come to India to master. The next was Compassion.
“I am seeing you with a big man, a man with skin of the color orange, wearing gentleman’s blazer,” the old man said. “Wool! All day yesterday and the day before yesterday I am thinking this man is your husband or maybe your son?”
Jackie was offended. Brad was only two years her junior, and they were both in their late thirties. But there was something light and childlike about him that made him appear years younger. That laugh, that thick unruly hair, the jocular habit of rallying and provoking others. Add to that his love for children, and their universal love of him.
“That would be my husband,” she said.
“And may I remind you that Siva is older than Buddha,” the Indian man said, making a rasping sound at the back of his throat. He looked at her quizzically and folded his thin arms. “Which country, madam?”
“America,” she said. By now she was also accustomed to the flow of conversation, the topical bob and weave. Given enough time, however, the man would circle back to Brad, which was a topic she wanted to avoid.
“Christian country,” the old man said, wagging a finger. “American leadership very bad. Many people in America killing in the name of their God, Jesus. The international arena is also very dark. But Siva destroys so he can create. Such is the way of the ultimate liberation.”
From inside one of the temples, a gong announced the hour.
“Excuse me, breakfast time, I must be going,” Jackie said. Brad would already be there, no doubt early, charming the other students and the monks in their red Brades. Would they ever guess her friendly, childlike, husband is an adulterer? That under the playful exterior he is violent? That two years ago, shortly after Jackie married him, Brad brutally raped a neighbor? That more than once he forced himself on her? In the Western paradigm, Brad would be all Id. In the Eastern paradigm, what is he?
“Hello, Madam?” said the short Indian man. “Madam!” He was still smiling at her, his eyebrows twitching.
Breathing in, she thought, I know I can not escape the consequences of my decisions. Breathing out, I determine to forgive.
The gong boomed again.
“Yes, I must be going,” Jackie said and immediately corrected herself. There is no going and there is no coming, she thought. There is only the present and all the potential nestled within it. She and Brad and the old Indian man and the Buddha of gold and all time, matter, and space are bundled together in one Coalescence.
“Good-bye, Madam,” said the man. “Be careful in our country. Many people here, some very good and some very bad, and some very much both. All day, every day, I am observing this.”
She took his hand. It felt leathery yet feverishly hot.
Behind him the red sun was coming up stealthily though the haze. The chaos of the streets penetrated the Institute’s high concrete walls -- the abstract clamor of vegetable wallahs, babies and bicycles, auto-rickshaws, beggars and lepers and on and on -- and the gong continued to vibrate.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Donna Levy [ firstname.lastname@example.org
] on Monday, April 2nd, 2007 at 5:36 PM
I was so caught up in your story that I was sorry it ended. How do we make sense of a world filled with haze and "many people, some very good and some very bad, and some very much both?" I want to know if Jackie will be able to discard the sprout, the bran, and the husk. Then what will be left in the Coalescence? Would love to hear from you, Ada, at email@example.com. Love, Donna