A couple of friends up in Paradise recently hosted a roving band of Buddhist monks who swept through town offering spiritual healing to people whose spirits were afflicted. In times like these, whose spirits aren’t a little unhealthy, what with all the stuff aimed at damaging our spirits, from modified foodstuffs that weaken the body’s immune system to the cultural and political swill that poisons our souls?
My friends—I’ll call them Julianna and Allen (not their real names)—are sweet and decent people, though Allen is known to dress up in plaid skirts some weekends, and Julianna has a very over-the-top relationship with the couple’s little dog, Oliver (not his real name). Aside from those peculiarities, however, they’re fairly normal, doing what they can to make their way through life with dignity and decency.
So it was hard to turn down their invitation to get myself repaired by these traveling Buddhist monks.
But I just couldn’t go. I’d had bad experiences with Buddhist monks during my youth when I was in a street gang back in my Illinois hometown. There was a rival gang of Buddhist monks (the Dharma Bums) who were constantly encroaching on our turf, and the rumbles we had became legendary.
Woe unto you if those Buddhist monks caught you alone. They had this thing they’d do where they’d ask you to solve various riddles (“what’s the sound of one hand clapping?” was one of their favorites), and when you gave the wrong answer, they’d go upside your head. And the trick was that there was never a right answer. I must have taken a hundred blows to the head, all because I sincerely tried to come up with the correct insight.
They had lots of those riddles (they’re called koans, and they can give you a headache even if you don’t have some Buddhist gangsta thumping you every time you give the wrong answer) and they were a major trauma of my troubled youth until that great day I snuck into the Dharma Bums’ lair and found the answer key to the koan questions.
I studied it until I’d committed all the answers to memory, and then I wandered over to the Buddhist gang’s turf, just hoping to get jumped.
I was immediately surrounded by a pack of surly monks, and I was ready for them. You never saw such crestfallen individuals in your life. One after another, I supplied answers to their questions. “What is Buddha?” “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” “What was my face before my mother and father were born?”
By the time I had offered them answers to all the questions they could think of, they were ready to make me the leader of their gang, despite our obvious ethnic differences (Buddhists are often pretty good that way.)
I turned ‘em down, however, because my ears were still ringing from all the times I’d failed their tests. I also took a pass on my friends’ recent invite to get myself healed. At my age, I’m just too broke to fix.