Impatiently, she blurted out, “All I know is that my husband and my children are my world. How could I search for this ‘deeper happiness’ and not compromise my feelings toward them, even if my family is temporary? I don't see what you are getting at. I can only see what's right in front of me; my family and the happiness they bring me. That's good enough for me. I'll handle whatever comes later. " And she began to cry.
A John could see that this woman partially understood Reality in her heart because of the tears that overwhelm us when we are faced with it. She recognized the truth of this precious “moment in time" where she was surrounded by her loving family, and was not concerned at all about the future. But she would have to experience more of life to acquire the wisdom that accompanies the freedom of a happy moment.
She saw herself and her family as permanent, as joy producing, and as real, the exact opposite of the three characteristics a John discussed, claiming that things are transient, are full of discontent, and are absent of any underlying reality. If she truly understood this, then her family would be a momentary delight to her, a real freedom, and not something that she was dependent upon for her happiness. For if her family disappeared, what would happen to her happy moment?
In her present state of mind, a John would be unable to convince her that someday she would be able to see beyond her narrow attachments to her family, and when that occurred, her love would become universal in nature. It would provide her a more fulfilling experience regarding her family because her worry and fear of losing them would be gone, freeing her from the impending pain that would have inevitably come at the end, when she is separated from her loved ones. She assumed the deeper happiness of which a John spoke would somehow be an abandonment of her family, but in truth, it would be a divine embrace.
Any indication by a John that she might be wrong in her assumptions would be threatening of course, so if he were to teach her further today, he would have to be very wise and compassionate, and choose his words carefully. It was a John's job to truthfully, as well as skillfully, communicate what his inner work revealed, and he had not yet given up on her.
"A woman in the village recently had some problems with her husband. Do you know of her, " a John asked.
"I know Sunan quite well. "
"When she became suspicious of his indiscretions, she became frightened, did she not?"
"She was threatened with losing everything, and her expectations and the security of their relationship were in danger of being devastated. Rather than risk this, she initially shut off the truth, closing her ears to the gossip because she did not want to face the situation. "
Yes, she talked to me about it. "
"Her only choices at this point, " said a John, “were to either take the easy way out, that is to ignore her suspicions entirely and let that little niggle of uncertainty eat away at her, or get to the bottom of the problem, which would require extraordinary courage because she could lose everything. "
A John decided to go a little further. He could see some potential in this frightened rabbit and knew that what he would say in the next few minutes would be crucial to her in future lifetimes.
A John continued, “Sunan was suspicious that her husband was deceiving her, not unlike our suspicions that the world is deceiving us, but she was afraid to investigate deeply into the matter. She had a very comfortable life that she did not want to disrupt. Similarly, we feel that happiness will be ours, too if we can just find that perfect situation, and when we think we have discovered the ideal circumstance, we believe it will never change and that it will last forever. If Sunan investigated and discovered the truth concerning her husband's cheating, she would be forced to give up the perception of their wonderful relationship, and everything would undoubtedly fall apart. This was a very painful decision for her, and as we both know, she confronted her husband and they are now separated. Why do you think she faced him rather than ignore his alleged indiscretions and keep her comfortable life intact?"
The young woman lowered her head and whispered, “Because she had to know for sure. "
A John was silent for a moment, his vacant eyes observing this young woman who had such great potential. “Yes, because truth is better than uncertainty, " he said. “The initial dismay she might have felt was set aside by a vindication, evidence of something she always really knew deep in her heart but was afraid to face - and she was finally released. "
A John bowed to her and concluded by saying, “I hope my words will someday prove comforting. "
The young girl clasped her hands in front of her, bowed, and left the hall. And as she did, A John whispered to me, “She will make great strides in this very lifetime. " Somehow, he knew about these things.
After the meal the next morning, I said goodbye to my many friends in the community, and when I said my farewell to a John, I asked him if I could forget the “a" and call him “John, " just one time. His eyes twinkled and he said, “Sure. "
"Good-bye, John, " I said. And I somehow knew that we would never see each other again. I was forty-seven years old.
With Conqueror prancing behind me, I walked out of the iron gates for the last time, past the villages and wonderful people who provided for me these many years. I had come to know their triumphs and tragedies, as these simple farmers traveled on this wheel called life. They had a unique way of finding happiness within their small world . . . and they had captured my heart.
Following a John's instructions, we continued north until one evening in a heavy rainstorm I reached my first landmark - an old, abandoned temple that had once been used by the ancients for their sacrifices and rituals. The aged structure was circular in shape, the color of badly tarnished, greenish-black brass, and appeared very sinister in the storm's lightening and fog. Thick, brown mold covered the roof, and vines and creepers were growing down its sides.
I experienced an uncanny feeling of impending doom as we approached the eerie structure, almost hidden in the dark forest. Conqueror must have felt it as well for he bolted and refused to go on. The sorcerer's warning at the cottage came back to me, “Oh, . . . and beware of the temple!" Sensing no imminent danger, however, and being the warrior that I was, I continued on foot to have a look around.
I approached the temple through a long deserted, overgrown path until I was abruptly faced with its crooked front door. I forced it open, with the rusted hinges complaining loudly just as Conqueror whinnied a warning from a safe distance away, and an icy-cold wave of stale, musty air for some reason ran chills up and down my spine. I cautiously entered the hallway and through the damp, dank mood, I could make out a large room and something sitting in a wooden chair. It had its back turned to me, facing a fireplace with only a few lazy flames licking the air, and although I couldn't see its face or hands because of the pitch-black robe that it was wearing, I could make out its bony and creepily decrepit form, which was, in a mystifying but intuitive way, vaguely familiar.
I certainly was no longer frightened of anything supernatural since my episode with the cobra, so I jovially said, “Hello! Are you some kind of a demon or ghost? If you are, you can save your time and energy if you think you can scare me. I was a great warrior, afraid of nothing, and now that I am a key seeker and a warrior of the heart, your skinny, old carcass is nothing but comical.
The hooded being laughed in a voice that sounded as if it was coming from deep within a well, and as old as the earth itself. “You are all alone now. " It said.
The words were strangely intimidating, and echoed throughout the old building followed by a deafening silence. He was right - I was alone, and for some mysterious reason, an unfamiliar feeling of despair gripped my heart.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com