Conqueror, my mystical horse, was not getting any younger. He had lived well beyond a normal lifespan and I wondered how many trips he could still make. Was that old, robed man, who brought an enchanted colt to the Kingdom of Ayatana those many years ago, the sorcerer? Of course, he was, and he arranged that I would follow the stableman's advice and pick out Conqueror for my mount, my protector, for there was never a question as to whether or not he was the one; he was always the one. And during the many years we had been together, he had never let me down once, and he now again slowly limped behind me, the only place he ever wanted to be. His head was down and his back swayed badly as he bravely coped with the burdens of old age, but his heart was as strong and true as ever.
The dense jungle thinned out until it became only a fond memory, as we steadily made our way eastward. We walked through scrub brush for months until it eventually gave way to parched desert, populated with throngs of destitute people trying to survive on almost nothing. We went many days without food in this poverty-stricken land, only hoping for a little water ahead. Many diseased people, both young and old, sat hopelessly along the road beside corpses rotting in the sun, causing me to reflect on the fate of all beings, rich or poor, good or bad. This is our destiny, every one of us whether it is easy and sudden or slow and painful, and I hoped with my heart that I would not have to go through this agony too many more lifetimes.
We stopped in a small settlement where a kind family took pity on this old man and his broken down horse, and offered us some rice and water. I took my precious pittance of food to a shady place under an outcropping of rock and just began to eat when an old man with long gray hair, a white beard, and wearing a white robe approached me, “My name is Weepasa and I am hungry. Will you give me your food?"
He didn't look famished, actually he was rather portly, but his request didn't seem to be too out of place in this impoverished country, so I gave him my food justifying my generosity by thinking this would give me an opportunity to continue my fast and deepen my inner work.
I had a feeling, however, that this was no ordinary old man. His wizened face looked at me for a while and then asked, “How did you lose your eye?"
I told him my story, and he appeared to be amused, but still was not eating the food I so graciously offered.
"Your journey has now taken you to a forsaken place and I'm puzzled how you plan to find the key in such desolation?" he inquired.
"How did you know that I am a key seeker?"
"What else could you be?"
"I don't know where to find my key, " I replied. “I am simply following my heart and trying my best, "
He shot me a stern glance, “Trying? Trying is for fools. Are you an idiot, one of those weak-kneed morons who try all his life and never gets anywhere? One must do! Period! Do it right now!" Then he sat back, gleefully ate my food, and walked away.
This brash, unholy looking character not only puzzled me, but what he said touched a nerve. ‘Trying’ puts off what I need to do so I should just ‘do it!’ It sounded good, but not exactly possible. How do I just ‘do it?’ How do I just ‘find the key?’ I was perplexed, so much so that I decided to stay one more day.
The same family took a liking to us and again offered some food. When we got to the outcropping of rocks to eat, guess who showed up and again asked for my food? After I politely gave it to him for the second day, he ate heartily and then without even having the courtesy to say thank you, went on his way. I was getting hungry.
After the old man had eaten and was walking away for the third day, he turned and remarked, “You are really stupid, you know? Why would you let me eat your food, day after day, while you starve? Do you think of yourself as some kind of saint or something? Do you think that starving yourself will magically instill wisdom? With you, fasting is not instilling wisdom, it is instilling stupidity, and merely building an indestructible ‘self. ’ You are really confused, aren't you? You have no idea how to balance compassion and wisdom yet, do you? Who has been teaching you?"
I felt a slight, unbelievably disappointing twinge of anger brought on by his swarm of abusive questions. This spiteful old man had successfully brought up negative emotions that I thought were defeated long ago.
I knew I had overcome doubt, as well as belief in rituals and belief in a permanent personality - the three hurdles of stream entrance. I had overcome doubt at the temple years ago with the hooded being when I met myself. Ceremonies and magic were seen through shortly after I began my inner work, and the idea of a personality was seen through with Weeja. Therefore, I was positive that I was already a Stream Entrant, or one who only returns seven or less times to human form. But as far as overcoming the next two - anger and sensual desire - but because of this annoying twinge of anger which came up when my “holiness" was challenged, it looked as if I had my work cut out for me.
As if he were reading my thoughts, he began laughing, and then he incredibly rose ten feet in the air and drifted toward the far hills like a wind-blown kite, disappearing into the sky as I watched in total disbelief.
I tried to sort out what I had just seen. I had heard of advanced key keepers who acquired certain powers, such as flying in the air. Some could read minds as well, and some could walk on water. Some would have knowledge of people's past lives and there were those who could be in two places at once. At any rate, I felt I had no choice now but to pursue this man.
With Conqueror following behind, I made my way across the sun-bleached valley into the hills following the general direction Weepasa drifted, eventually coming upon a large, white stucco building in the center of a compound surrounded by smaller buildings and many walking paths. These paths were about thirty paces long and were being used by men and women in white robes who were walking back and forth. There were many people coming and going, and a crowd had assembled outside of the large building behind a fence, apparently wanting to remain within close proximity of something or somebody.
I approached the building and was permitted to enter as if I was expected, and found Weepasa sitting on a large, comfortable chair eating mangos, and surrounded by a dozen villagers. When he saw me he said, “Well, you have come. Now, will you do exactly as I tell you?"
After seeing him fly through the air, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!"
"Good. If I ask you to jump off a cliff, will you do it?"
I thought that this was a rhetorical question of some kind, (I didn't know this master yet), and so I said, “Sure!" not considering the gravity of his request.
The old man's face turned somber as he pointed out the window and said, “There is a high cliff out there, go and jump off. " Everybody in the room snickered.
I was taken by surprise for a moment, and somewhat embarrassed in front of everybody, so I found myself walking out the door toward the cliff. This spiteful man seemed to delight in pushing me to my limits.
Now this was no small cliff, as I was hoping! It was higher than the deadly cliff that I nearly fell from when I was with a John. Also, this did not involve simply sitting on the edge; I had to jump! Perhaps Weepasa had enough magic to save me if I jumped . . . perhaps not.
I was completely baffled, so I just sat there on the edge pondering my awkward situation. I could not see the wisdom of committing suicide, not after coming this far, and furthermore, a John sternly warned me about suicide - saying that with few exceptions, suicide would sentence one to many future lifetimes of repeating the same agonizing misunderstandings that precipitated the first suicide, including the horrific delusions a suicidal person goes through. However, I did not want to appear cowardly either, so I was mystified.
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