The Red Cap and the Seeker After Eternal Truth Descends into the Low Country
We leave the wilderness behind and travel west down the coast towards the Cape of Storms, not our final destination, but perhaps an apt description of things to come in our quest after truth.
We travel fast on the highway winding downwards towards a place called Little Brakriver, a lesser destination on our arduous, questing way to transcendence. It seems that we must first descend into the low country of sensual existence, before we can move into the high country, there perhaps first to meet Jung’s “burning one and growing one” before entering the void.
“Most of spirituality is a construction project. But enlightenment,” says Adyashanti, “is a demolition project.” This deconstruction project is nothing like Dirida’s deconstruction philosophy where he took things apart piece by piece to examine them and then tried to put them together again (He did it with Philosophy and couldn’t put it together again. He did it with religion and the church embraced him with vigour, and now, after the devastation, they are still trying to put it all together again). No, Adyashanti’s demolition is a deliberate breaking down of structures of knowledge and thinking, to rebuild it from scratch into something completely new, something that has always been there, even before time began.
Little Brakriver is not much of a town, but it is quiet and right next to the sea with a beautiful, unspoiled beach and not many people around. Being a town consisting mainly of holiday homes of rich upper-middleclass people, most of the houses stand empty for most of the year, which is of course a terrible waste, but regarded as normal in our abnormal society. The result is you have to drive to the next town (Great Brakriver) to get supplies, which is a bit of a bother. Our accommodation is a small flat called “The Beach Cottage”, which is quite a misnomer; it should have been called “The Cottage far from the beach”, because it is situated next to the railway line more than halve a mile from the beach. But we are not complaining, it is nice and clean and the owner is a friendly, helpful old lady, quiet and graceful in a country sort of way.
We unpack and then we walk down to the beach for a refreshing swim (says my moron); for our seeker after wisdom’s first serious session of meditation while the sun is setting in the west (says TZ).
We get to the beach and sit down on the sand, catching our breath after the brisk walk. After a moment my moron jumps up excitedly, pointing to a young girl coming out of the sea. “Just look at that,” he says. “Have you ever seen such beauty, such gracefulness in a girl in such a small bikini in your whole life? I think I will walk down there and talk to her, maybe I’ll get lucky,” he says smiling from ear to ear and start walking in her direction. “You stay here, I’ll be back shortly,” he says to me and chucks me down in the sand with his other belongings. Me, the famous Red Cap in the sand, on the beach! What utter disgrace!
“Don’t be stupid,” I shout after him. “She is young, she could have been your daughter. Come back here you moron and start acting your age!” I shout furiously after him, but he walks on, ignoring me. The desires of the flesh are a burning fire, and it drives the fool to his final humiliation, and onwards toward the inevitable dark night of his soul.
The fool struts down to the beach, tucking in his protruding middle age belly in a futile effort to look young again. He walks up to the young lady and start talking to her, no doubt flattering her and making a fool of himself. She smiles shyly, laugh at his stupid witticisms and then they start walking off down the beach and disappear behind some big rocks, still chatting and laughing.
About forty minutes later they reappear from behind the rocks, still chatting and laughing, and then they hug and she kiss him on the cheek and they reluctantly part, she walking down the beach, and he comes almost running back to me, grinning from ear to ear and unable to contain his excitement.
“I told you I would get lucky!” he shouts from afar in jubilation. “Oh boy, what a lovely lady, what a beautiful, beautiful mind,” he exclaims joyously while panting out of breath.
“What the hell did you do you moron,” I scold him. I am furious, almost beside myself with anger. “She is a child!”
But in his excitement he is not even listening to me. “She is so wonderful, so pure, so innocent, and so wise! Just to listen to her talk was like making slow and passionate love. It was like the beautific experiences the saints are forever talking about, or Satori your imaginary friend is always ranting about. I lived it, I experienced it. I think I am in love with this exquisitely beautiful creature and her illuminated mind. It was like meeting myself for the first time face to face. I loved it, and it scared the hell out of me,” he swoons like a love besotted teenager on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.
We sit there in complete silence, watching the sun set in spectacularly brilliant colours behind the dunes, me contemplating the antics of my aging moron, while he, I suppose, ruminates about his (to my mind, shameful) victory.
“According to Adyashanti, all existence,” says TZ quietly, “inclusive of our own, whether we are aware of it or not, dwells in a timeless, motionless Now, a changeless, actionless Here, a thing-less, egoless Void. And your friend here is already as eternal, as divine as he ever shall be. But if he wants to become aware of it, then he must climb down to the lower standpoint and pursue the quest in travail and limitation.” He looks smilingly at my traveling companion and gives a joyless laugh. “And that is what he is doing, is he not?”
We return to our humble Beach-Cottage-far-from-the-beach to retire for the night so that we can be fresh and rested for the journey into the high country in the morrow. TZ prepares a very light vegetarian meal for us before we go to bed. The moron is softly humming Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah but stops abruptly and says to me; “You are moping, why?”
“Because, because …” I stutter. “Because I still cannot believe what you did down at the beach. I mean …”
“You mean the girl?” he asks mockingly. “I left her down at the beach, why don’t you?” he says and continues to hum his stupid Hallelujah as if nothing whatsoever happened.
TZ chuckles merrily from where he is still busy preparing our meal. “So you know the story of The Muddy Road?” he asks my traveling companion.
“What muddy road?” the moron asks perplexed.
“The story of Tanzan and Ekido who were walking down this muddy road, and then came across this lovely girl in her silk kimono trying to cross a small stream without soiling her lovely garment. Tanzan immediately went to the damsel in distress’s aid. He picked her up, carried her across the stream and put her down on the other side. She thanked him profusely and the two monks went their way while she went off in another direction. Later on when they got to their monastery Ekido scolded Tanzan for what he has done, pointing out that monks were not supposed to go near women, especially not when it is such a beautiful lady. And touching such a lady is absolutely forbidden, he ranted. Then Tanzan said exactly what you said, he said ‘I left the girl next to the road, why don’t you do the same?’
After hearing the story, and always ready to be the clown, our seeker after eternal truth picked up a book he was currently reading (incidentally it was Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’), put it on his head and with a huge grin on his face and with arms outstretched, he turned around a couple of times, did three sit-ups and walked out the door with the book still balanced on his head.
“Brilliant!” exclaimed TZ ecstatic.” If you were there you also could have saved Nansen Osho’s cat.”
Hearing that, the moron turns around and asks; “what cat, and who the hell is Nansen?”
“Oh, it is one of those absurd Zen stories,” TZ answers. “Nansen, the head of a monastery found two groups of monks quarrelling over a cat, both groups claiming that the cat belonged to them. Nansen grabbed the cat and holding it up he said; ‘give me the right answer (regarding the cat) now, or I will cut the cat in two.’
The monks did not know what to say and remained silent, so Nansen cut the cat in two and walked away. That night Nansen told the story to Joshu and Joshu responded by taking of his one sandal and putting it on his head before walking out the door without saying a word, to which Nansen responded; ‘If you were there today you would have saved the cat.’
“Those monks were stupid,” my moron replays indignantly. “I know a story about a king Slomo or something …”
“Solomon,” I corrected him.
“Whatever,” he responds irritably.
“Who threatened to cut a baby in two …”
“A baby cat?” asks TZ.
“No a baby child,” I tell him.
“Because two women were arguing over it, both claiming to be the mother,” continues our wise seeker. “But before the king could cut the baby in two the one woman anxiously pleaded for the life of the child, saying that the king must give it to the other women rather than kill it. So the king gave the baby to this women saying that only a true mother will give her child away rather than have it killed.”
“Bravo!” responded TZ. “A very intelligent king I would say, but not an enlightened one. You see, Nansen was addressing monks seeking enlightenment, not house wives quarrelling over a child. He wanted them to give him an answer indicative of their status as seekers after eternal truth. They renounced possessions to become monks, but they have obviously not yet renounced possessiveness. He wanted an answer not from the rational mind, but from no-mind where things as we know them do not exist.”
“Maybe our brilliant student could even have saved Schrödinger’s poor cat as well?” I quipped mockingly to bring him down to earth, lest he imagines himself some sort of saint or holy man.
“Who is Schrödinger and what about the cat? Was it a baby cat? Did someone kill it?” asks TZ seriously.
“Long story,” I tell him. “He was a philosopher who put an (imaginary) cat into a box, and we still do not know if it is dead or alive despite a mad man with a book on his head,” I say exasperatedly.
“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I am a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog,” mumbles my moron haughtily, with the book still on his head.
“Who said that?” asks TZ rather excitedly.
“Snoopy,” says my moron with a brilliant smile on his face.
“Whoever Snoopy is, to my mind he is a truly enlightened being!” exclaims TZ jubilantly. “It echo’s our own Zen saying: ‘Before enlightenment; chopping wood, carrying water, after enlightenment; chopping wood, carrying water!
“Adyashanti said: ‘An intelligent mind realizes its own limitation, and it’s a beautiful thing if it does. When you stop holding on to all of the knowledge, then you start to enter a different state of being.’ And that’s exactly that: chopping wood or being a dog, nothing more, nothing less!” says TZ excitedly and throws his arms up into the air like a dramatic opera singer.
“Do you understand?” TZ asks urgently of our new philosopher with a book balanced on his head.
“No master I do not,” our seeker after eternal truth replies dismally.
The air in our cottage is crackling with psychic energy, I am almost afraid that something holy (or unholy) might manifest in front of us.
And quietly TZ starts to recite a verse:
“Mahaprajna (Great or Absolute Wisdom)
It is neither taking in nor giving up.
If one understands it not,
The wind is cold, the snow is falling”
TZ serves supper. We sit at the table and eat in silence, because eating for TZ is an exercise in mindfulness.
“Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness,” my moron says, quoting Meister Eckhart. I notice that he still has the book balanced on his head, and a strange light in his eyes. I think he is losing his mind.
We have a long, arduous way to go. Tomorrow we must start our ascend into the high country where the air will be thin and could.