Heading for the mountain
It is five in the morning when TZ gently awakens us. It is time for our rising sun meditation he tells us. The moron wants to go back to sleep. He will do his meditations later, he promises … after breakfast he says. He is hungry and he cannot meditate on an empty stomach.
“Sir” TZ says, “The Overself which you perhaps call the Holy Spirit, demands a sacrifice so complete that even the innocent natural longing for personal happiness must be offered up, and I believe a full stomach makes you happy. It is for you to decide whether you want to be enlightened or happy.”
Always ready to play the clown, he retorts; “Something has got to hold it together. I’m saying my prayers to Elmer, the Greek god of glue.” This is His Majesty’s humble, early morning effort to be funny again, the stupid ass. A Quote from Tom Robbins, I believe. But he obediently follows TZ to the balcony.
We sit on the balcony facing east towards the rising sun, me as usual on top of my companion’s bolding head. For the benefit of our seeker, TZ plays a guided meditation CD very softly so as not to disturb the other guests, but soon we are silently joined by four other people asking permission to sit with us.
TZ sits in his normal Lotus position on the floor to meditate. The rest sit on cushions with legs folded in front of them, arms resting on their knees. After about ten minutes the moron starts to fiddle and sigh. His breathing starts to become laboured in a rather disturbing way. TZ quietly talks to him, urging him to concentrate on his breath and to relax. He then softly starts to recite the mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’. Everybody settles down again and follow TZ in his mantra, feeling the sun slowly embracing us in its warmth, feeling blessed to be here, to be part of life, just to be.
After another ten minutes a train suddenly bursts forth from the dense bushes and rattles past our humble cabin, causing it to shake and the woodwork to rattle alarmingly. The moron abruptly jumps up confused and frightened, shouts out in alarm; “what the hell …” and then walks away, mumbling something under his breath. TZ is obviously undisturbed by all the commotion, he ignores him and everybody else continues with their meditations. Later on TZ and the others join me and my visibly unhappy moron in the kitchen. “What’s with this ‘Oh badme bum’ business?” he asks TZ rather agitated.
I am so ashamed of the stupid bastard I want to kill him on the spot, but TZ just look at him calmly and patiently start to explain to him what the mantra is all about.
“In short,” TZ says, “Om mani padme hum means that, in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.
“Om is the pure, exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.
“Mani is the jewel, the altruistic intention to become enlightened, to become compassionate, to become love.
“Padme is the Lotus, which is wisdom.
“Hum is the indivisible method and wisdom.
“But mostly it is a way of quieting the mind, to stop the chattering monkey mind so that you can enter the stillness which is wisdom.”
“If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was, ‘thank you’, that would be enough,” counters our novice seeker after truth with a quote from Meister Eckhart. Quoting people out of context is an exasperating speciality of his.
“The fool who thinks he is wise is just a fool. The fool who knows he is a fool is wise indeed,” sighs TZ, quoting the Buddha.
We head for the mountains, traveling North at a leisurely pace. It is a lovely sunny day. There is not a cloud in sight. The scenery along the road is beautiful. We pass lovely wheat fields gently swaying in the soft breeze. Stately farm houses go silently by, and flocks of sheep graze in lush green pastures. We stop to take pictures of ostriches grazing near the fence. TZ is ecstatic. He jumps out of the car and start to take photographs of the big birds. He has never seen a live ostrich in his life and wants to get as close to them as possible. To our amazement he climbs through the fence and start to walk towards the ostriches. “You better get back here unless you want to get killed,” the moron shouts at TZ just as one of the birds start to run towards him with its beak wide open and its wings flapping. TZ scrambles back to the fence and dives through the barbed wire with the angry ostrich coming to a stop against the fence in a cloud of dust. Scraps of TZ’s torn clothes flap in the wind on the barbed wire fence.
TZ is as excited as a child. He laughs uproariously while dusting dirt from his tattered clothes. I notice bleeding scratches on his left hand and forehead. TZ is as ecstatic as a child about almost everything in the world. He is childlike, but never ever childish.
“You will get yourself killed you moron!” scolds our little wise man angrily. “That bird will rip you open from top to bottom with one kick. Don’t be a bloody fool. Listen to me and never go near an ostrich again. You might be a Master of some kind but you know sweet blue all about wild animals. And in any case, a dead Master is worth nothing to me. Get back into the car and stay there,” he rants with gusto.
“Thank you for your concern sir,” says TZ humbly, “but that performance was solely for your benefit. As we progress into the high country you will learn that there is nothing to fear, not even death.” With that he turns around and walks back to the fence where the ostrich is still parading up and down like an angry General. He starts to talk softly to the bird and the bird miraculously comes up to him and allows him to scratch its head and stroke its neck, and then he casually climbs through the fence again and while talking softly, he walks around the ostrich, stroking its wings and back. After a while he says his goodbyes by formally bowing in front of the ostrich and then climbs back through the fence and walk to the car as if nothing ever happened.
I notice that his clothes are now as immaculately clean as always and there is no sign of scratches or bleeding on his hand or head. It is as if he is indeed so radiantly clean that he is almost shimmering in the sun.
We drive away in complete silence. The road is getting steeper now and winding through dense indigenous shrubs and trees. It is getting colder.
“In his book ‘Emptiness Dancing’ Adyashanti tells of his first awakening,” TZ says from the back seat, breaking the cold, prolonged silence. “For him it manifested as hearing a birdcall early one morning while meditating, ‘a chirp, in the front yard,’ he recounted, ‘and from somewhere inside me the question arose, “What is it that hears the sound?” he writes. He had never asked that question before and then suddenly realized that he was as much the sound and the bird as the one hearing the bird, that the hearing and the sound and bird were all manifestations of one thing. He realized that everything, but EVERYTHING was a manifestation of that One thing, and that everything was divine.
“I just thought that, after our little encounter back there, this passage from a Master’s written testimony was rather pertinent. Please note that the size of the bird does not matter at all.”
The temperature inside the car suddenly drops by about two degrees Celsius, and I do not think it is entirely accounted for by the fact that we are moving higher up into the mountains.
“Of course size does count,” quips our unenlightened driver merrily and starts to whistle ‘When the Saints go marching in.’
The rest of the way we travel in complete silence. TZ seems to be contemplating the wonder of his thumb nail, while I, the famous Red Cap sit in quiet desperation, waiting for the next blundering idiocity my traveling companion will think of to entertain us with. But he doesn’t say a thing, he just frightens the hell out of me and TZ by starting to sing very loudly (and off key) and all of a sudden and without warning, the words of ‘When the Saints go marching in.’
“’A song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in voice’, the wise old Thomas Merton once said,” he informs us proudly after entertaining us with his ear piercing rendition of a lovely old folk song.
“And I believe Merton also said: ‘Thus the sun which possesses light perfectly, can shine by itself; whereas the moon which has the nature of light imperfectly, sheds only a borrowed light’,” warns TZ patiently with a faint smile from the backseat. “Remember sir that what you are, is prior to your idea of you. Let your mind dwell on that. We will work on this idea once we get to the mountain. I will take you to the very top of the mountain even if I have to drag you there. I will take you to the edge of the precipice, and if you are ready you will step over the abyss into the void, or I will push you,” he says rather severely. “In the mean time, please do not ‘burst forth in song’ again without warning us well in advance,” he chuckles merrily.
Our next stop will be a little town called Swellendam. It is a lovely country town or ‘plattelandse dorp’ as it is referred to by local Afrikaans speaking people, a town with a rich historical background sitting at the foot of the Langeberg mountain range.
We drive on, but I and my moron are now a little bit apprehensive about our forthcoming, now seemingly ominous encounter with the mountain, and I suddenly remember a poem by Breyten Breytenbach:
Die Verminkte Son
Iewers loop die hart se paaie dood
Is ruimte so?
Iewers kom iets in mens los
bloedoffer vir die duiwel
vergifte brood vir duiwe
Iewers kom iets in my los
en steier rillende
langs paaie van die pyn
verby bedelposte en tolhekke
af in die oopgaan van die nag
iewers kom iets in my los
ek weet nie waarnatoe
iets van die geheimeniste
iets wat singend huil in die verskiet
iets soos die onbegryplike belydenisse
van vlerke voor die son