A snippet of free fiction for you. It popped into my mind early this morning, came out of the space of meditation, as all my creativity does. It could be part of a new Prunella Smith book. Or not. Who knows. Creativity is a strange mistress.
I’m in a mist. It’s so thick I can barely see past my fingertips. Grey. Everywhere. A white figure appears then disappears, just a flash of four pale arms and a flowing silk scarf. Four arms? I blink. I must have been mistaken. My feet take me forward. I’m not sure I want to walk where I can’t see, but I can’t stop, either. I have to know, have to see, have to connect—with what, I’m not sure.
The mist thins a little and reveals a man with thinning black hair, sitting on a chair on a beach. His back is to me, but I know who it is—my teacher. The man who treated people as slaves. The man who broke my trust. The man who introduced me to my true nature.
He says nothing. A gull cries overhead, and waves crash against the shore. I can smell the salt, feel the spray on my skin, and yet this scene is contained, the vision limited to a bubble of clarity in a sea of mist.
‘Why?’ I ask.
He chuckles. ‘Ah, the glowing girl,’ he says without turning. ‘Do you remember my last words to you?’
I remember and repeat his words back to him. ‘Whatever you do is okay.’
‘And what does that mean to you?’ he asks still staring at the ocean.
Mist swirls in, and the scene disappears. His voice trails off. ‘Exactly.’
‘You didn’t answer my question,’ I shout. But that’s not surprising. It was hard to get any questions to him, let alone get them answered. It’d never occurred to me until now that perhaps he didn’t know the answers.
My feet take me deeper into the mist. I think I’ll step into water, but the beach has gone. A garden appears, emerging in a circle suddenly clear of fog. An old Tibetan woman wearing a beanie sits on a well-cushioned chair staring at a small lotus pond. She holds a mala and the sound of her thumb flicking the beads over and over sounds loud in the stillness of the mist. Click. Click. Click.
I take a step forward, but she doesn’t move, doesn’t seem aware that I’m there, and yet, I feel a powerful awareness in her presence.
‘Why didn’t you stop him?’ I ask. ‘You’re his aunt! He respected you. He needed a firm hand. A strong woman to teach him right from wrong.’
Click. Click. Click.
I’m watching from the side. She doesn’t turn. Her dark eyes shine bright despite the wrinkles and age spots that mar what would once have been a beautiful face. She doesn’t speak English, of course. I know that, but I also know that she knows what I’m asking.
She nods, slowly.
I tried. I did what I could, but he could not be contained.
She hadn’t spoken, but the words had entered my mind. The woman’s eyes moistened, but she still didn’t acknowledge my presence. I had a sense that she was glad she’d passed on, that she didn’t have to witness her nephew’s fall.
Click. Click. Click.
The mist swept her away, and I found myself high in a building, looking down into a cobbled courtyard where a line of about ten monks stood, their backs bared to the cold Himalayan winds. Another line of monks paraded in. I frowned when I saw what they carried—whips. The monks with whips lined up behind the monks with their skin bared.
‘No,’ I whispered.
‘No less than five hundred lashes each,’ a strong voice called out from beside me.
I spun towards the voice, caught a glimpse of the man giving the order just before the mist whipped me away to the sound of lashes falling on naked skin.
Lash, lash, lash. Lash, lash, lash. Lash, lash, lash.
I sank to the ground, chilled to the bone. That man. I’d thought of him as my spiritual grandfather. I’d thought … I’d believed … Five hundred lashes each! Ten monks at a time! This man was some great Buddhist master? No. Even the lineage of supposedly realised masters was a lie. Had they all beaten their attendants? Was violence an accepted part of this religion where the basis was supposed to be non-harming? It didn’t make sense. Did they mistake temporal power for spiritual power?
A back, bleeding from a criss-cross of cuts, appears briefly before me before a maroon robe covers it over. Then more bloody injuries flash by like a video clip of Buddhist abuse. Objects thrown. Punches landed. Hair yanked. Sticks hitting. Demands made—constant, endless, unreasonable demands.
‘Beating increases wisdom,’ a disembodied voice declares from somewhere in the mist.
‘Like hell it does,’ I mutter, thinking of my friend.
I close my eyes to shut out the images of punishments inflicted by supposedly realised beings, but scenes keep flashing behind my eyes: a woman sobbing, a man unconscious on the ground, a girl rubbing cream on her bruises, a bloody scratch being dabbed with a tissue, a terrified girl bending over a man’s genitals.
‘Stop!’ I scream. ‘This has got to stop. NOW.’
Somewhere, somehow this has all gone horribly wrong. The Buddha, I have no doubt, would be appalled at what people have done and are still doing in his name.
I open my eyes and stare into the mist, merging my mind with the whiteness. It dissolves. I find myself on my veranda with the rainforest before me and my house at my back. I have arrived. I am home.
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