A thirteen year old Thai boy with a freshly shaved head and fresh yellow robes walked down the street in Thailand. He was off to the market to purchase some items for the temple. He stumbled across his father’s former best friend who had become a drunken disgrace after his business failed because of alcoholism and womanizing. He was always a strange man who wore a strange American wrist watch.
“Look at you!” he stammered. “You are a novice monk!”
“Yes, it is is good to see you.” Said the boy.
“Why … d-d-d-did you decide to become a monk?”
The boy’s mouth curled up to the side showing contempt.
“I seek to obtain enlightenment,” he said sadly trying desperately to leave the conversation.
“I’m enlightened. It’s not that big of a deal really,” said the drunk.
The boy got angry.
“You were my father’s best friend and your family was beloved of ours. I LOVED you growing up. You were my inspiration! You were a leading businessman. And now, you are a worthless drunk. Do you know why I became a monk? Because of the heartbreak you gave my father and how you broke my heart! The fact that you tried to lay with his wife! The fact that you cannot control your appetites. How dare you say you are enlightened?”
The eyes of the drunk were like wax. Then he spoke.
“Since you are going to be a monk and not help your aging father in his business. I just thought I would ask you this. Did you know, that the Tibetan Buddhists in the tradition of Tantra have an interesting meditation? One imagines that the whole rest of the world is enlightened EXCEPT HIM. That he is the last dunce, the flunky, and that everyone else is pretending to not be enlightened for his sake. Everyone is co-creating a universe so the last idiot will FINALLY get it and awaken to the buddhas all around him.”
“I hadn’t heard that story.”
“Well, let’s look at it a minute. This would mean the man who yells at you in the market, isn’t really angry, he’s ACTING angry so you will wake up. The prostitute isn’t really a prostitute, she is a Buddha ACTING like a prostitute so you, dunce boy, will wake up.”
The boy smirked and replied, “And the old drunken friend who betrayed my father and tried to sleep with his wife isn’t really a lazy drunken liar, but a Buddha?”
The old man raised a finger and shook it once to let him know he got it.
“Well, then,” said the boy. “I guess I better go to temple so I can get enlightened.”
“Wait, tell me about Buddha. Tell me his life story.”
“I have to get things for the temple.”
The drunk grabbed his arm. The boy sighed and looked at the old man’s watch checking the time.
The boy started with the story of the life of Buddha: the legend of his birth, the teachers he followed, his abandonment of the teachers and his attaining enlightenment.”
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE,” said the drunk.
The boy stopped.
“What happened right before Buddha became enlightened?”
“He sat under the tree and declared he would not leave that spot until he was liberated.”
“He was an ascetic.”
“I don’t understand.”
The old man got closer, his breath reeking of alcohol and his body stanching of odor.
“What did Buddha DO after he studied with the other teachers?”
“He left them.”
“He left them.”
“I’m sorry. I’m old. Drunk. And a dunce. What was that?”
“HE LEFT THEM!” shouted the boy.
“And you follow Buddha?” asked the old man.
“So tell me, when do the temple followers leave their teachers like Buddha left HIS?”
“They don’t. They follow the Buddha all their lives.”
The old man hugged the boy, whose face looked very awkward from the embrace. The hug was long. Too long. WAY too long.
“Look at you,” said the old man. “You are beautiful. You are so, so your father’s and mother’s best possible gift to our world!”
The old man took one last look at the boy.
“GOODBYE!” said the old man. As he walked away he was pointing out people as he staggered down the street and yelling back to the youth he loved the following observations:
“Look here! – A prostitute? … Look there! – A merchant? ….Look at me! – An old lecherous drunk? … Who ARE these people?”
The boy looked around at the people surrounding him as the old man vanished into the crowd. A strange realization struck him.
“Buddha left his teachers …”
The lady behind a fruit cart gave him a warm smile.