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The Radiant Buddhist NunA diary of idealism and disillusionment
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, 8/30/12
The radiant Buddhist nun is a human being, who suffered a difﬁcult childhood, illness, the loss of two husbands. Perhaps these things are what led her to the practice in the ﬁrst place. This is, however, quite irrelevant. I watched her meditate, because it is so difﬁcult for me to sit still. She is working, smiling at times, yearning at others, fervently concentrating on healing light, compassion, death... Her meditation is about as far from that of a drooling, mantra-bleating TM practitioner as nectar is from a 7-11 slurpee. Her conception of the afterlife, and of personal reincarnation, are beautiful and useful (not necessarily) ﬁctions. When she speaks of a cancer-stricken child, whom she believes is experiencing karma from a previous life, it is not the moral abomination such statements always are in the mouths of most who say such things. It is a recognition of pain in a sentient, suffering being, who deserves our deepest compassion now, and equally did, as well, in their former, misguided incarnation. She has tricks and insights to share, but they are quite beside the point. She, herself, is the lesson, the light, the reason to believe-a benevolent eagle, inhaling the ﬁlth and pollution of the world, and exhaling light, wisdom, and compassion. I've had one or two smart therapists over the years, but they are just more or less talented mud-wrestlers in comparison, ﬂailing about, trying to explain away what cannot be explained away, with thoughts and words and theories and projections. It's far too late for me to become an accomplished meditator, in any way that would make a difference; it's just as unlikely as my now becoming an accomplished cellist, in any way that would make a difference. But one can meditate through and in life as well, and this I fully intend to do. Effort brings freedom.
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, 9/13/12
The radiant Buddhist nun spoke again last night. She spoke about "becoming wood", loving, but never attaching. How anger is like the ﬂu, how one must isolate oneself from others, until it passes. When I asked her whether anger was sometimes a result of hurt, admittedly a dopey, Psychology Today level sort of question, she dismissed me pretty much out of hand, saying simply, yet ﬁrmly, that Buddhism doesn't concern itself with such things. She told a tale of driving from the Berkshires to NYC, chanting "I wish to become a Bodhisattva in this lifetime" all the way. She described animals as humans,
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, p. 2 of 3 pp. who have been trapped in an unfortunate "lower" rebirth, as a result of negative karma, how they deserve compassion because of this, how you can see the previously human soul, if you look hard, and empathically, enough, in the eyes of a dog, or cow. When I asked her if she was vegan, she offered an indescribably charming giggle in response. When I asked her how an animal accumulates sufﬁcient good karma to be reborn as a human being, the most propitious of rebirths, as she had previously explained, she offered a second, indescribably charming giggle in response. When I told her of my experience as a kid, of meeting Transcendental Meditation teachers, and practitioners. who struck me as escape artists, with that awful, vacuous deadness in their eyes, who spoke of aspiring to be "being dead while alive", and how horriﬁed I was by this, when I told her of how I had practiced TM, for close to four years, and stopped cold turkey, as it were, as a result of the accumulated epiphanies that I, too, was becoming one of "them", when I told her I had had a bad breakdown at that time, which I attributed then, and attribute now, to having become addicted to a dangerous, spiritually deadening, practice, when I told her I believed there were spiritual swindlers, offering spiritual snake oil in the world, and that that was why I had stayed away for all this time, out of cynicism and fear, she had only vacuous platitudes to offer. I went to sleep heartsick. I awoke, with her lovable, compassionate presence vivid in my mind's eye. Yet today her lightness of being strikes me as that of a butterﬂy, spiritual, yes, in some sense, but irresponsible, and disturbingly lightweight, in another-that lightness of being perhaps simply an absence of thought, an escape from the ﬁlthy, sweaty, confusing, suffering world that I, for one, and most of us, inhabit. A dishonest escape. I've been watching her meditate. She works while meditating, with fervor. She doesn't zone out like a TM zombie. This has fascinated and inspired me for weeks. What on earth is she doing, what on earth is she working for? Yet this morning, I'm not sure that what she is working for is not as ultimately as vacuous as those TM teachers, long ago-in spite of the delightful twinkle in her eye, the music of her laughter, and her gentle, soothing voice and manner. I just don't know. I will return next week. But today I am heartsick, and, truth to tell, feel a bit silly, and like a bit of a perpetual sucker, after all these years. Orson Welles' little monologue re the respective aesthetic achievements of the bloody Italian renaissance vs. the isolated, peaceful nation of Switzerland keeps coming to mind. Perhaps she's a spiritual cuckoo-clock, after all.
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, 9/30/12
The radiant Buddhist nun has regained, and surpassed, her former radiance. Last night she sang a perfectly imbecilic tune, with words which were almost certainly embarrassing translations of, who knows, perhaps sublime Sanskrit poetry, with a simple voice that cut me in half, a voice of such purity, and angelic innocence that I thought the heavens would explode. When she sang Ti above Do, a phrase or two after having sung bTi below Do, I felt as if I had left my body, and was ﬂoating over the room. And this happened over and over. She spoke at length about the most patent nonsenseages of man before written history, in which countless Buddhas appeared, Buddhas who are, at present, accessible only in the meditations of the most supreme masters, of
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, p. 3 of 3 pp. the topographies of various bardos, how the soul is utterly distinct from the body, i.e., Bronze Age jibber-jabber, which no minimally educated person would ever consider as anything other than moral allegory, dumbed-down, probably countless times, for the unwashed rabble. I had heard one of her compatriots from the Dharma center spout the same lunacy two months prior, i.e., taking, and offering, it as literal truth. At that time, it was hard not to stop the incessant, uncharitable, internal chatter. Last night, the internal chatter was quite different-in fact, there was precious little of it. I believe I was in the presence of some sort of saint, some sort of saint of consciousness, whose frontal lobes are perhaps not the brightest bulbs in the neighborhood, but whose essence is indescribably divine.
The Radiant Buddhist Nun, Somewhat Less Radiant Now 10/18/12
The radiant Buddhist nun is almost certainly some sort of holy person. Of this, I have no doubt-with easy access to all sorts of wonderful interior states of consciousness. Yet, she repeatedly advocates cherishing others over cherishing oneself to increase one's PERSONAL happiness, to create good karma for ONESELF, and to positively influence one's PERSONAL future rebirths. She asks one to meditate on deformed Iraqui babies to increase one's PERSONAL feelings of compassion, one's PERSONAL awareness of suffering in the world. She describes the ecstatic interior visions she has come to experience in her OWN mind. And on and on. You would think it would be quite the opposite, but, in the end, it's mostly my, my, my, and me, me, me. Chicken soup for the selfinvolved soul. Two stitches that a decidedly unenlightened, in her view, MSF doctor places in a child's head, to sew up a wound, are worth more than all her narcissistic navelgazing. "Wisdom" of this sort can only occur in overfed, first-world countries. Usually on Oprah. I'm being way too harsh, I'm certain of that. But what can I do-these are the things that are jumping out of the tapestry of what she says and advocates more and more.