The single greatest problem In writing about death Is that everybody does it, dies Sooner or later, so it’s hardly All that special unless, like Twain, it happens more than once. But perhaps multiple deaths are not All that uncommon, for Buddhists, Among whom I count myself It happens all the time, karma demands it. And if I had any doubt, Google will confirm it. I, for instance, died the seasoned lawyer in Calgary in 2009, the trade I practice for 36 years, And I ironically died on my birthday In 2011 in Palm Beach Gardens, though I’ll be damned if I felt 84 then, and I kicked bucket in 1754 in Orbach, France But I’ve never been a real fan of the French although it is my next best language And when the wine is good, it’s great.
The young man says, “I cannot comprehend how karma can be balanced.” The woman laughs, says, “you remember but I was once a stripper, that I took off my clothes, and being naked in the presence of men was nothing, since to them I wasn’t a person, just an object of momentary desire, but that life is behind me, as you know. But as a healer, my therapies take me to the strangest places, like the swingers’ club which hired me to do massages, and there I was the only one dressed, they were naked and I am certain at that moment karma found almost perfect balance.” “Now,” he laughed, “I have two images I will carry in my head forever.”
You search without end for a way to precisely measure life in all of its aspects. You will not be dissuaded by the fact that you can no more control its span than you could control your need to breathe. You say you picked the sperm and egg, that their union you carefully orchestrated. You believe all things can be measured, if you can only identify proper metrics for the task. You know precisely how tall you are, how much you have shrunken over the years, how much your waistline has grown. You can count your good deeds, have a rating scale that says your next life will be karmic payback hell. You are taken with measurements of all sorts, so much so that you often forget to fully live. You say that this loss doesn’t matter much, for living boldly, thoroughly, gives you far too much more to measure.
It was easier being Buddhist when I was young, despite the fact I had no good idea what Buddhism truly was. for a child the moment is all there is, the past so short that it means nothing, the future something that will arrive as and when it wishes. For a child, things will go wrong, and do so with fair regularity, but children are also physicists, and the Lorenz effect guarantees that it was never really their fault, and when all else fails, they simply blame karma.
I harbored the thought one day becoming a monk, and not only because saffron robes would be well within my usual color choices. I knew it was a pipe dream, I love, too deeply, to disavow, life and I’m sure my past lives wouldn’t take all that long to catch up with me, karma can be a total bitch and she will never deny it. I asked my grandson, age four, if I had sufficient Buddha nature to consider being a monk. He laughed, and said I had enough monkey nature to someday, just maybe, become a Buddha.
You are surprised when the young man approaches you, his saffron robes a bit faded, his sandals more worn flip-flops, his smiling face almost too happy for a cool morning on the rough pavement of a street in Vienna, cafes pressing the curb. He isn’t begging, not like at home, at least, but he does bow and offer a plastic amulet, and you a few euros in exchange, as much out of guilt as charity, but cognizant that this is likely just another scam, there is no Temple being rebuilt in Myanmar, no monks chanting your favor as the stupa rises. Later, as night sets in, back on the boat and heading up river, you think you see a man sitting lotus on the shore, smiling at you, saying, “it is all intention, and yours was honorable,” as you palm the amulet in your pocket, the same one that now sits on your desk in the corner where you keep careful eye on your karma.