Buddhist Meditations
Agitation at the Sacred Zen Door
08/01/2011 00:17 (GMT+7)
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On that particular gorgeous Spring day, fragrant incense wafted through the village temple. Many Buddhist followers swamped the sanctuary respectfully offering New Year incense to the Buddhas. The throng of people flowed unendingly in and out of the temple area; all their faces brilliantly shone with the blissful contentment that seemed to never have known sufferings and hardship

On that particular gorgeous Spring day, fragrant incense wafted through the village temple. Many Buddhist followers swamped the sanctuary respectfully offering New Year incense to the Buddhas. The throng of people flowed unendingly in and out of the temple area; all their faces brilliantly shone with the blissful contentment that seemed to never have known sufferings and hardship… But an odd character appeared! Everybody was taken aback with frowns and grimaces when a strangely demeaned woman just entered leisurely into the vicinity of the sacred temple; she was like an alien-creature just dropping down on earth from a mysterious far-away planet.

The outlandishly strange lady stood out among the crowd because of her extremely mesmerizing beauty – such a gorgeous elegance no one can deny. She was at least 5’11” (1.7 meters), with dazzling long flowing black hair down her slender back, and with the critically ideal body measurements. Her figure was adequately full, her skin glowingly fresh, her face a gorgeous loveliness. Even if not being a beauty queen of some kind, she was no doubt rated as a fashion model of superstar status. No one would ever scold at such perfection. The only odd thing was that the girl has chosen to wear a peculiarly eccentric outfit, with a very tiny mini-skirt - that couldn’t possibly be any shorter - displaying her fabulous long legs; and a tight-fitting tank-top that barely embraced her sexiest upper torso by thin spaghetti straps straddling elegantly lustrous shoulders. Her exquisiteness could never be refuted, but only if she was standing on a performing stage, or walking a model runway, or existing anywhere out there in the mundane world of materialistic perfection. But here, she appeared right smack in the consecrated ground of a temple, a sacred place of divine worship. People felt violated and angry at the intrusion into a sanctified area; but no one dared to speak up to directly advise her; they only whispered their own bewildered disappointment to one another behind the beautiful creature’s back.

A Big Brother of the Buddhist Youth Association approached the woman with an extraordinary effort and a mighty courage, offered her a long flowing robe in grey – the kind of robe which everybody wore for ritual chanting and temple service - and told her with his most gentle voice:

“Good morning, would you like to put on this dress? If needed to, you can even have it, it’s my great pleasure to make it a New year’s gift to you.”

The young lady only looked back at him with stunningly large brown eyes, fascinating at the sight of the long grey robe, and courteously shaking her head…

The Brother now showed a little annoyance in his voice, held out the robe toward her:

“Please, lady, put this on! Don’t let everybody fret over you, and certainly don’t let the monks see you like this, it would cost you your virtuous merits.”

The woman kneaded her strikingly beautiful brows ever so lightly, and opened her mouth for the first time, asking curtly: “why?”

The Brother who could no longer suppress his impatience, responded abrasively:

“You really don’t get it, do you? This is a sacred temple, not the world’s market or your performance stage. The way you dress certainly isn’t appropriate at all in a place like this, if not saying that it’s totally a royal thorn to everybody’s eyes. Do you really not understand, or do you just pretend like you don’t know it?”

The girl laughed out loud, an attractive smile on her sensual lips, shaking her head:

“Knowing it for what? For being stuck in its formality? If you think it’s hard on your eyes, then don’t look. All of you go to the Temple - bowing to the Buddha and respecting the Triple Gems - or do you come here to scrutinize people and criticize them? You do your things and reap your merits. Leave me alone!”

The Brother was speechless, not knowing what to do next, his face a reluctant discomfort and his arm still held tight to the flowing grey robe. Out from the side a young monk approached the beautiful woman, respectfully bowed his head in greeting, and spoke with her in his most compassionate voice:

“Amitabha Buddha! The temple doors are always open to all sentient beings, regardless of status, richness or poverty, young or old, male or female… But one should not show disrespect for such a sacred place, nor cause any disturbance. When in the presence of monks, wear your cassock, when in with ghosts, wear paper clothes… as the saying goes. When you dress as such in a Temple, it is almost like slandering religion, insulting the Triple Gems. I’d beg that you please put on the robe…”

The pretty woman smiled sheepishly, cutting his sentence:

“What do you see me wearing, respectful reverend?”

The young monk hesitated:

“Uhr… just too scantily revealing… not conservative and serious enough… and…”

With one swift and sophisticated motion, she brushed her hair backward, strutted out her voluminous upper body with flamboyant vitality, and said calmly:

“You are a monk but you still resent such trifles. Your mind still agitates too much. And your six faculties are not quite precisely clean, still burdened by much ordinary philistine. It may be best if you would just close the door to your little hut, taking a long retreat from this mundane world, so that you don’t have to witness the tainted impurities of us unfortunate women!”

 


The face of the young monk turned a shade of blue, his head bent, his eyes cemented on the ground, he took quick steps disappearing into the crowd of believers still coming and going in horde outside of the main worship hall… The pretty woman smiled triumphantly and turned to the Brother asking:

“Wouldn’t  you like to please direct me to the private quarters of the Abbot? I would appreciate the great opportunity to visit with him, and seek his opinion on a few matters…”

The Brother frowned with open distaste, and thoughtfully added:

“Bringing you to the Abbot certainly is not advisably correct… But, I guess I would have to do this unpleasant task, because in this most ridiculously awkward situation, only the Reverend Abbot would have a powerful-enough spiritual strength to explain to you and inform you of what is right or wrong!”

Thus said, he led the girl through the crowd towards a row of small abodes in the back of the main temple. He stopped in front of a closed door, and turned to speak to the woman:

“Please wait for me right here, I will let the Master know of your request in advance, and ask to see if he is available to see you. Agree?”

“Okay”

The Brother shrugged his shoulders wearily, then knocked on the door three times. Immediately there was a voice from within asking: “Who is that? What do you need?” The Brother spoke loudly:

“Master, I am Tam Tinh, Brother in the Buddhist Youth Association. I have a very important matter to present and ask for your advice.”

The loud sonorous reply came distinctively: “Yes Tam Tinh, come on in, the door is not locked.”

The Brother entered quickly inside and shut the door behind him.  The pretty lady stood there with a malicious half-smile across her face, enthusiastically waiting. After about ten minutes, the Brother came out jubilantly, still holding the door open:

“You have permission to enter. Please watch your manners a little bit, eh?”

The girl laughed gratingly at him, and walked past him into the room. An older monk probably in his late sixties, was sitting cross-legged on a low seat made of shiny black wood, his strikingly brilliant eyes seemed to shine straight into the face of the newcomer. The woman put her hands together to bow profoundly and spoke up:

“Reverend Master, I have a few pondering thoughts, would you please give me some guidance…”

“Just ask. I am listening.”

“I came to pay respect to the Buddha! Whichever way I chose to dress shouldn’t matter to anyone. Yet, people stared and scornfully commented. Monks criticized and incriminated. Who is right and who is wrong in this matter?”

“Everybody is right. Everybody is wrong.”

“Please Master! The commonplace people can be persistently stubborn. But devout monks who left the world, entered into a life of self-improvement, pious to all materialism, why are they still caught in the dogmatic rites and rituals to condemn others and myself? I am asking you, is it correct or not?”

“Half is correct, half is not”

“How? What is correct? What is not?”

“It’s incorrect, because of course, monks should not have trifling resentment especially towards small trivial things. And it’s correct, because everyone has the duty to maintain a pure tranquility for a place of worship, and a mission to serve the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.”

“I have heard somewhere that when a flag flutters in the wind, the flag itself doesn’t wave, but the wind blows; but then truthfully, the wind really doesn’t stir, but our human mind agitates… isn’t this factual, Master?”

“Very well stated, very good indeed.”

“So, according to you, Master, what do you think of the way I dress?”

“It’s very fashionable, up-to-date, rather neat, and most economizing! If the wearer is not in anyway ashamed, nor strained or awkward, or worried; if he or she can just leisurely come and go as if being a dragon standing on the clouds, then that would be very honorably praised. But if the outfit brings discomfort or restriction of movements, causes the wearer to feel like being bonded and chained, or like carrying an onus, then you need to feel sorry and concerned for the person sporting such clothing and not blame or condemn him/her.

The young woman giggled with pleasant contentment. The old monk also broke out laughing so loud it seems every shingle on the little abode’s mossy roof vibrated as well. Then it was complete silence. The girl finally spoke:

“Master, you are so profoundly erudite. And you’re solid as a marble slab.”

“Was that your main purpose for coming to visit the temple today?”

“…” (silence from the woman’s side)

“Silence means admission.” Said the Abbot

“…” (still completely silent)

“You certainly have a profound knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings, and few basic learning experiences on the Calming & Troubling mind-states. So you came to the temple in order to put us Monks to the test, validating our zealous devotion. The spiteful act of making others waver causing disconcerted and troubling mind, in itself is malice. When doing that, you yourself are already disturbed.”

“Yes Master! I am troubling. But one should learn to remain calm and cannot be shaken up by just seeing someone else flustered and disturbed, isn’t that right?”

“You have to remember that everyone around you has been practicing, or still continues the long winding road of practice. No one yet reaches nirvana, no one yet attains enlightenment.”

“So you are the only one who can stay untroubling?”

“This is a retreat home. Living in here, the mind has to stay calm, to wander less.”

“You don’t reprimand me on how I dress today?”

“No I have no reproach, only praise. Clothing is just outer material necessity. Clothes are things, items, articles; they have no perception, no concept; they are not to be blamed. They just cover the body, they are not parts of the human body…”

“But our body is also not permanent…”

“Yes, it is just earth, water, air, and fire transforming into the physical body. Even this corpse is also just the outer substance, much less the pants, the shirts, the dresses, the robes.”

“So only the mind – our inner mind – is important?” asked the girl.

“Disturbance all came from the so-called mind. Therefore, if you are brave enough to clad scantily like so, barely a stitch on you – and you came here to a consecrated religious place to flaunt your ware. Why! Just one extra step to show off your competent ability! Take everything off – remove all of the phony and fake clothing from that false and unreal body of yours right now, right here.”

“…” (complete silence)

“OFF, everything off, NOW.” The Master screamed. The woman cringed, and knelt down on all four limbs, her head banged a few times on the floor in repentance. But the Abbot continued to yell:

“TAKE OFF every single piece. Then go outside for a tour around sightseeing. HURRY!”

“Oh, Master… I can’t, I couldn’t… I’m deeply sorry, I beg for forgiveness. I thank you kindly for teaching me, for opening up my eyes…”

 


… The Brother stood outside pretty far from the door, with obvious anxieties: it was like his stomach having fluttering butterflies, his feet standing on a nest of red ants, his whole innards boiling at hundred degrees… When the door finally opened, the beautiful alien-creature stepped out with radiant face and happy demeanor. More strangely, she was wrapped modestly in a brown cassock-like robe usually worn by the monks. The young woman smiled at him very amicably this time, and took long strides toward the main temple. He stuck out his tongue in disbelief, then gently stepped over to close the door very softly behind him. He put his two hands together forming a lotus flower, bowed three times towards the unfeeling closed door:

“Only Reverend Master is able to conquer the mischievous devil.”

The Brother exhaled a relaxing breath. There was so much fun for the New Year. A really remarkable day!             

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