Friday, July 24, 2020

Prisoners of Karma (video)

Story by Suvimalee Karunaratna (Buddhist Publicvation Society via Against the Stream); Luis de Sevilla, L.A. Arboretum; LAFreeBee; Ashley Wells, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly

The peacock was kept in a cage in the temple premises. I never could understand why the monk allowed him to be caged up like that. The whole day long he used to pace back and forth, back and forth, unceasingly inside his cage.

When this gorgeous creature let out his mournful cry, which resounded through the air, I recognized the call all too well. The note of pain, grief, lamentation, and despair in the cry was unmistakable.

I realized he was suffering from the pain of separation — from his mate, perhaps, his kith and kin, his familiar haunts in the jungle and, furthermore, he was experiencing extreme frustration at being locked up in a cage.

I walked up close to the cage and observed the marvelous colors of his body. He was a majestic specimen. He stood still, posing, feeling my admiring gaze on him. At that moment I knew he was not feeling any grief or loneliness. He was finding self-affirmation in my admiring gaze, no doubt.

I lost myself in the sheer beauty of his form, complexity of design, and color. He held his arched neck in a stately fashion, its head proudly poised with its dainty coronet. From the top of his head, down over his neck to his breast and under-carriage he wore, like a coat of mail, an eye-shattering resplendent blue.

Then came a bold pattern of black and white on its wing feathers, ending in a band of buff edging. On the nape of his neck, where the blue ended, there was a scarf, as it were, of ornate embroidery in greens and golds.

I had never seen anything like it before. Not even the richest of caparisons I and my companions wore in the Esala Perahera [Sri Lankan ambulations around the temple] could compare with this. And the whole of his body had a wet glistening gold sheen to it.

The fine quills of his green tail feathers with their "eyes" seemed a-quiver as though just dipped in liquid gold.

As I contemplated this ornate bird, this mythical vehicle of a Hindu god, my admiration slowly gave way to sadness. My little one's father, too, had been a lordly, majestic specimen, but old age, sickness, and death had overtaken him in the end.

The peacock was in the prime of his life, but if I were able to telescope time into a few minutes' duration, I would see the change taking place in him very clearly revealed before me as though I were watching a film.

The change in us takes place in such slow motion that we do not notice it from moment to moment.

Once an arctic tern told me that when he looked down from way up high at the great wide ocean beneath him, he saw no motion at all. Only a frozen sheet of blue with gashes of white swirls all over like a still from a film. That did not mean there was no motion in what he saw.

So perhaps we do not see the constant flux in us and all around us, but it is there all the same.

Though the peacock's carriage was haughty, his lackluster eyes betrayed his wretchedness. I longed to comfort him. But what comforting words could I give him?

"Friend," I said finally, trying hard to swallow down the lump that had got stuck in my throat, "We must count ourselves fortunate to be in the peaceful precincts of this temple." More

ABOUT: Suvimalee Karunaratna was born in Sri Lanka in 1939 and received her early education in Washington, D.C. and in the capital of Colombo. While living in Rangoon, Burma, where her father was posted as the ambassador to Burma from 1957-1961, she received meditation instructions from the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw and the Ven. Webu Sayadaw. Her first volume of short stories was published in 1973, and several of her short stories have appeared in anthologies of modern writing from Sri Lanka as well as in literary journals. She is the author of The Walking Meditation (Bodhi Leaves No. 113, and The Healing of the Bull (Bodhi Leaves No. 140).

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