- Sunya & Tathata#7- The Waterfall
Tathata watched intently as a cohort of nonchalant insects scurried
across the worn trunk of a witering tree.
They had no idea about the vast, myriad world outiside, just their
They had no worries over world politics, over green issues and
wars. Running up and down a single tree placed strangely in the
of an old church yard which, in turn lay somewhat uncomfortably in
centre of London surrounded by neao cloaked towers and bustling
streets- the tiny insects knew nothing of life beyond.
They just did what they needed to do, and nothing more.
Tathata concluded that they were far more enlightenend than us.
Sunya wondered why she had come here with her sister. In fact, she
wondered why she went anywhere with her.
She gazed over at the bright lights and interminable hustle of
Picadilly Circus and wished she was shopping. That was bad- Sunya had
never been a shopper...
She kicked a stray pebble across the bumpy stone courtyard and out of
the crampt gateway into a packed street where it skimmed between the
legs of a clutch of frenzied comuters before striking the angelic
white shoe of a gawping tourist.
"Why do tourists always wear white anyway?" Sunya tactically turned
away as the vexed vacationer scowered the horizon for his
unintentional assailant, and found herself looking to Tathata, who
still busy on urban safari.
"Can't you just watch Antz, or bug's life, or something? I'm sure
She sat next to her sister beneath the mottled tree and yawned like a
Brit at a baseball match.
Tathata dipped her big, curious eyes towards a pair of solomn worker
ants as they carried a deceased colleage down the twisted bark.
comes to every being. Nobody, and nothing, can escape Yama- the lord
Sunya was stunned by her sister's cool attitude to the thing; "Great.
That's something to look foeard to, huh? I 'spose it's easier when
believe in reincarnation. Guess that's why you like the bugs- you
don't wanna hurt them in case one of them is grandma or something."
Tathata smiled to herself. "Death is unavoidable. Back follows
top follows bottom, death follows life. You can't have one without
other. You must accept them both, because they are part of the same
"Life and death are the same thing?" Sunya was beginning to think her
sister was taking the old tried and tested family road of becomming
suicidal, but then, she hadn't quite grasped the paradox here yet.
"Shunryu Suzuki said 'our life and death are the same thing. When we
realise this fact, we have no fear of death anymore, nor any real
difficulty in life.'"
"And he meant?"
"Simply that we shouldn't be scared of death. Human beings waste
lives being afraid of death- running from it. Zhaungzi's analogy was
with a man trying to outrun his own shadow. We struggle desperately
our entire lives to prolong life- to avoid the unavoidable. We waste
so much time trying to prolong life that we loose more time that we
gain. Life and death are just points on the wheel of samsara. They
just things that happen. To deny them is to deny life itself- it's to
live in fear."
"So what? We should just accept death? That if you died now I
shouldn't worry- Sayonara; don't cry for me Argentina? Should just
shrug my shoulders and say 'well, it happens'?"
Tathata followed the funeral march of mourning insects decend the
trunk. "Death effects people, and that's natural. But it effects
people- it doesn't effect you."
"You don't mourn for yourself, right? Because of reincarnation.
be reborn as an ant, or something?"
Thathata grinned like Buddha under the bodhi tree; "Perhaps."
"What? Even if you live a good life? You'll still be born as an ant?
thought the point was that human beings were better than animals- if
you lived well, you got a good reincarnation."
"There are good things about being a human being, but there are good
things about being an animal, too. Animals don't have some of the
baggage we have to carry around; they don't accumulate, they don't
commit genocide, they don't start wars. Wars negin because of greed
and envy. Animals don't have these things- they live with what they
need and nothing more."
"So it's better to be an animal? I thought it was the other way
"There are certain things about being a human being. Animals have to
fight to survive. Most human beings do not. We are the dominant
species on this planet, and that means we have time to breath- to
think and develop ourselves spiritually."
"So what? If we live a bad life, we struggle- we have physical
problems, mental problems, family problems- we're poor and so on,
wheras if we live a good life..."
Thathata giggled silently. "Wealth is not the point. Neither is
health- mental or physical. Neither is parenting. Buddha was born a
prince. He had everything, but at the same time he had nothing. Only
when he denounced his wealth and his position did he find the way.
Problems are put there to build our character- they are stones on the
path of spirituality. They have nothing to do with former lives."
"But wait- bad karma?"
"It doesn't work that way. Wealth; even health; these are transitory
things. It is our character which is determined by karma, not just in
future lives, but in this one. When we do good, we become a good
person. When we do bad, we become a bad person. Most people do a
mixture of the two. The trick is to tend towards the good."
"And what? You'll be born a bug?"
"Different people are attracted to different things. The same applies
to rebirth. A greedy person will desire a greedy life- wealth,
prestige; all the mundane things in life. Most likely, they'll get
Now Tathata really was confused; "What? Be greedy and you get what
"But you don't get what you need." This was the central point, and it
brought Tathata back to the carefree ants; "Possesions only breed
frustration. They can never truly satisfy us. The more we have, the
more we have to do. The more we have to do, the less time we have to
develop ourslelves; spiritually. We loose ourselves in the rat
race..." She craned her neck to the endless cowds outside the
placed church yard- the eternal charge for money and prestige. Human
beings bringing themselves below animals in a dog-eat-dog world they
created out of their own volition; "...The greatest reward is to be
reborn in a state which is receptive to spoiritual growth. In a place
where you will not grow complacent. To be reborn as a person who is
receptive to spiritual matters."
"So how you act determines the person you are in the next life, which
in turn determines your chances to be spiritual?" Sunya wasn't yet
buying it, but then again, doubting faith is a good thing. Otherwise,
how is it ever going to get stronger?
"It doesn't matter if you're born with physical disabilities, or with
mental disabilities, or in a broken home, or in a poor neighbourhood.
Sometimes, these challenges work to your advantage- you can use them
to spark the spiritual. If you have it too easy, like Buddha did,
difficult to humble yourself, and you have to humble yourself- you
have to drop the desire to be right all the time- if you want to
persue the spiritual path."
"OK, so it's a process. We go towards what? Enlightenment? Oneness?"
"Before birth there is no feeling. Only when we are born do we begin
to feel- begin to deviate- become distracted. We are seperated from
oneness by birth- by setting forth on the wheel of samsara- just as
the water from a waterfall is seperated by rocks and wind on its way
down. We become seperated from the whole, and we begin to be
to this form- to being a single drop- to being a human being. We
to stay that way- we fight against the inevitable- against death.
That's when we get desperate, we get greedy. We want more life. We
want more posessions to hide behind to take our minds off the fact
that we're going to die. To hide from the notion that we arn't really
like this- that this is not our true form. We become deluded, and we
hate the idea of oneness."
"But that's the true nature?"
"And we shoudl cultivate it. We should investigate ourselves because
all answers are here- in this mind. This mind is oneness."
"Wait- it is oneness? What are you on about, Tath?"
"What I mean to say is that we are all everyone at once. We just
"Huuuuh?" Sunya hadn't quite read that in the scriptures, but then
again, what was Zen? Bodhidharma had said it was 'direct pointing at
one's mind, becomming a Buddha.' It had nothing to do with scripture-
these Zenists burned scripture when it got cold, didn't they? She let
her little sister continue-
"This is the way I see it. The human mind is limited. It can only
one personality at a time. So we reincarnate. We become someone who
want to be. If we are spiritually adept, we become someone we need to
be. We just 'flip' to another conscioussness, and we forget the last
life, because it would be too much for our brains to deal with. But
time, we will be many people. Mabye I'll come back as grandma."
"Wait a minate, Tatha- how the hell can you come back as grandma?
She's dead. How can you be your own geandmother? That's the
"Time is merely a human construct. Life, death and rebirth are not
neccissarily subject to our rules."
"So we can be reincarnated in the past?" That was definatley not in
the scriptures, or mabye Sunya was reading the wrong scriptures.
"There is only one conscioussness- really, it's just that our human
brains can only appreciate one part of it at a time. Sartre said when
we choose, we choose for all humanity, because humanity is what the
whole is. Not just humanity, in fact- animals, plants, whatever."
"You can be reborn as a plant?" Sunya's film buff mind was beginning
to imagine what a good comedy that would make... A sequel to 'little
shop of horrors', perhaps.
"We are all part of the whole- across the spectrum, across species-
acrosss time. We are like three blind men and an elephant. One feels
the tail and says the elephant is like a snake. One feels the trunk
and says it's like a tree. Another feels the body and says it's like
canvus tent. All are right, of course, to an extent, but none see the
whole. When we are reborn, all we are doing is becomming a different
blind man. All we are doing is seeing a diferent part of the whole.
Only the enlightened can stand back and see- spiritual sight, that's
what it's all about. I'm you, you're me- symultainiously. We just
don't know it yet."
Sunya wheezed and shook her head. Tathata had this knack of
metaphorically opening her head up with a chainsaw, plucking her
out, dancing around with it in a chaotic walz and dunking it back in
to falter and ache like an overused limb.
"So the point is to return to the waterfall?"
"To realise that each droplet's true nature is water."
"To understand that each person's true nature is oneness." Sunya had
got it, theoretically at least. Tathata smiled broardly. Her big
sister was closer to the truth than she expected. We all are, because
we are all Buddha. She just didn't know it yet."
NEXT CHAPTER IN ABOUT A FORTNIGHT
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