Sid and His Five Ascetic Friends. {fiction}

The grass whispered across his aching legs. So many miles without an answer! Hours sitting in rock-like equipoise, enduring monsoons, gales, and blistering heat.

He’d handed over his mind and body to so many different teachers, but each path just led to disappointment.

Why do we suffer? That’s his only question.

That question ripped him away from luxury, power, and family. It tore him away from his wife and infant son.

Why do we suffer?

He never lost hope, never lost the drive to understand. Each failing was a success, a process of elimination bringing him closer and closer to the answer.

The trees parted, and revealed an intimate grove. A clear stream giggled next to a geriatric tree. Traceless birds and blueing sky, his aching bones dragged across the green toward the sanctuary tree.

Sid folded himself against the trunk, his eyes sighed across the grove. So many miles without an answer.

Ah, Sujata. Her beauty is that of the grove’s, and her kindness the autumn yield. She saved Sid from himself. He was practicing with five other ascetics, starving himself in the name of spiritual purification.

Sid was a skeleton, his ribs like prison bars beneath a thin dry hide.

Near death, Sujata begged him to eat and drink. Sid looked up and saw a rainbow — her loving smile the warm welcoming sun, her tearful eyes compassion’s rain. Sid ate and drank, returning from stasis, thanks to Sujata’s latent Buddhahood.

Sid’s five ascetic friends took their leave. Look at how disgusting Sid is! He’s eating, drinking, and speaking with a beautiful woman! Such a disgrace! Such a disgrace!

Sid, in Sujata’s care, found his health again. She didn’t want him to leave, she loved him, but he was a seeker. There could be no happiness, no reality, until he found what he sought.

These images and more flash before him as he sits beneath the Bodhi tree. He lets them flow, like sun-glimmers on water-crests. The birds come to roost, night falls and moon rises.

The glimmers sleep in cerebral silence.

A single raindrop plops into the dark water. Sid isn’t Sid anymore.

The moon sets, and Sid lifts his eyes. Venus, the Morning Star, is a brilliant flickering ember racing toward the horizon. Speechless, the mystery decloaks and stands naked in the mirror; his question has been answered.

The night birds give way to mourning doves, the ghost of dawn flirting with the Nepali sky. The sun emerges from the nocturnal womb. The Buddha unfolds like a morning glory, limbs popping and creaking, but to him there is only luminous space. He smiles with the terrain. This could be home, why not stay? A life of alms rounds in Uruvela, the neighboring town, the giggling stream and Bodhi tree. Why leave?

Sujata’s love whispers through the swaying grass. The world is suffering. Sickness, old age, death, loss, and hatred reign outside this quaint panacea. He closes his eyes, an imperceptible nod.

Each ending is a beginning.

Buddha begins his trek to the Deer Park, where the five ascetics are in retreat.

Sujata’s love is what the world needs, the Unbinding he found should be given to all. Just as she had fed him, he must now feed the masses. Starvation is not merely a curse of the flesh- the heart and mind can starve as well. The body hungers for food, the mind and heart hunger for truth.

Buddha leaves Uruvela to feed the world.


johnauthorJohn Author is a Psychology undergrad and a featured columnist/editor at The Tattooed Buddha. He also makes progressive rock music, and loves writing short stories, usually using the free indirect speech narrative style. He hopes to one day be a licensed social worker, focusing on preventing mental illnesses from developing. You can find him on Facebook or his personal blog.


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