The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 79
“It’s curious,” I said, sitting across from Jones at In & Out Burger, “in the Mahayana precepts, there are three methods of teaching, because they define three distinct intellectual groups: the not so smart, the relatively smart, and the very smart.”
Jones: (Puts down double double animal style, grabs napkin, finishes chewing, takes gulp of Dr Pepper) Yeah but it’s all an inner thing, a personal thing. That’s why you’re not allowed to talk at those Vipassana retreats.
Me: Yeah. Still, it’s kind of why I’ve ignored the Theravada.
Jones: (Laughs) Nirvana for dummies?
Me: Except I love Kornfield, you know, the Spirit Rock guy? I mean, he’s essentially a Dharma comedian, but, seems to me his method is designed for all three groups.
Jones: Comedians—good comedians—are VERY smart people.
Me: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Anyway, knowing pretty much what I’m going to get, I’m listening to his most recent talk online. There’s a Spirit Rock south now, in Joshua Tree. Did you know?
Jones: Really. Had no idea.
Me: This is the closing talk at a 10 day retreat there and, strangest thing, about midway through he does something I’ve never heard him, or anyone do. My impression is there’s about 40 people there so he has them pair off and sit comfortably, facing each other. Basic idea is you’re supposed to gaze into the eyes of the person you’re facing—a stranger, in most cases, someone you’ve never even spoken to—and imagine all their life experiences. One extreme to the other. He guides you through it very kindly, softly, slowly…
Jones: So it’s a lesson in duality?
Me: No. Compassion. But he doesn’t tell you that till the end, maybe 20 minutes later. Thing is, just as a listener, I couldn’t help but get sucked in. The room materialized, all these faces, eyes, and of course…
Jones: (Mockingly) Juliette.
Me: Except we couldn’t do it. We’d just start giggling, rolling our eyes. I visualized some Dharma security guy coming over, escorting us outta there and off the premises.
Jones: Ha! ‘And don’t come back, you… infidels!’ That’s great, man. Except it sort of sucks, too. I mean, there’s some exclusivity or arrogance thing going on, right?
Me: Or just a non-joiner thing.
Jones: An artist thing?
Me: Maybe. Or maybe, somehow, a damaged human thing.
Jones: Everybody’s damaged, amigo.
Doomed. Whatever “thing” it was, the whole thing felt doomed.