Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Companions of Mu

Once upon a time in an ancient Chinese village, lived an old man, who was known for his great love of caves, mists and poetry. This venerable old man, was named Mu. (1)

As a boy he trained with the other young Buddhist monks, practicing his meditation, awareness of breath, and the slow, methodical brushstrokes of the characters he brought to life. After gazing upon his flawless work, his elders whispered among each other “the most gifted hand in the monastery…”As he practiced his art deepened, but he also began to fall in love with the lovely fields and valleys that would appear on occasion below the thin, crisp air of his mountain home. (2)

On his fifteenth birthday, the monks held a ceremony to help him decide his future. They brought him a tray with a long white lotus stem on one side and on the other a plain porcelain plate with a handful of rice. The monks sat around him quietly seated in a semi-circle of reverence. Mu, looked at the flower, its perfect white petals, its assurance of eternal beauty. Then at the rice, plain, simple and hard. The grains of a life of toil and detail. He sat there for several hours in deliberation. The monks quietly chanted at their prescribed periods. Finally he lifted his hands slowly and lifted the plate of rice and poured the grains into his open hand. The sound of the rice was enough to inform the monks. They gently stood and bowed towards Mu in unison and left in silence. In the morning, Mu would leave the monastery to live the life of a common laborer. (3)

He worked very hard in the fields, the rise and sweep of his sickle, keeping time in the sticky heat. In the evenings he would watch his children play, his wife spin yarn and sip his tea or rice wine slowly and return to reading poetry. He sometimes would look up at the brush and ink upon the mantle, but he never disturbed their tranquility. (4)

Never did his devotion waver. His sons grew strong and tall, but were carried off by war, forever. His wife fell ill and he attended her every day. When she died he quietly gathered straw and burned their little house in the fading sun. His eyes glistened through the heat and smoke. (5)

Mu wandered back to the mountains, full of dripping greenery, black lakes and dancing mists. He made many friends in the wood and mountainside, songbirds would visit him and he would return the favor on his bamboo flute. Wild and presumed ferocious creatures would come to visit him also. He would bow to them and they to him in their own way. (6)

One day he took a walk to a beautiful meadow with a brisk mountain stream running alongside and ancient bearded trees watching over. He found his sacred place and lay down there. Falling into a peaceful sleep he drifted into a timeless dream.

Three flies joined him on his journey.

Hovering above his gentle countenance, they painted the characters of his vision . As he slept, his dream was written in mid-air flawlessly by the three flies. As the flies bounced and danced, birds read their magnificent poems and flew to the four corners of the mountain woods singing them to the creatures delight. The birds flew to the sea and sang to the fish and in this way Mu’s dream was retold to all the living beings of the Earth.(7)

The poem of Mu, as told by the flies and birds and fish said,

“Honor everything as it is.

All living creatures are connected.

We are one landscape sung together.

Even our friends, the rocks and the air and the swift water carry the songs of life.

All of these mountain creatures are our ancestors. (8)

Many fight hard to conquer the wilds, to prove they are more worthy.

But no one can conquer the infinite source, this freely given Love.

Only in devotion will it be sustained.

Love provides for ten-thousand generations.

When the mountain hawk circles out of sight, rejoice.” (9)

Opening his eyes, refreshed from his nap, Mu awoke.

Rising slowly, he picked up his cane.

Gazing in each direction he bowed in thankfulness.

While walking to his little stone Stupa.

at the edge of the forest,

his three companions bowed in mid-air. (10)

(in parentheses are the color plates of a childrens book yet to be illustrated....)


At 9:51 PM, Blogger Denis said...

moving story - can't wait to see it published. There is an illustrator who lives on Bainbridge who micht be a collaborator. Her name is Barb Berger. She wrote & illustrated Ganrdfather Twilight, When the Sun Rose and Donkey's Dream.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Chandira said...

Hi Aaron, nice to 'meet' you! I'll be back.

Thanks for a beautiful peaceful space, very inspiring.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Chandira said...

Hi Aaron, thought you might like this, by Adi Da Samraj.

Forehead, breath, and smile,
my portion of the East,
pressed within the navel of my Science,
revolutions in the West.
is the way from East to West.
My arms of love
express the circle of our mind.
Enjoyments are my feet.
Sweet Lords are under foot.
Mt Presence will survive
the only adventure,
head to head.
Only men of pleasure know the Truth.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger muse said...

The perfect escape from the material world is Shabbat.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for this sweet story whose truth is timeless. "We are one landscape sung together."

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

~Jelaluddin Rumi

Sweet song,

At 11:28 PM, Blogger pureplum said...

Hey I love this story.
And you inspired me to start a blog! Thanks.


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