Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2013
Here in the holy town of Tiruvannamalai, I sometimes I go to a party where I’m the only person who’s not enlightened. It’s so embarrassing! Bhajan singing at The Dreaming Tree, for example. It’s the most upscale place in town: roof-top dining, vegan only, fresh focaccia . And everyone there has been enlightened, seems like. When people find out that I’ve been coming to India for more than twenty years, and I’m still so manifestly delusional, they look terribly sorry for me, because obviously I am so very, very slow.
Busy nights at the Dreaming Tree, everyone shares tables. And it turns out that everyone at this table – everyone but me -- has already had at least the initial awakening – the big one, which cuts the cord of karma and rebirth. Now they are simply integrating the egolessness state. Integrating, consolidating, refining – these are the words they use. Figuring out what to do with all the bliss, basically. Apparently it’s like winning the lottery. Smart people take it slow the first year.
Everyone tries to explain it to me. They want me to catch on. Perhaps they feel embarrassed for me: “It’s so easy! It really is! It’s easy! It’s just a little – erp. Just – erp. A tiny adjustment. Erp. That’s it!”
I feel the same way I did on the playground when everyone explained to me how easy it was to hit the plastic ball with the wiffle bat – and then everyone watched as I flailed at the air.
How I wish I could just hurry off to the toilet. Be alone for a moment, take a leak, achieve enlightenment, shake, zip up, and return to the table feeling cascades of bliss. Just piss, erp, AH.
Tommy, for example. Tommy with his red hair poking out of his head scarf, his blue eyes, and perpetual good cheer. Tommy is not just enlightened. His enlightenment is stabilized. Which is not to say that Tommy is stable. His enlightenment is stable. Tommy sees the whole universe at it is, an expression of the one radiant I AM, and studded all over with shiny pretty girls.
Tommy likes to enlighten pretty girls. Pretty girls like to be enlightened by Tommy. Tommy made a half-hearted attempt to enlighten me. But then I had to admit that I sometimes used mantras.
Tommy made a face. “Sure. That’s great. You can calm your mind that way. You can acquire merit. Maybe get powers. But that’s not how you get enlightened.”
If it was possible for Tommy to be irritated then I would say he was irritated, but, Tommy is enlightened, so it’s not possible for him to be irritated. Though it is possible, evidently, for Tommy to look irritated.
Just then a pretty girl arrives. My enlightenment, never promising, is summarily abandoned. Tommy begins at once to advise her. Turns out she uses a mantra too, but it doesn’t seem to be as much as a roadblock for her. She’s further along, she’s more developed. She’s exceedingly well-developed.
I experience jealousy. Because I am not enlightened. Because I am not established, not developed. I eye my expensive sandwich resentfully. I decide that I have never liked focaccia. Oh, why can’t I be enlightened at the hands of a red-headed boy?
Then I wonder: has anyone ever been enlightened while sucking cock?
I’m certain that someone has. And that’s OK with me. I am happy to be one of a series.
What is holding up my enlightenment? Why is my enlightenment lagging behind? Everyone else, it appears, has already been served.
Tommy and the pretty girl are deep in conversation. Many Sanskrit words are in use; very soon they’ll be in bed together. The crowd at The Dreaming Tree is singing bhajans and clapping their hands. Someone’s got a tambourine, someone’s got cymbals. They’re in bliss.
They’re in bliss, as usual. And I feel a little sorry for myself, because I am not enlightened and not a pretty girl and not receiving any attention.
Life gets pretty ridiculous when you’re not enlightened.
Tommy speaks only to the pretty girl, but now and then he reaches over and pats me on the head, as though I were a Labrador Retriever. This is just another sign of Tommy’s enlightenment, of his great understanding and penetrating insight. As I sit here with the dry ends of my fancy sandwich, waiting impatiently to make that tiny adjustment, wake up, bliss out, catch on.