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AMERICAN BUDDHA
"BELIEVE NOTHING BASED MERELY ON TRADITION, SCRIPTURE, OR FAITH IN A TEACHER"
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July, 2019

The Dialogue of the Yogi and the King

 

by Charles Carreon
July 21, 2019

 

The King was out riding one morning, surveying his domains with no particular aim in view, or so it seemed, until he spotted the Yogi walking down the dusty road. The King flagged his detail to ride ten paces behind him, and brought his magnificent horse to a walk, keeping even with the Yogi, who continued walking, not looking at his Highness. The King spoke first.

KIng: "I hear you are an honest Yogi."

Yogi: "Your Majesty will be the best authority on such a matter, for your ears are everywhere in the Kingdom. It is well-known that you are privy to the words and conduct of all, which is why crime is low and I live in peace, unbothered by hooligans, in the cemetery."

King: "You are so known."

Yogi (stopping and turning): "Delightful, Sire. How may I serve your Excellency?"

King (Gesturing to his guards to come forward): "Let us speak awhile under this tree."

Yogi: "Gladly, Sire."

The King dismounted with the aid of his squire, made his seat on a leathern tripod, and the Yogi eased his bones onto the bare earth, then the King resumed his questioning.

King: "Are you honest?"

Yogi: "I speak little, and so have few occasions to deceive. I live from alms, so I have no master to please. From this position, I have been known to speak my own mind."

King: "May I ask a philosophical question?"

Yogi: "Philosophy is not my strong point, Sire, but I will endeavor to answer any question you wish to ask."

King: "Is the soul eternal?"

Yogi: "I know not, Sire."

King: "Do you seek to offend the priests by this answer?"

Yogi: No, Sire, nor may I deceive my sovereign."

King: "What do you know of the nature of man?"

Yogi (smiling gently): "Of the nature of man, Sire, would you hear?
This body is like a puppet,
Sewn with myriad stitches of breath,
And man's mind is like the needle that pulls the stitches taut.
The body is like a musical instrument tuned to various tones
By the power of one's attention;
Or a regiment of archers,
Ready with their bows, with
Mind as their commander."

King: "Tell me more of mind."

Yogi: "The mind is like a river,
Bounded by banks,
Composed of innumerable droplets
Gathered from myriad mountains,
Slopes and watersheds,
All meandering,
Conjoining in a vast flow
That at last unites in streams
That mingle to become
That graceful, flowing
Snake of glass
That feeds the verdant banks,
Overtops them in the flood time,
And turns to naught in droughts.

King: "How is a river like the mind?"

Yogi: "A river has three characteristics
-- moisture, greatness and motion.
Without these three,
A river cannot be,
For even a single raindrop is wet,
And though a lake is great, it is not a river,
Whose nature is ever to flow.
As to mind, it resembles a river because
Moisture is life itself,
Greatness is mind's unlimited scope,
And motion is how it functions.
When mind animates the body,
it tugs the stitches of the breath
that control the body-puppet.
It tunes the instruments and causes them to play their various tones.
It commands the archers of intention and action."

King: "How do the various parts of the body coordinate?"

Yogi: "In the unity of body and mind,
Correspondent polarities order the whole.
The crown to the soles,
The ankles to the eyes,
The throat to the waist,
And the heart to the body as a whole.

The heart is like the middle of the bowstring
That the archer pulls,
The heart is the conductor keeping rhythm
For all of the instruments,
The heart holds all the threads
Of the body-puppet in its central grasp.

Mind is the power that
plucks the bowstrings,
sounds the tones,
stirs muscles and bones.
Mind is the unseen force
flowing through the rivers
fed by the heart, and
All flesh is like the life
that flourishes along the banks
of these hidden streams.

King: "Why do people suffer?"

Yogi: "The river of mind
Is a river of pain,
Because the nature of this river is to know,
To sense, to feel, to judge, experiment,
Adjust and persist,
And pain is the knowledge that feeds this system.
Pain is sensed, felt, judged,
As we conduct our ongoing experiment with existence,
Adjusting it by trial and failure,
To achieve our unquestioned good -- continued existence,
More time to refine our ability to sense, feel, judge,
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

King: "What is wisdom?"

Yogi: "Our failure to question the value of living,
Itself must be questioned,
If pain is to be understood,
Or we become an Ouroboros of pain,
Drinking our own blood
In mute, animal agony."

King: "You describe a grim fate for us as living beings. On this at least, you agree with the priests. What is your solution to pain? The priests have their own solutions."

Yogi: "Sire, may I ask, what do the priests say men should do to deal with pain?"

King: "Eliminate it, of course."

Yogi: "Yes, by what means?"

King: "By making abundant offerings to the Gods and the Ancestors, that they may bestow blessings in this life, by giving increase of fertility and health, and a pain-free existence in the divine realms in the afterlife. Do you accord with this advice?"

Yogi: "I do not oppose it, but as you can see, I have not fitted myself out to be a giver of abundant offerings, living from alms as I do."

King: "Do you imply that by rendering yourself incapable of making abundant offerings, you lose nothing?"

Yogi: "The entire matter of offerings is a touchy subject, your Majesty, since as we know, neither the Ancestors nor the Gods partake of them, but rather, after the plates are passed before the noses of the idols, the delicacies heaped upon them are consumed by the priests and their devotees, while the leavings are offered to animals and persons of small means, like your humble servant."

King: "You flirt with heresy, Yogin, but I get your meaning, and there are no priests here to accuse you."

Yogi: "For which I thank your Majesty."

King: "So what is your solution to pain, if you do not resort to bribing the disembodied Ancestors and the Celestial Ones?"

Yogi: "Sire, I have none at all. Pain cannot be avoided entirely by beings such as ourselves. The union of body and mind precludes it."

King: "Why do you say this? More heresy?"

Yogi: "Mere observation, your Majesty. Is not hunger painful? Loneliness? Fatigue? A wound received in battle? Labor and childbirth? The loss of a friend, a parent, a treasure? Are not these all painful?

King: "That they are."

Yogi: "But for hunger, Sire, we would not eat, and thus perish. Were we not lonely, we would not band together with our fellows, and your Majesty would have no subjects. Those who do not weary do not rest, their wits abandon them, they see phantoms and oftimes end their own lives for reasons beyond comprehending. Under death's impending shadow, we seek to advantage ourselves in life. From the fear of death, doctors and midwives learn the ways of healing and childbearing. From hatred of poverty, farmers till the fields, artisans produce crafts, and merchants ferry goods from the mountains to the seas, setting up markets where wealth is exchanged. All these human activities must be good, since Your Majesty protects them in his fortunate domain, by force of law and sanction, by employing lawgivers, magistrates, and constables. Yet they are motivated by fear of pain. Therefore pain is the basis of much that is good."

King: "Then why do you renounce the world and live as a beggar?"

Yogi: "I value my freedom, Sire. Do not you?"

King: "Of course."

Yogi: "And do you consider yourself free?"

King: I am Sovereign -- all serve me. How can I be unfree?"

Yogi: "I seek not to challenge you, Sire. I merely ask because you seemed vexed regarding pain. I take it that even you are not free from pain."

King: "Oh, I see. No, I am not free from pain. Would that I were."

Yogi: "Sire, there is a question you have not asked, the answer to which may interest you."

King: "And which is that?"

Yogi: "Can pain be reduced?"

King: "Well, can it?"

Yogi: "Yes."

King: "How much?"

Yogi: "A great deal."

King: "How?"

Yogi: "May I ask you, Sire -- if a drunken man disturbs the town, do the magistrates order his execution?"

King: "Of course not."

Yogi: "What do they do?"

King: "After he sobers up, they release him with a fine, to be paid in coin or labor."

Yogi: "To what end?"

King: "That he may learn self-control."

Yogi: "Does it work? Do they learn self-control?"

King: "Often it does. If not, the fines are increased, or he is imprisoned."

Yogi: "In the same way, Sire, the causes of excessive pain can be identified, corrected, and in the last resort, confined."

King: "How are the causes of excessive pain to be identified?"

Yogi: "By close observation, Your Majesty. The stream of the mind itself must be watched, the troublemakers identified, their weapons confiscated, their misconduct suppressed."

King: "Who are the troublemakers?"

Yogi: "Errant thoughts and emotions. Notions that arise from unchecked fancy. Feelings that rule a mind that is sunk in unreflection."

King: "What are their weapons?"

Yogi: "Arrogance, anger, and excessive desire."

King: "Any others?"

Yogi: "Greed and pride round out the lot."

King: "How does one identify these troublemakers?"

Yogi: "By the pain they bring to the mind, they identify themselves."

King: "How does one render their weapons harmless?"

Yogi: "By the exertion of authority, like the constable who bears the Royal Ensign, one manifests possession of one's own domains. Like a skilled horseman, by firmly grasping the reins of the will. Through vigilance and the exercise of will, guided by wholesome intention, one becomes what one wishes to be, and ceases to be the product of passions and ignorance, that roam like thieves in the darkness. One who kindles the lamp of self-awareness drives away the dangers that beset ordinary minds. One who asserts his power to be what he wills ends enslavement to the forces that bedevil the ignorant."

King: "Some say that if one opposes the passions, they rebel and return with redoubled force. Is this not a danger, and if so, how is it deflected?"

Yogi: "I have spoken of the rider and his horse. May I ask you Sire -- does the best horseman often apply the whip?"

King: "No, the best horseman applies the whip rarely or not at all."

Yogi: "Then how does he master the beast?"

King: "The best horsemen speak to their mounts, care for their welfare, and treat them with love and respect; therefore, they command their mounts through a power greater than fear of pain.

Yogi: "In the same fashion, Sire, the one who would be the master of his own being cares for himself, counsels himself with gentleness and wisdom, subduing all errant impulses with calm authority. The heart of the self-mastered man rests peaceful in his chest like a horse with a good rider resides in the stable, ready to serve its master, secure in his kindly command."

Upon hearing these words, the King's heart felt the touch of peace that he had not felt since he was a young prince, discovering the power of command. He understood the meaning of the Yogi's words, and could already feel the truth of their meaning. He felt gratitude towards the Yogi, and wished to reward him.

King: "You have given good advice, Yogin, and for that I shall grant you a boon. What would you ask of me?"

Yogi: "That which I would ask, you may not be willing to grant. I should not ask."

King: "I command you -- speak, Yogin. If I cannot grant it, I will tell you plainly so, and you may ask a second wish."

Yogi: "Very well, Sire, but if you will not grant it, I have no other desire, and will pray you leave me with my freedom and your kind regard."

King: "So it will be. What is your wish?"

Yogi: "I wish that you should make no wars for power, wealth or glory, and only protect your people from harm, that you should sever no young men from their families against their will, to be conscripts in your armies, and that you allow them to live their days in peace."

The King was silent a moment, looking at the Yogi with piercing eyes that sought the reason behind his words. At last he replied.

King: "Yogin, if I said that I would grant your boon, would you boast of it to your fellows?"

Yogi: "No, Sire, I would keep silence on the matter to my last breath, while it remained my secret joy."

King: "I cannot answer you, Yogin, but you have eyes in your head. In the fulness of time, you may judge the effect of your request."

Yogi: "Your Majesty, I am honored by your kind attention to the words of a humble beggar."

King: "As well you should be."

The King leavened his last words with a kindly smile, called for his horse, and resumed his ride, leaving the Yogin to go his way in peace.