The Key (A Fairytale) – Chapter 7 – A Step Above Oblivion (Part 3)
The swelling was getting worse. I said to a John as he dressed my wound, “I would like to understand kamma more completely, just in case I don’t make it.”
“Your mind will never comprehend kamma fully, for it is very complicated – its tentacles reach in all directions. Only your heart can someday understand. Think of it being a riverbed and we the stream, or the various forms over uncountable lifetimes. When stepping into a river, you can never step into the same river twice, as the same water never flows over the bed. Likewise, there is never the same being that remains with the kamma. The bodies come and go similar to the flowing stream, but the kamma, like the riverbed, changes very slowly. The flowing of the water; or the actions of the beings, will eventually change the riverbed of our kamma over a long period of time, wearing down the rocks and altering their appearance, sometimes even changing the course of the river itself, which is our destiny if the water is strong enough.” Then a John laughed and said, “Or sometimes there is an earthquake and the river bed changes quickly!”
He turned to Moosawa, “Do you remember your first love; how simple it was, requiring no more than a moon reflecting on the water. How much do you require now for your happiness? What is it you really want out of life? This is a very important question, Moosawa, for if it is not considered carefully, you might find yourself on a track to somewhere, which upon arrival could be disappointing or even have unexpected, dire consequences. If your destination is predictable, will it not be discarded as soon as it is achieved, when the adventure ends? Then you will be faced with yourself again until you can begin the next journey. And so it will go for you, lifetime after lifetime, until you exhaust every avenue and are finally faced with the wall of emptiness.”
Moosawa now knew that we knew. A John gently put his hand on his shoulder and looked him straight in the eye, saying nothing. Moosawa could not maintain eye contact with such a powerful being and quickly looked down at the floor. Then he slowly stood up and walked out.
I miraculously made it through the second long day and interminably long night with a John keeping me awake by talking incessantly. Everything he said was to the point and aimed toward helping me find my key, never discussing his family, his village, or the affairs of kings. His advice was essential, and I tried to remember every word of it just in case my search resumed. If I could somehow make it through this third day, I might live.
The swelling began to ease while a John wiled away the rest of the afternoon with teachings and stories, not appearing to be the least bit tired, even though he had been going non-stop for three days. I could now feel the close bond these robed men had with each other, and I would not have traded this moment or my situation for anything, no matter how dire it was. Surprisingly I was not afraid. I had no fear regarding death because I now felt that whether I lived or died did not matter in the least. If the quest did not continue in this lifetime, I was confident it would continue in the next.
Finally, during the third night, I knew that I had beaten the snake’s poison. Early next the morning the two robed men who saved me with their needles and vial came by, laughing and holding their noses. The putrid smell of the released Banded Krait poison that had oozed out through my pores was extremely nauseating. In fact, it was the worst smell imaginable, prompting the men to throw open the shutters and let in some air.
They shook their heads in amazement saying that they had never seen anybody live to tell the tale of such a vicious bite and were delightfully surprised that I survived. I told them that the first thing I was going to do, when I had the strength to stand up, was to sweep my path! The two robed men laughed at my belated wisdom and said they were taking care of sweeping the path, but reminded me that it must be done each afternoon before the bath. Moosawa’s involvement was never mentioned.
I slowly regained my health and worked my way back into my daily routine of waking up at three o’clock in the morning, walking to the bell platform (on the cleanest path in the community), ringing the bell, and lighting the candles in the hall. Many times, while standing on the platform I could not help but notice the hot skulls in the glowing cremation fire pit that was next to the bell. At times, in the dark morning hours I was positive that a skull was smiling at me. But of course it was only my imagination. How can a skull smile?
Another occurrence was stranger yet. After ringing the bell, I would go into the pitch-black hall and light the candles. There, in the lantern’s glow my attention would always be drawn directly to the ‘baby’. When it died in infancy, the parents chose not to cremate it and instead donated its body to be displayed in the hall. It was floating with its eyes closed in a large, transparent container filled with a liquid preservative as if it were sleeping. It was a reminder that life is uncertain; a bubble in a stream that could burst at any time even in infancy and therefore the robed men should be diligent in finding their key as quickly as possible.
What was strange was that I could swear at first glance that the baby’s eyes were open and staring at me, but the instant I swung around and looked at it directly, its eyes would be closed as usual. This was unnerving, but like the smiling skulls, I again thought it was simply my imagination.
With the bell rung and candles lit, robed men would start filing into the hall to practice together from three thirty in the morning until dawn, when we would begin walking silently into the surrounding villages in bare feet and with heads bowed.
A few men were always fasting to improve their inner work and would not make the trip into the village. They would stay in seclusion for weeks at a time, these fasting key seekers, finally eating again only to ward off starvation. If they were missing for longer than twenty days, we would check on them, but not sooner, because an interruption during intense inner work can be more serious than death if the key seeker is close to an attainment. Many future lifetimes would be at stake, not merely this one.
Sometimes illness would prevent a key seeker from not showing up for the morning’s inner work. In this case they also preferred to stay alone in their huts with their malady until they either improved or died, seeing illness as another excellent opportunity to go deeper. These brave men had no fear of death and considered death a mere transition, another opportunity to seek their key. They had that much faith and confidence.
After receiving the food offering from the villagers, we would return to the hall and eat our meal. Then a senior key seeker would give a short talk to any villagers who might be in attendance, after which we would wash our clay pots and return to our huts to practice our inner work until late in the afternoon.
At four p.m. we would sweep our paths, eventually meeting by the well for our daily bath and to make bamboo sweeping brooms, or perhaps wash and dye our robes and bathing cloths. This was a social time as well where we discussed anything that might have come up in the community or in the villages, and talked about our progress with the inner work. I always felt embarrassed when listening to the other key seeker’s progress with their inner work. They would never lie about these things, and what they said was so incredible that they made me want to strive even harder to reach the lofty peaks that they described.
Within the shelter of this peaceful routine of every-day life, my inner work was improving, but I still had problems keeping thoughts away, and had to resort to counting my breaths to divert the thoughts. My mind was far too clever for this however and quickly learned how to think and count at the same time! Then I tried counting backwards. After exhaling, I counted “100” and on the next out breath, I counted “99,” all the way down to “1” but this still did not stop the thoughts. Finally, I devised a sequence of counting so complicated that it would have delighted a mathematician! I was forced to perform this intricate counting procedure for one hour before my untrained mind would at last settle down long enough to concentrate on the feeling of my breath touching the inside of my nose. I had unbelievable trials and tribulations with my unusually active mind, even in this peaceful forest.
Then there was the problem of sleepiness. The minute my mind would finally calm down, I would nod off. When I mentioned this to a John, he said that there are two kinds of sleep: regular sleep and key seeker sleep.
“With key seeker sleep,” he explained, “your mind has no recollection of what has transpired other than a block of time disappearing. This experience is very close to common sleep and it takes a subtle perception to distinguish between the two. With key seeker sleep, your intuition knows that a subtle communication has taken place with the Source, even though your foggy intellect has no idea what has happened. The only thing that your mind recognizes is that for some reason it can see a little clearer now. One way you can tell the difference between regular sleep and key seeker sleep is that you will feel refreshed after key seeker sleep, not sluggish like after a nap. It is a very subtle experience and at first, you will surely think that you have only fallen asleep as usual, but there are clues that this is different. The threshold of falling in and out of key seeker sleep is often filled with visions, words, or involuntary body movements. The visions and words will be difficult to remember unless you write them down immediately because they go directly to your intuition; with your mind having no recollection except for that fraction of a moment when they appear.
“They come from a higher consciousness and are teachings, but in the beginning it is best not to try and remember or interpret them as this will only keep your mind occupied when it should be doing the inner work. If you stop and attempt to remember them, you will interrupt your concentration. These communications are meant for the silent voice in your heart where it will do its work, and your logic has merely overheard a private conversation that it shouldn’t meddle in. It doesn’t have the required open awareness to understand.
“This Key seeker sleep is usually mysterious to the mind but a step to a higher consciousness, where everything will be seen in a new brilliancy. It is a step in the right direction, but just a step, nothing to become infatuated with. Infatuation and excitement can only distract you from your practice as it breeds unending mental activity. Let me know, however, if you experience any signs after key seeker sleep of merging, unification, or non-dualism where you don’t see yourself as separate from everything else.”
I told him that it was surely regular sleep that I was having problems with, because when I woke up I felt sluggish, as if I had taken a long, mid-afternoon nap. Satisfied with my explanation that I was just being inattentive, he made a suggestion. He instructed me to practice my inner work while sitting on the edge of the high cliff by the waterfall!