Harvest of Gems - Two

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A monk with a huge head far too big for his body greeted me at the front of the darkened monastery. I told him I had come to see Bhante. The monk furiously pounded on a door to a room and shouted in to it. Slowly it opened. What I then saw stoked me to no end. This old and frail-looking monk with a serene look on his face came shuffling out and I could see a soft kind of halo shining above him. Was this finally IT? Was this the guy who was talking to me in my dreams? Bhante sat down and smiled. " Well, hello. How are you? Did you have a pleasant drive? Please sit down. " He said. I remained kind of speechless. Bhante sat down and smiled again. " I've been waiting for you. I couldn't sleep until I was sure you were here. " It all felt so perfectly familiar. I had at last found my real refuge.

I was not only in my refuge. I was in a totally new world. I had somehow fallen through a trap-door into Cambodia. I was surrounded by refugees who barely could speak English. But in a strange way it didn't matter. Communication was not a problem. It just wasn't. Bhante then assigned this bald crone to prepare my meals and just be my mother. I pitched my tent outside his room and soon became part of his family. It felt pretty good. I wasn't alone anymore. I was now at home.

Bhante was cool. I mean he was so humble. Unlike those stern Burmese masters, Bhante ate with me at the same time and at the same table. I was baffled by the way he treated me so well. What was the karmic connection? I just didn't know. I really didn't. I then learned that Bhante was over a hundred and four years old. But he looked like he was in his seventies. He also spoke six languages. It blew me away. Bhante had lived in India for many years and had been a friend of both Ghandi and Nehru. They helped him set up a monastery in New Delhi. Bhante had also known Mountbatten and his wife. In England, he had gotten to know Alan Watts and Edward Bennet, one of Gurdieff's main disciples. In America Bhante was introduced to T.D. Suzuki and President Eisenhower. Prince Siahounk was a friend of Bhante's. The Dalai Lama too. George Lucas had Bhante filmed for three days and got Yoda out of it. Now you know.

All this time I couldn't understand what Bhante saw in me. Bhante told me to stay as long as I wanted. I was stoked. I really was. It was such a hit just to be around Bhante too. There was something holy about him. Something really pure and beautiful. I would lie inside my tent and just bathe in the holy glow coming out of Bhante's room. His glow and the warm summer months of California's central valley were as close as I have ever came to being truly in heaven. It was so blissful. I mean nobody really expected anything from me and I was treated with such kindness and good care. But there was a lot more coming.

Everybody lived in this dilapidated old house with a huge field behind it. The hot Stockton sun had turned the grass into dry yellow hay. Yeah, I was in Cambodia. There were dirt and fruity smells in the house. Strange dark faces peered behind the wooden doors to look at the American stranger. Old crones just kept on rocking on the matted floors with all kinds of activities. They peeled fruit, sewed clothes, and chewed this red paste that turned their teeth black. They smiled at me whenever their eyes met mine. It was all kind of unbelievable. It was magic.

The altar in the shrine-room was dense. It had a golden Buddha and blinking neon lights. American flags and all kinds of candles and little animal statues screamed for my attention. It was a colorful scene. It wasn't a bleak place like the Burmese joint. I was really taken by the lingo I heard here. It had a sing-song quality to it. When the monks chanted early in the morning it all sounded moogy and lunar. It all seemed like a wonderful dream. But beneath the smiles I saw a boiling temper. The Khmers were fierce warriors and I felt Bhante was a little leery of all this.

The Cambodians were in exile and nasty karma was following them to Stockton. One of the young monks had been a gangster. I called him the monkster. This guy had been a leader of a gang in Long Beach and let me tell you it was brutal. Killings simply went on everyday. Between rival Cambodian gangs and between them and the Mexicans. All this shit was going on in Stockton too. There was just no end to it.

Everyday after lunch, Bhante and I talked in his room. This itself was a huge privilege. Not just anybody was allowed inside his private sanctuary. Bhante's room had a personal alter covered with psychic layers of his living and praying. Letters and papers were strewn all over the floor. A bookcase filled with all kinds of books stood to the right of the alter. Bhante was a healer and he talked a lot about the power of color. He felt colors could heal both the body and mind. Bhante's favorite color was green. Bhante said it was good for any kind of illness. Green kind of grew on you like a tree. Yellow depressed you and blue kind of cooled you. While red over-loaded your nervous system.

Everyday, people would come for the water blessing. Bhante would stick some candles onto a silver water bowl and pray to it. While he prayed he would swish the water around with a stick and spray water on the people around him. It was kind of like a Buddhist baptism. After it was all over, people would put the water into bottles and cart the precious stuff away. I still have a bottle of this holy water in the trunk of my car. I rarely drink it. I think it's just too valuable.

Bhante felt that our bodies were matter and that mind was like spirit. Nibbana was pure spirit. It was eternal. There was no death nor birth there, really. Bhante emphasized the idea that it was important to just practice and not talk about the things you didn't know anything about. Bhante always said: " Don't be angry. It just kills the body. Remember, you are the problem and the solution. " I was sure stoked.

A weird guy from Alaska showed up one day with his half-Eskimo son. This guy claimed he was a Sufi. And he was going to Russia to find some work there as a librarian. It seemed that he met Bhante in Alaska and had been taught the color healing stuff. I noticed on the window sill of Bhante's room many different colored bottles filled up with water. The Alaska Sufi said it was important that the colors get absorbed into the water with the sun's healing rays. He also said that the water was for the benefit of the people coming for the healing. Bhante didn't really need the water. I mean, he did everything with his mind from whatever distance that was required. The sick person didn't even really need to be in Bhante's presence. Now that was pretty wild.

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