Friday, August 6, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Finding Buddha in the Road, OR, “If you find Buddha in the road….” –Chinese Proverb

My teacher always said, “You’re not supposed to have teachers. The truth is already in you.”

But I kept visiting him, so he wound up saying other things. On that day, the thing that came to mind was, “If you find Buddha in the road, help dig him out.”

It came to mind because I saw a rotund man in an orange robe flailing his arms. He was buried up to his navel in gravel. I took him by the hands and jerked with all my might, but he would not budge. I thought him too hefty to pull free, but he explained.

“A nasty old philosopher stuck me in here. Said the only way out was the way that could not be known.”

“I didn’t think you were the sort to get into fights,” I said. “Or call people nasty.”

He folded his hands together. “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.”

“Oh, I don’t!” This was the first impression I wanted to make. “I mean, I think you are what you are, not what I think you are.”

“Then you think I am what I think I am. I am still bound within what you think of me.”

“But I only think you are what you think you are.”

“Do you think you know what I think I am?”

“No. That can’t be known.”

“Then why do you think I am whatever I think I am?”

“You shouldn’t be bound by other people’s conceptions. It’s your internal existence.”

I don’t think the Buddhism I’d picked up from a master who wanted me out of his house impressed this man very much. He started playing with rocks.

“What if I think I am whatever a third person thinks I am? If I then invest my identity in another, am I any longer what you think I am?”

“I swear, I don’t think I know who you are. You’re just the Buddha.”

“Now I believe you don’t know who I am, regardless of what you think. My name’s Qi Wei, not Buddha.” He scratched next to his eye, perhaps idle motion, perhaps drawing attention to his distinctly Asian features. “You know, he was Indian.”

It makes you feel very guilty, when you want to punch a man who is buried to his navel in gravel. I curled a fist, then released it and turned to walk away. Qi Wei let me get five paces before imparting something.

“But if I am the Buddha internally, and not Qi Wei as I espouse externally, then I am what you admire without you thinking it, and you would have met Buddha in the road and done nothing more than walk away. Can you live with that?”

“You said you weren’t him!”

“I also said not to believe in anything simply because you have heard it.” He picked a stone out of his belly button. “I’ve said that one more than once, over the years.”

A year later I read some Chinese philosopher commanding that if you found Buddha in the road, “kill him.” He must have met this guy, too.


  1. Laugh out loud funny last line. Good one!

  2. I think in one of my favourite animes the main character advised killing Buddha... :-)

    I did love the closing lines, but the sentence that really stood out for me was, "It makes you feel very guilty, when you want to punch a man who is buried to his navel in gravel."

    I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed your monologues!

  3. Ah, love this one, the circularity of the logic. And who could kill anyone who even looked like the buddha?

    And your titles... as good as the rest of the story. Sorry we missed each other in horse country. peace...

  4. That was freakin' awesome. Perhaps not very intellectual of me, but there you go. :)

  5. LoL.. awesome ending. Great piece.


  6. Such a roundabout conversation, the dialogue is fantastic, entertaining and funny!

  7. Nice riffs in the dialogue, had a real urgent pace to it and yet of course travelled no distance at all. Like Buddhism itself.

    Marc Nash

  8. Eric, glad that last line got you.

    Harte, good to see you around again! That was my favorite line, too.

    Linda, I'm also sorry I missed you in Maryland. It was a busy week but I still would have liked to see you. Who could kill someone who looked like Buddha? A lot of Chinese government officials, I think.

    Gany, no intellectualism required on this one. The speaker certainly lacks it. Glad you enjoyed the tale!

    Timothy, thanks!

    Jay, I liked trying to mess with the dialogue. Glad you liked how it kept turning around.

    Mr. Marc, what struck you as urgent? Just curious.

  9. Glad to see you back, John. And this was hilarious. Great from start to finish, and all along the circular road, too.

    Love it.

  10. If you meet your own intellect in the road, kill it! I've been trying to work up the courage to do that since I was twelve. Seems to me you just did a nice (and funny) job of it.

    Twern't the Buddha though, if ya ask me.

  11. If Monty Python did Eastern theology this is what they would come up with.
    Saw your Granny blog - you have such a nice smile. Your Granny must just wanna squeeze those cheeks!

  12. Thanks for the welcome home, Gracie. It was good to be away, but it's good to be back.

    Mike, I drew up a truce with mine in the late nineties. We won't kill each other, but we won't tell each other what to do either. It's tenuous, but it makes the trains run on time.

    Cathy, it's nice to be compared to Python. If only. If anyone is wondering about the Granny Blog, it's quite simple: my 93-year-old grandmother can't come to the new house and wanted very badly to see what it looked like. I grabbed a camera and took her on a pictorial tour.

  13. interesting story to read. I can certainly empathize with the chinese philosopher, this buddha fellow seems quite the annoying one to talk to. It feels a lot like some kind of circular logic loop, where you end back at the beginning.

  14. John;

    This dialogue is hysterical. I'm still giggling about Buddha picking a rock out of his navel.

  15. That was hysterical. I love the ending. That line about feeling guilty for punching a guy buried to his navel made me guffaw. Guffawing alone in a room garners strange looks from people in other areas of the house.

    Well done. :)

  16. I loved it, John! The conversation is hilarious!

  17. haha! Fantastic convo and great concept.

    You reminded me of those taoist masters you simply can't argue with. They turn your arguments against you and twist your mind so you feel more lost than when you started it all. Of course this is their way of reaching enlightment. Kill the Buddha, lol.

  18. Mysticism is can be bloody stressful

  19. thoroughly enjoyed this. I love how this philosophical conversation was convoluted and funny.

  20. Hilarious. This reminded me a little of the Albert & Costello Who's on first skit.

  21. I'm new to your blog and I thought this was a cool story. I agree with previous speakers about the last line and the 'guilty' line being just awesome!

  22. Loved the dialogue, going nowhere as Marc said.
    Where Marc said "urgency", I'd use "frustration". That can give an urgency feeling, if that makes sense "But.. But... you said..."

    Justrealised I never got round to reading your tale from last week. I entered it inot the collector and tweeted it, and forgot to read it. Doh.
    *toodles off to last week*

  23. My head is still spinning with this gem. And the last line is an absolute corker! Win all round.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  24. As my head spun, I laughed at your last lines. Agreed. Awesome, John!

  25. I often have to pick gravel out of my belly button.

  26. Ah, I finally understand the command to kill a Buddha you find in the road. :)

    This was funny. Well, well done

  27. I kind of wanted the character to punch him, but at the same time I feel like his restraint is very Buddhist of him and shows that he's learned something at least. Nice round of logic in this one.

  28. I saw a T-Shirt the other day that said "I found Jesus...he was behind the couch". It has absolutely no bearing on this work aside from a religious figure and hilarity. Very funny and the logic/dialogue actually gave me a bit of a headache. Loved the last line.


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