by Jeanne Davies
Another entry in our Write Across Sussex competition.
Longchenpa slowly detached himself from the sphere of light. He’d just witnessed another life lost in the pursuit of truth. He felt spiritually drained but his scrawny half-naked body remained poised on the square plinth. From high in the green Himalayan Mountains he could see, through his box of light, all the struggles of mankind.
The sun began to lower in the sky and he anticipated the gift of nourishment. A young monk entered the temple carrying a small tray. His movements felt like a gentle breeze and Longchenpa inhaled the aroma of Jasmine flowers. He could sense the sweat on the monk’s brow, hear the dust falling from his feet and feel the energy of the outside world. The Samanera bowed and scraped his chin along the floor beneath the Lama as he crawled backwards from the sanctuary.
Longchenpa sighed as he sunk into his renewed isolation. He had lived 100 years this way, seeking absolute enlightenment through the box of light, just as his teacher had and many others before him; all longing for that illuminating void.
As the cup touched his lips the fragrant smell of Jasmine entered each nostril. The delicious liquid slipped down, soothing his throat and engergising his fragile transience. Through his tiny single window he watched the cloak of dusk falling, creating shadows and swirling mists through the coniferous forests beyond. In the distance tall firs lined the ridge of the emerald mountains like attentive choir boys.
Soon strands of silver moonlight aligned themselves upon him and night descended in a dark veil. He inhaled deeply and held on to the breath, allowing every morsel of oxygen to be absorbed by brain and body. Closing his eyes to blind himself from the moon he imagined the hours of daylight that he had, once again, deprived himself of. He visualised the innocent dawn, writing its dazzling message across the sky and gradually dimming all the heavenly bodies. He imagined the feel of warm sunshine on his face.
Longchenpa felt lifted above the restrictions of mortality and was awakened to an affinity with the universe. In his minds eye he walked barefoot upon cooling moss on a path through long grasses and ferns. He entered a field of ripening corn where tiny fluorescent damsel flies darted in and out of flowing wheat like small fish; he could sense the gentle murmur of their invisible wings.
He transformed into a huge bottle green dragonfly, his elegant sapphire tail extending far behind him. He looked left and right to admire his luminescent wings, their transparency allowing only his shadow to reveal his presence against the thickly wooded emerald mountains.
At last he was free!
He maneuvered close beside a young musk deer, frocked in innocence and walking gracefully on stilettoed feet across the fauna. Momentarily her huge lash adorned globes glanced across at him, bowing her long neck in curiosity. His six feet attached to several pink hooded flowers of Himalayan Balsam, draped in heart shape leaves. He sped on, reluctantly leaving the sweet-smelling sticky nectar behind. A white butterfly flurried along erratically next to him, searching for Temple Magnolia; her paper thin wings blinked camaraderie at him.
Longchenpa then took the form of a mighty Himalayan Griffon with a large noble golden beak. His enormous cream feathered wings spread majestically beside him as he soared high above tea plantations neatly cultivated in endless rows along the mountain. Women up to their necks in bushes wore wicker baskets strapped to their hats as they stretched out to pick the delicate new leaves. Some gazed up at him and smiled, their hooded eyes alight with wonder.
He glided over rivers glistening from nearby glaziers, all snaking vibrantly through the lush green pastures. A family of snow leopards knelt cautiously to drink from the effervescent waters with their long spotted tails lifted perpendicular for balance. The bigger of the ghost cats raised its dramatic head to look up at him; he flew on past, not fooled by their endearing looks.
Up and up he ascended until he reached the ice covered mountains, his pale powerful shape barely visible against the snow. He found himself above the mighty Everest, the forehead of the sky. He marvelled at the majestic giant named ‘Holy Mother’ by his people.
After a while, Longchenpa was aware that he’d escaped the earth’s gravity, leaving the problems of mankind far behind. He was shrouded in lights which thickly dotted the velvet blackness. Stars mingled within his feathers as his wings began to glide without any effort into ethereal silence. A great peace fell upon him.
In the distance he could see an apparition, opaque but almost invisible. He was drawn in closer to it. The light caught in every angle of the face like a mirror with many facets. Its hair consisted of rainbow coloured strands, continually changing shape in tiny wafts of light from the atmosphere. It sat at the edge of a great basin-shaped hole where raging fires intermittently released huge white balls of fire out into the atmosphere.
A voice radiated from the strange being. “Do you claim to be a spiritual guide?” it asked.
Longchenpa found he could not speak; but the being understood his inner thoughts.
“You must help the world before it is too late; time is short for you but you choose to distance yourself from these things. The human race will soon destroy itself with war and conflict.”
With these words a strange sadness haunted the spectre and tears glistened in its eyes. Feeling no fear, Longchenpa pleaded for knowledge as to what he should do.
“Perhaps you have to be weakened in order to understand the human condition and to appreciate humility”, it responded. “It is your duty to empower the innocent with your wisdom … to give them a voice.”
Suddenly Longchenpa was plunged into complete darkness. A stark coldness crept right through him, invading every part of his body. Asphyxiated and paralysed, no breath went in or out of his lungs. He was suspended in a bottomless blackness, a deep empty void. At any moment he thought he might lose consciousness but instead he remained frozen and his thoughts plummeted into pool of great sadness. It was a terrifying place filled with negativity and great emptiness, where nothing, least of all hope, existed. He knew then that he must be dead.
After what seemed like an eternity, Longchenpa’s eyes opened. He was back in his sanctuary … back in his chosen place of isolation from the world. “As every flower fades, there is the knowledge that the plant will bloom again,” a voice echoed around him.
He knew then that no matter how temporary life was, there would always be a constant … a creator watching over mankind and the equilibrium of the universe. “Only love is real,” he said under his breath. Longchenpa then slept like he had never slept before in his whole life.
When Longchenpa awoke, things felt very different. He did not have all the answers, but tomorrow the Lama would take his place once again as Guru and gather his village around him. He would stare into the children’s beautiful upturned faces and choose his protégés to pass the wisdom he had learned onto. He would move amongst the people of the world guiding and teaching them to love one another and live in peace. He would live this way until the end of his days … no longer waiting for the light.
By Jeanne Davies