Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A JEALOUSY OF BIRDS



Spring arrives in the subtropical region of Nepal with a crack of daily thunderstorms rolling down from the Himalaya. Every afternoon there is a sudden scurry of wind, a burst of drenching rain from clouds that tumble down the mountains and dash away with dizzying speed across rice paddies to the waiting earth.
In the morning, before the light has hit the peak of Machapuchare, the day begins with birdsong, the scent of spring blossoms and a strong cup of coffee before the first stab at the working day. But the birds distract me and the flowers are teasing my senses.
I have to admit I am a bit jealous of birds. There they sit in branches or telephone lines, on fences and beside pools of water, a collection of fragile bones and feathers; unbidden and without any artifice, they open their beaks and sing to the rise of the sun or the departure of a storm. The bird isn’t thinking about recording contracts or audiences or even album covers. They sing because the song is within them.
Flowers I envy. Flowers also just do one thing perfectly – they bloom into their own beauty. This is the sublime message of Buddha who one day amongst thousands gathered to hear his voice simply held up one flower. The flower was the entire wordless lecture.
Most of the followers went away scratching their heads. I only wish I had been there because I would have put my hand up and said “Yeah but hang on a minute here Great Soul…”
Easy for him to say. The bird sings and the flower blooms because the ability to do so is contained within the seed of their becoming. It is a preset, non negotiable condition of their being.
The flower yearns in the dawn for the fingers of the sun to stroke her petals open because she took form for that very thing. She isn’t thinking will he love me in the morning and does my bum look too fat in this, she is just blooming beautifully.
“Such single minded devotion is not so easy when you are living in a human body,” I would have said to the Buddha.
Inside a human body is a universe of potential; of a song or a carving, a canvas swept with oils or an epic poem spoken through the limbs of a dancer. There is a supermarket of choice for the soul in a human transit: life is not so simple for us as for the flower. The soul in a human body must negotiate a physical, spiritual and emotional labyrinth in order for that potential to come into the light of day whereas the flower or the bird is already an intrinsic, instinctive part of that becoming.
They have already merged into the kind of conscious awareness that doesn’t come to the average human without a lot of mental exercise and privation.
“The bird doesn’t have to go the supermarket, make moral judgments or balance a bank account; the flower doesn’t have to think about day care or dentist appointments or meetings.” I would have whinged.
But maybe the very sight of the humble flower in the hand of the Buddha would have been enough for me to recognize that somewhere beneath the tangled layers of every human life there is also a seed which longs for the light of day?
Maybe under Buddha’s lotus eyed gaze, I would have looked at that flower not with envy but with the insight to see the truth of those quivering petals?
The human life is the seed which carries the potential for a similar unconscious outpouring of creativity, and every soul is a flower waiting to bloom in the first rays of the sun or a song preparing to carry a spring storm down a mountain valley.
By then I think I would have run out of arguments like someone with a Jehovah Witness on their doorstep. Human life is tough; we know it and you can’t say Buddha didn’t try to warn people.
You can’t argue with a great and realized soul.
Much easier to open your beak and sing, be blooming beautiful!

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