Dear friends, it is with great happiness that I write you from my new retreat in Northern California. Thank you to all of those who have contacted me with kind words, letters, and gifts of a certain variety.
Special thanks to Paolo R. in Lugano– Paolo: I agree that the orange-hair variety has a smoother finish than the purple, thank you for the gift from your native land. However I must inform you all to please stop your gifts of fragrant and beautiful cannabis buds and resins– a Buddhist monk, even one divorced from his monastery, has no need for such earthly pleasures, even if they are dripping in crystals and have a fresh, tangy sent that sends the blood pumping and warms the ventricles of the heart.
Terrence, American Buddhist
I have told you many times that life is suffering and that nothingness is my goal, but you still do not listen. Despite your numerous fragrant gifts, my devotion to Buddhism is strong and I am not tempted by earthly garden delights.
My regimen at my coastal hill-top retreat is simple. Meditation, fasting, and study make up the bulk of my day, which is punctuated by small walks, errands, and the odd music listening session if possible. Today my task was to collect all the wonderful presents in my mailbox and dispose of them since I wouldn’t be needing them anymore. I walked down the hill to the compost pile, hands full of sticky buds. Just as I was about to toss the lot of it in with the rotting plants and garbage, my eye spied a particularly purple-haired specimen and I was reminded of the immortal words of Master Takuan (1573-1645):
Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
So true. And wasn’t each plant, stem, and seed a priceless gem as well? And wasn’t a purple-haired cannabis bud a rare gift of the earth that will not come again (at least until the next day)? I achieved the sartori as I understood how my gem of a day was to play out…
I reached into my voluminous robe and pulled out my Sony Discman, provided free of charge when the monastery did a commercial for the company a few years back. My extra-large Denon headphones slipped onto my ears and I was in a different world, full of chilled-out beats and vibes and internacional contributions from joyful musicians who love life.
The Thievery Corporation have been producing soulful lounge sounds from their plush hideout above 18th St. in Washington, D.C. for years now, but I believe their latest recording has reached the apex of their sound and worldview. Utilizing different vocalists and a variety of textures and beats, The Richest Man in Babylon’s overall feel is dubbed-out-rasta-late-night-sexual-tension. A lean album with no throwaway tracks and several standouts, such as The Outernationalist and From Creation, The Richest Man in Babylon delivers you into the arms of cunning yet honest musicians, two men who both play you and invite you to play.
The Richest Man in Babylon had me sitting in the lotus position, in another land, for hours on repeat. The sun melted into the Pacific and threw a rosy glow across the land. From my rocky outpost I could see, without opening my eyes, the entire world around me all the way to the sea and beyond. Life hummed around me as the beats burst into flame and turned into crispy ashes, only to be replaced by new resin-soaked beats, ready to be blazed by my mind again.
Darkness settled across the land and I was reminded of another Koan:
Zen Master Unmon said: “The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?”
While I was many years away from being a master, I felt that I had learned this lesson well. I gathered up my robes around me and started to walk back to my cabin enveloped in my voluminous robe, a cloud of smoke, and the sounds of nothingness.
The Richest Man in Babylon is available from Amazon.com