Wednesday, March 3, 2010

may you live 500 years

My old friend and fellow Zen student, Frank, wrote yesterday to say that he had gone to a yoga class in New York with a 120-year-old teacher named Swami Bua.

As Frank told it, the wheel chair in which the swami got around was a relatively new addition to his lifestyle. Frank said the talk he gave was difficult to understand, but after the meeting, the swami gave each participant his personal blessing: "May you live 500 years." And Frank was so taken aback that the best he could manage was something along the lines of, "May you as well."

And I'm with Frank -- what a gob-stopper of a blessing. Five hundred years. Does anyone really want to live that long? Really? Why? What imaginable benefit might that confer, if any? And it raises the question ... if no one wants to die and if death is clearly in the cards, is it clear that anyone wants to live ... and if so, for how long? The blessing certainly puts a fire under the knee-jerk fantasies anyone might have about life and living. It strikes me as being a little like the man or woman who says, "Of course I want to win the gazillion-dollar lottery" without ever considering what winning might mean and what evidence there was that others had been made significantly happier by winning so much money.

May you live 500 years. I have a feeling that such a blessing is a little like one of those chocolate cakes they sell in supermarkets ... it looks scrumptious, it has the rich texture of chocolate, it promises in the mind to be a dream come true ... until you get it home and taste it.

May you live 500 years.

How curious.

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