Something My Dharma Teacher Said by James R. Merrill
Here renowned post-Beat poet JR Merrill explores the paradox of studying nothing by nobody. (RW Klarin, publisher)
A bumper sticker in Colorado in the 90’s said, “Shit Happens” — you remember that
one? The next one that came out in Boulder was a clever retort: “Nothing Happens”.
But you might not get it unless you were part of the new age western Buddhists of
that era … a position that holds: man’s place in the universe is not just puny, but human
perceptions are all illusion; there’s nothing real in the mind.
I’d be driving around Boulder imagining World Peace, driving down Arapahoe
Boulevard in my worn out west coast groove wagon, blithely reading bumper stickers,
such as another favorite of the day, “Visualize Whirled Peas”.
I can see trees swaying overhead, recoiling from the fierce winds blowing
off the Front Range into town. I could be back there now. It’s my mind, which isn’t real —
so why not go? I’ve just spied a squirrel tip-toeing, ballerina style, across the high wire
stretched above College Blvd. I’m still pondering the unsolvable riddle I just read on a woman’s T-shirt. It read: “Stop Staring at My Breasts” — printed right across her chest. What a koan! She had opened the door of her apartment to show me a car she had for sale in the paper. Now I’m thinking about her breasts, so basically I bought the car without giving it a second look.
Back to driving my old beater on its last legs; I’m worried if that squirrel is going to make his
way across the wire, or even if he is really there. That’s silly, of course he’s there. But is he in a dream of his own illusion, or is it only humans who are tripping through this life in illusion? Then I start a dialog with my dharma teacher. It was only in my head; he wasn’t there. But he had told me earlier in the day that it is my obstinate ego that is clinging to the notion of reality. And then, “Boom!” — I tailgate the guy in front of me who’s stopped at the railroad tracks while I’m looking up at a squirrel and arguing with something my dharma teacher told me.
*Dharma teacher: An individual who teaches Buddhist philosophy
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