History of Faith #1

Just a bit of writing I’d like to share with the world…

During the latter of his two periods of incomplete study, when Alistair was just twenty-one, he stood before an old shelf in a dim corner of the university library, eyes scouring titles for a book that might help him understand things. He had read many of these books, by no means a great share of them, nonetheless he had perused all he suspected had wisdom to be wrung out. For perhaps two years he had embarked on a certain train of thought that started with Zhuang-zhi, the ancient Chinese philosopher and Master, going on to other Taoist and Buddhist writings. The expedition had marked his essential separation from the normal strand of Australian philosophy, which was very practical and down to earth. It had brought him to ponder the abstract side of life: the side avoided by those with an eye to success by any measure known to that culture; and the side on which one must dwell alone, in dark private hours, away from the scrutiny of family or friends. Standing and searching, he was transfixed by the prospect that somewhere on the shelves before him was a clue, a promise, or anything leading closer to the distant calling that sounded faintly between the words he had read. For all his pondering the abstract seemed forever doomed to remain abstracted from the world of the known.

On the bottom shelf was a humble sort of plain green spine with the most curious title in yellow. ‘The Key to Immediate Enlightenment’ it read, which seemed to have the fragrance of Zen Buddhism, books about which he enjoyed reading. He took the book and glanced at the cover, taking in the image of a friendly thin woman in ascetics’ clothing of one type or other. He opened it and casually began reading the old style justified fixed-width font. The text was interesting. It was humorous. Yet it carried uncomplicated integrity. Alistair found the librarian’s stool and sat down for no less than an hour, his drunk with wonder of a teaching that had already sprinkled reality on the abstraction in his mind. ‘A shame,’ he thought, ‘this book is so old that its author must be long gone’. He checked the publishing date: 1992. ‘That wasn’t so long ago’, he thought. The book was checked out and returned to Alistair’s home, with his parents, where it was devoured completely, followed by the other two books by its side in the following days. Thus he was first acquainted with the Supreme Master Ching Hai, though later, remembering a dream from perhaps five or ten years ago, he thought he might have been introduced to Her much earlier on. Though dimly lit, the memory of this momentous discovery is among his most treasured, for it marked the end of an era, and the time the abstract began to encroach on the real.

Posted on September 30, 2007 Modified September 30, 2007