I have been toying with an idea for a novel and here is a draft of the opening of the book.
He was a well-known and respected Zen teacher. Some even called him a ‘Zen Master’! Although this was always said with utter reverence, he always had to chuckle when he heard it. Visions of his orange robe turning into a superhero’s costume, complete with cape, would roll across his mind’s eye.
One time, during an open teaching session at a University, someone asked him a question. They addressed him as ‘Zen Master Cho-Ban’. His answer was: “Why yes, of course, we are ALL already superheroes!!”
The questioner, and the rest of the crowd, gave a nervous laugh, not quite sure what to make of that answer. …Considering that the question was: “Do you recall any of your past reincarnations?”
He authored a handful of books and was the default ‘leader’ of Zen Buddhism in the West. His enlightenment was said to have occurred when he was only 22 years old. He remained ‘low-key’ for years, as it was very rare for someone to realize that someone of his young age could be an enlightened being. His teachings went mostly unrealized. People want a Buddha, a saviour, a religious and spiritual leader to be old, have a long white beard perhaps, to, well, look Enlightened!
Over the years, his face aged, his body aged and his presence, well, it simply was undeniable. People often did double-takes after interacting with him. His way of teaching was like the planting of a seed. And his seeds were the fast germinating kind! He loved planting seeds. Sometimes they grew right away, sometimes they didn’t grow at all. But like any plant knows, you can produce hundreds or thousands of seeds and if only one germinates and grows, that means success. In fact, sometimes when people called him ‘Zen Master Cho-Ban’ he would say “Oh no, I am Johnny Cho-Ban, AppleSeed Master!” and pretend to throw apple seeds all over the person, laughing.
Sometimes people thought this was hilarious! Sometimes people thought he was like a child! Sometimes he was planting Seeds not for the person he was interacting with, but for the person watching from the side. He tried to plant as many Seeds as he could. Always being Johnny AppleSeed!
He was the West’s version of the Dali Lama. Now, what a silly thing to say, but it gives the context in which he was viewed, outside of the Buddhist community. He was a household name.
Then one day the hammer fell. Literally. On his head. From 2 stories high. BAM! He was rushed to the hospital. He cracked his skull and injured his brain. He was unconscious for many days. Then one day, he woke up and his daughter was by his side. He looked at her, deeply into her eyes and blurted out: “What the hell are you looking at?!” She was frozen with shock! After a few moments, she was able to finally reply, to which she said “Papa?” with tears in her eyes… both for joy he woke up and sadness at his words. He then said: “Perhaps that is correct. I do not know. I do not feel well. Leave me alone.”
His daughter was oh so ever confused. Her father was alive, yes, but he was different. His memory was not all there and he was, well, grumpy! Who was this man who woke up?
She said to him: “I will do whatever you ask of me father, but please tell me this: Where did my Papa go?”
He listened and thought deeply about this. He just looked into her eyes, without talking and just contemplated her question. It was this question that become the focus of the rest of his life. For now, he replied ;” I just don’t know. I feel like shit. I hate this. I remember Cho-Ban, the appleseed man. He was weak. I am stronger than him. Now leave and let me be”.
She gave him a kiss on the cheek and with eyes full of tears, she said goodbye and she would see him later on.
He laid in bed, nurses and doctors now aware he was awake and they were all around him, taking notes, and all the stuff medical people do. He lay there, in a bad mood with bad memory. He thought of Cho-Ban. He knew him deeply, but it was as if he knew him as a different person. He was not Cho-Ban.