On retreat they served some sort of hot cereal each morning and then hard-boiled eggs. I took one every day in order to be sure to get adequate protein during the all-vegetarian 5 days. Often I wasn’t really hungry after finishing the porridge, but we had a long breakfast period, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, reading and writing discouraged so I would just wait a while and then slowly and carefully start to peel the egg. I was in no hurry and it’s a good thing. Eggs take a long time to peel. The shell sticks to the inside, it only peels away in tiny pieces and it takes a lot of patience to wind up with a nice clean egg. Now imagine doing that with one arm.
A fellow yogi did just that, or rather he most often didn’t do that because a neighbor looked up and noticed him and took the task on or maybe he tapped them and asked for help—I’m not sure.
One night after the final sit I went to the dining hall for a snack. The one-armed guy was there spreading sun butter on toast. I figured I would offer help but I looked over at the perfect spreading job and backed away. I got my snack and went and sat down in a far corner.
Apparently the left over morning eggs are available in the fridge at night, because when I passed by later the one-armed guy had two eggs in front of him. And at his elbow was a guy named Asher to whom I had taken an instant dislike. He’s more Buddhist than Buddha in that way that only converts seem to be—shiksas who marry Jews, Jews who become Buddhists, born-again Christians—you know the type. Asher has taken mindful walking to new heights. He moves like a Tai Chi master and he’s, like, maybe all of 25 years-old. He prostrates himself 3 times in the meditation hall and even though others do too, his is bigger, showier, more annoying. Mind you we are on SILENT retreat so I have spoken not one word to this young man but have still stored him right smack on the annoying as hell shelf in my brain.
But when I look over, he has crouched next to one-arm guy and gently touched the eggs with a questioning look, received a nod and starts carefully peeling—one tiny shell piece at a time. He is kindness and patience personified. I am a horrible, mean-spirited, judgmental person and will be doomed to many eternities of suffering.
I have judged and mis-judged this young man. I’d tell him I’m sorry but he never even knew and besides we can’t talk. So instead I decide to forgive myself and set an intention to do better. Thanks, Asher. Buddhist master indeed. Well done.