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My Heavenly Realm Capers

by Pete Sierra

When I arrived at the Heavenly Realm, I saw the enlightened samurai sitting in the Zen garden. The samurai, startled by the roar of the machine, came toward me, scowling.

“What in Hell’s name is that contraption?”

“It’s my heavenly realm machine. I constructed it with parts from an old motorcycle and a virus-infected PC. It transports me from Earth to the Heavenly Realm and back.”

“Did you have to make it that ugly?” he asked with a sneer. “Look at my armor: it’s a masterpiece. Japanese make all useful things beautiful.”

“Yes, I can see the intricate workmanship. Very nice reds and yellows too. But why do you need to wear armor if you are already dead?”

“I’m not wearing it, you’re just seeing it.”

“Is it real armor then, or just an appearance?”

“Please spare me the philosophy,” he said with disgust.

“Are you not enlightened? Why should a question bother an enlightened being?”

“Yes, I am enlightened,” he said.

“Who is this ‘you’ that is enlightened?”

“Another silly philosophical question from you, and your head will be off.” His hand closed over the pommel of his sword.

“Is that sword real or am I just seeing it?”

“As real or unreal as your head, but it would do the job,” he said, pulling it out.

It was truly a beautiful blade, gracefully curved. It reflected light with rich silvery hues. But I couldn’t relish its perfection. It was aimed at my neck.

“How did you become enlightened?” I asked to change the subject.

As I hoped, he sheathed his sword. “It happened on my last battle. We were charging the enemy when their archers let their arrows fly. That always had been a particularly unnerving moment of the battle for me. But that morning, for some reason, the noise of ten thousand arrows flying sounded incredibly cheerful. Like singing nightingales they soared and blotted the sky.

“I realized it wasn’t I who was watching and delighting in that spectacle but something infinite and eternal, something that couldn’t die. I stopped running and watched in fascination as those black birds reached their apex and dived, their bloodthirsty beaks ready to strike.

“I heard the deadly rain clatter on helmets and armor. I heard the slight thud they made when piercing flesh, and the drumming of metal boring into trees and the frozen soil. I was drunk with joy and, dropping my sword, I walked away.”

“Then what?”

“I walked toward the mountains that were a smoky blue outline in the distance. I found a cave and sat in meditation. Soon I ascended through all the jhanas and entered Nirvana.”

I felt tempted to ask him who this was that had attained Nirvana, but remembering the sword I decided not to. “So what did you do after coming out of your trance?”

“I never did. That night I froze to death and found myself here.”

“Hmm! That was unfortunate. You could have taught other samurai.”

“What difference would that have made? They are all dead and gone now.”

“You are still here.”

“No, I’m not. It just seems that way to you.”

“Am I here?” I asked.

“Good question!” He gave a belly laugh and walked away.

“Could you send Buddha out, please. I would like a word with him.”

“Coming up,” he yelled, and laughed again.

Copyright © 2007 by Pete Sierra

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