THE WATER EPISODE
By Sramanera Heng Kung of Gold Mountain Monastery
Water--obeisance to thee. No easy task is it to elucidate a story taking place solely in one's mind and seldom advisable to do so. But the day is hot, I am friendless and bored, and so shall make the attempt. The story concerns the first drink of water after not taking any for seven days and the circumstances and thoughts leading to this event.
It was a glorious morning on the seventh day of a three-week fast, and although no food was to fall my lot this day, water at last was. This thought's brightness filled the sun with shame. I rose, washed, performed my morning devotions and contemplated the fountain gurgling with spring water ten feet away. For over two hours I sat torn between drinking and not drinking, trying to guess why there should be any question. Finally, bewildered, I put my feeble legs in motion for a walk in the forest beside the park.
I journeyed about one mile along a narrow trail strewn with leaves from the over-hanging trees. The beauty created such a magnificent atmosphere that I completely forgot my thirst and fatigue--until the sound of a lone mountain stream a short distance from the path found its way to my ear. A little investigation and I beheld a small foot path going down to it, but simultaneously arose a strange feeling that my hour had not yet come. I felt very foolish and could not think of a reason for myself not to take water and so I made up one, namely that if I were to faint while off the main trail, no one would be able to find me. However unsatisfactory this reason was, I let it suffice, and walked on down the trail.
After a considerable journey with only one brief rest in a meadow, once again my consciousness was roused by a wonderful sound. Clear cold water, swiftly flowing over rocks ten feet ahead. I crouched low and gingerly walked up to the stream like a lion stalking its prey. This time I would surely drink. But once again I felt the time was not ripe. Not wanting to fall into absolute negation, I rinsed my mouth, spit it out, and walked on down the trail.
After a bit of a journey, on which I negotiated somewhat of a circle, I was nearing camp. Before completing the last leg of my little excursion, a bench appeared in a convenient place, and I set my well worn-out body to rest. Not one minute had passed when my eyes fell upon wonderful little fountain gurgling with fresh water for anyone who might delight in partaking. I decided that such a one was I and resolved to do so after a moment's rest and before I continued to camp. The moment was a short-lived one; I rose aiming for the fountain. I was just about to drink when a big black German shepherd dog leapt up, paws on the fountain, and started slurping the water. My mind gave birth to the thought, "do you want to follow the example of a dog?" I experienced revulsion and walked on down the trail.
A short while later I was back at camp, exhausted. Three-fourths of the day had passed, and I never once felt the conditions ripe for taking water. I sat in a torpor contemplating my predicament, wondering when my pores would have fresh water to offer to the atmosphere.
A short while passed when an angle of light disguised as Bhiksu Heng Ju appeared. He held a brown bag in one hand, shaking it before my face. Something was rattling inside. What was it? It was clear cold spring water imported from Sweden. At that moment I attained the state of irreversibility and entered the state of unexcelled perfect indulgence.