So I had a dream recently. One night I was feeling a rush of panic about my future, the past and the overall effervescent nature of our lives. One minute there is absolute certainty; the world is clear and still like a lake on a windless summer day. The next minute there’s a bubble rising and you’re not really sure how big it’s going to get; whether it’s going to take you somewhere; or whether it’s just simply going to disappear. I started rubbing Budai’s belly (a Chinese representation of Buddha laughing) and slowly began to feel a comfort, small but distinct, that calmly and gently reduced me to a warm feeling of peace and hope.
Somehow I felt connected, both to myself and this religious representation of the “awakened one”. I began reading about what it means to “rub the Buddha’s belly”. It’s interesting that Budai actually doesn’t look like Buddha – Buddha fasted for almost 50 days and he probably would never look like that… anyway. So yes, I became obsessed with Buddha. [lately, that’s what I do with a lot of things; I’m in a state of discovery]. I did what any obsessed person would do with internet access: I ate up the Wikipedia article on everything Buddha-ist-ing-ed. Feeling “enlightened”, I rubbed his belly again… and I went to sleep.
This is where my dream began. I dreamed that I was a Buddhist monk of sorts, sitting with a group of monks eating vegetarian food. I was dressed in a robe looking calm and peaceful but interestingly, I was wearing earrings and my hair was still intact and its natural state (loose, wavy, and a little frizzy). I don’t remember much else from this dream. I woke up grudgingly, sleepy and not ready to go to work for an early shift in data collection.
As I later reflected on my dream, I felt myself relieved that even though I was dreaming and deep in the subconscious of my brain, I could see who I was. In case you don’t know, as a Buddhist monk you have to give up identity (in some way). Thus, it was interesting that in my dream I could recognize myself. I had indeed transformed into something I will likely never be and have never really strived to be. I mean I know what Buddhism is, and indeed I have tried to meditate, but the fact that I held on to my hair and my earrings is very symbolic of the things I do not want to give up. We all wonder who we really are, and there are several age “crisis” that are permanent fixtures in our everyday chats about life: “Teenage years”, “Quarter-life Crisis”, “Mid-life Crisis” and of course the timeless “finding myself” condition. But maybe at some point, we know some fundamentals, even if a sudden life change alters your surroundings.
So I kept my earrings and hair, but I was still wearing a robe, and I was eating tofu, walking through a garden, away from civilization, high above the mountains. What I was wearing in the dream, led me to some reflections on religious coding.
It’s interesting that even though Buddhist strive for the simplest clothing, the cleanest hair-do (bald), and the simplest of shoes, if you saw one walking on the street, you would know their identity and what they represent in our codified world of social identities. They are religious subjects of the Buddhist religion. Similarly a nun, who again strives for the simplest of clothes, and the most basic of colors, is easily identified as a religious devotee in the Christian faith. To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that the world that they represent is simple. On the contrary, it is supremely complex, full of mind-blowing juxtapositions, and out-of-body experiences that I can’t even begin to understand or presume to know. But how they dress is a signal to us and a transformation to them. Their robes allow them to fully be who they are and want to be. At the same time, it’s a signal to us, to allow them to be who they want to be. Of course, this is not always respected and ignorance unfortunately breaches the code of religious style.
This simple code does not necessarily apply to the rest of us, who are a little bit of this and a little bit of that. This is fortunate for some, but unfortunate for others. It’s a FORTUNATE condition [at least for me it is] because it means that you can experiment, you can change, and you can codify and re-program. Yes, we all wear our suits during work time, but I hope most people go home and change. Last night, I was talking to someone in finance, and I would have never guessed that this was his trade. And I came home happy that humanity existed, even in the most unlikely places of the world [to me finance seems sooo…. ^/^ well you know]. It is an UNFORTUNATE condition because it just makes life very complicated. You don’t really know who someone is, or represents based on the robes that they are wearing. I came home and put on my infinity shirt and went to bed. I am an engineer, and I’m not scared of numbers, or the idea of infinity. I embrace infinity, divinity, continuity… haha getting really close to the axis but never getting there!! Of course, there’s a lot more to who I am. Right now I’m writing.