The Mongoose Dharma

indian mongooseI have an Indian gray mongoose nest in my backyard. The mongoose tramps along the grassy path short legs whirring. He has a mate. He follows her up and down the boulderous terraces, mounting her, and tries to stay on top. He doesn’t look successful. He falls off her and sits in the grass. Like a dog, he rolls, exposing his pinkish belly. When surveying danger, the approach of a distant human, he stands on his hind legs like a meerkat.

The yellow-billed blue magpies are more sensitive to humans. But yesterday I saw one up close. It has a black head, yellow beak, white throat, blue body and its long tail looks like one beautiful gray feather. There is a white stripe on the end of the feather. I thought about how my neighbor wears a feather in his hair, and how I bet he’d get really jealous if I somehow wore that feather in my hair. Because the tail is so long these birds hop sprightly on tree branches, and when they fly, their tail spreads for me to see white speckles on the grey.

Meanwhile the clouds are low, closer to the right mountain, like me. The far mountain is steeper and craggier, with mossy splotches pouring off its rocky slopes. There are small buildings on its close face, temples, houses and such, although from the looks of it, they’re empty. The slope closer to me, just over the construction at the base of the terraces is profuse in evergreens. Indian deciduous trees grow on the terrace, with shrubs and onions (?) growing in rows in front of me, four feet below the railing. To the right is a pink house with a pyramidal roof and a brick chimney.

I am also thinking about the Gita. About the oneness of life. Aspirants may abstain from sense pleasures and still crave them, but aspiring is still pretty good, and if you need nicotine or alcohol, so be it. Am I any better than you if I still feel anger or sadness? We are all aspirants. Maybe there are some who practice all their lives to reach Enlightenment, but when all is done, have they lived as richly, felt as deeply? Can you sit in a room all your life, imagining pain, anger, frustration, pleasure, excitement, achievement? I think it’s like watching a sporting event and imagining you’re on the field compared to actually playing. They may be wise and happy but they’ve spent this life in order to achieve moksha. Maybe they’ve spent four or five lives getting to that point. And that’s okay. The Self lies deep within. I have seen it in flickers. It comes and goes. If I saw it all the time, I would no longer be able to live.

I am aware now that I am living here. This is a place where I feel comfortable, where I can stay for a month, reading,writing, drinking coffee, walking into town, eating cheap food at restaurants, trekking, doing whatever I want. Similarly, I can leave today if I desire. I have money and I can travel as long as I want, wherever I want, seeing new places and experiencing new people and things, and anytime I don’t like a place I can keep going until I find a place I do like. Having heard about this place for so long, from so many people, I wanted to reach it because I figured I’d like it. I do like it. A lot. It’s the most peaceful place I’ve been. And although the vibe can be kind of annoying sometimes, what with the stoner Israelis and the dredlocked anarchists marching around, or walking into Mcleoudganj and feeling somehow indebted to the Tibetans, as though I should help them, even though I really have very little desire to, because I’m selfish and my dharma and debt to my own writing is more important than working on some shitty community newspaper for free internet, this is a pretty good place. This is the kind of place I could live in for a month rather easily, I think. So rather than think about moving, or traveling somewhere else, or what I should do, or what I have to do, I just do what I want to do because I have enough money to survive for many more months, and I have plenty of time to walk up the hill to the waterfall, and if I really want to do laundry, it’s cheap, and if I want to switch my room to save a dollar a night, I can. But while I’m here, comfortable in my routine of waking up in the morning, boiling water in the kitchen next to the pink house, showering, sitting on the veranda and reading and writing, listening to the birds and watching the mongooses, making pb n j, walking into town, going out for early dinner, reading and writing more, meeting people who I like and who don’t have dredlocks, everything is very comfortable and I don’t feel the desire to do anything. Maybe there are things I ought to do, and if I were a different person I’d do them. But the only thing I really ought to do is read and write, and when I get bored of this, I can trek or talk to ex-political prisoners. This is a pretty good life, then, when you get to wake up and do whatever you want to do, especially if what you want to do is sit alone all day and write, and when you get tired of that pay $2 for pad thai. Do whatever I want as long as I don’t think about rewards, remember there is god and love in everything, and that all humans are me too and I am them. The only one who knows he is Enlightened is the one thinking about it, and to cast judgement on others is wrong because judgement leads to competition and thinking that you are better than someone, when all that really matters is whether you are better than yourself. Because the mongoose knows nothing of what he ought to do, he does what he has to do, which is what he wants to do.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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