Switzerland: The bus stops. People get off, others get on. You see the people who got off going away and the newcomers as they come in, looking for a place to sit down. Bus moves off again and the landscape shifts through these huge bus windows. Here in Switzerland there are mountains, of course, and there’s the lake, so there are these steep winding inclines leading up from and leading down to the lake lying there at the lowest point. It can be a feeling of vertigo; down and up continually. The next bus stop is near the top of the hill and I remember this place from other times. It’s beside one of these huge walled mansions with heavy black iron gates as high as the trees and a sign on the gate says “Chiens méchants”. From my slightly higher elevation on the bus, I can see over the wall. But nothing is revealed, a few trees and cropped lawn. I think Chiens méchants probably means “guard dogs” with pluralized adjective after the noun. There’s a French/English dictionary in my bag of English teacher’s requisites:
méchant, e: adj. nasty, malicious, spiteful; (enfant: pas sage) naughty; (animal) vicious; (avant le nom: valeur péjorative) nasty; miserable; (: intensive) terrific.
Seriously unpleasant dogs, a disincentive to burglary. What goes on inside that house? Nobody knows. The bus moves on. More houses the same. Presidents and Statesmen, Princes and Kings, and others of extraordinary wealth have their various residences here, cluttered with objects of great value. I feel entirely different from the occupants of that guarded house. Inquiring self doubt takes over for a little while, some kind of investigative sweep, infra-red night vision cameras, land mines detector searching over the surface of the ground: tread carefully! Is there any unhappiness I need to be careful about out there?
The bus moves on and suddenly I’m feeling uncertain, not sure. There’s a tight holding-on to everything I feel ‘sure’ about, thinking that this will dispel the uncertainty, but it’s the tightness that makes things feel even more uncertain – holding on to ‘certainty’ just creates a fear of losing it. Better to open up to the whole thing… the great uncertainty of existence. With that, I notice a wave of relief sweeps over me.
For some reason, the persons living in that house are extraordinarily possessive about what they have. Me? I’m less committed economically… things could be a bit more finely tuned than they are, but one thing I do have is the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Since discovering the Triple Gem, I’m permanently changed. Can it be correct? Sounds like a contradiction in terms: ‘permanently changed’… inexorability, such a nice word. The bus goes on in a bumpy, slightly rough sort of way, everybody inside here holding on to straps and poles attached to parts of the interior as it sways from side to side and down into the landscape towards the lake.
“If I feel sufficiently threatened in certain situations, a fear comes up and there’s an experience of contraction, a rigidity kicks in, and when that kicks in, possibilities become limited. My mind doesn’t want to look at the myriads of possibilities, doesn’t want to float around and feel what’s actually going to fit. In that state of contraction and limitation it wants to get something and feel sure. But this doesn’t benefit me and it doesn’t benefit other people. On the other hand, when we are able to remember that we don’t know what is going to happen, that we don’t know for certain, then there is a relaxation, a releasing; an opening up and a trusting, a reconnecting with a trusting relationship to life. Life is uncertain but that is just the truth. We don’t have to be in a perpetual state of fear because of it. … When the tendency to grasp out of fear or insecurity arises, if we have prepared ourselves, we hold back and just wait, remaining open and at the same time in touch with the sense of ‘not sure’”. [Ajahn Munindo ‘Unexpected Freedom‘ page 173 (pdf), page 161 (book)]