January 04, 2023
The Buddha sat cross-legged beneath an ancient fig tree,
His eyes closed in meditation, his hands folded.
Suddenly, an unfamiliar voice addressed him:
"Who are you, and what is it you seek in Wonderland?"
The Caterpillar, reclining against a giant Amanita mushroom,
Intermittently puffed on a hookah pipe of fragrant hash.
The World-Honored One opened his eyes and observed
The strange half-human, half-insect apparition.
"I am the Awakened One ... the Tathagata," he replied.
"I am here to reveal the Dharma and to liberate all walking,
Crawling, swimming, flying, and slithering sentient beings.
Everything changes; upon this we can rely."
"Through meditation on the nature of Self,
We can tread the path toward unassailable peace.
Since all conditioned phenomena are subject to decay
And death, they perpetuate a cycle of suffering."
The Caterpillar snorted, unconvinced by these fancy words.
"With all due respect, that sounds like justification for inaction.
There you passively sit, eyes closed, purporting to be wise.
But, what have you actually accomplished with this philosophy?"
"I seek neither fame nor wealth, nor do I crave
Entanglements of the flesh. I have arrived at the locus
Of the true nature of reality," asserted Lord Buddha.
"I lead immeasurable beings along the eightfold path to Nirvana."
The Caterpillar reflected for a moment, then
Spoke once more, unable to hide his growing skepticism:
"But how can you sit around and meditate like you do?
It takes energy and action to affect change in a deluded world!"
The Buddha nodded, "Yes, a Bodhisattva energetically and skillfully
Engages with the world to dispel ignorance and to relieve suffering.
But each bhikkhu must be guided by insight and compassion,
Not by a desire for worldly success or personal pleasure.
The Caterpillar considered this, then sighed to himself ...
"Perhaps you have a point. But, it seems unnatural to forsake everything
That brings us pleasure, like this splendid hashish. To what extent
Is renunciation necessary toward leading a spiritual life?"
"Insect Being: before long, this body, deprived of consciousness,
Will lie on the earth like a useless log," said Buddha.
"A mind attached to sensual pleasures is carried away by death,
Just as a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village."
The Caterpillar contemplated the beauty of his own village:
The singing Mock Turtle, the grinning Cheshire Cat,
The giant chessboard with its Red Queen, the talking flowers.
Although impermanent, he felt lucky to be alive amidst this wonder.
"Must we focus on doom and gloom?" interjected the Caterpillar.
"Can't we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us?
Awakened One: I have some scones and half a wheel of cheddar.
Please be my guest in celebrating our meeting in this eternal moment!"
The Buddha, observing a subtle shift in the Caterpillar's eyes,
Noticed the merest reflection of prajna wisdom emerging.
He accepted the offer of scones and cheese as skillful means,
Toward the liberation of all wriggling beings from their karma.
And so, the Caterpillar and the Buddha spread out a picnic blanket.
The Caterpillar offered fresh scones, and even a toke from his hookah,
But the World-Honored One declined the toke, his vow of abstinence
Precluding the use of intoxicants.
"I enjoy nibbling leaves and smoking hashish," mused the Caterpillar.
"That's enough fulfillment for me. I'm not deep. I don't aspire to sainthood."
The Buddha wryly smiled at this remark, but chose to remain silent,
Knowing full well that the Caterpillar's total transformation would begin soon.
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