A Dreamtime Fragment: Flying Buddhas, Dried Roses and Other Signs of Nothingness

Dreamtime can be a little rough for me. I don’t often have happy dreams, nor do I tend to wake up feeling relaxed. A few nights ago, in that space between peaceful sleep and waking, I saw a slim Buddha, dressed in orange robes, who introduced himself as Siddhartha. He was floating, with one leg crossed over his thigh and the other pointing down, hands arranged together with two fingers creating a triangle. His face shone beatifically as he hovered a little closer to me.

“Why do you fly instead of walk?” Dream-me asked, because of course, when confronted with a dream-time Buddha instead of asking the meaning to the universe, or how to relieve the suffering of others, or for a grain of wisdom, I instead act like a curious child. Buddha smiled.

When you drop an ball on the floor, you expect it to fall. Why does the ball fall?

“Gravity.” I answered.

Siddhartha smiled at me. “What is gravity?”

“The attraction of the earth to what sits on it.” I answered carefully.

“The ball falls because you expect it to fall. You expect it to fall, everyone else expects it to fall. There are expectations of how objects behave. Gravity is an expectation. When we meditate we transcend expectations, we undo them like knots that tie us to the earth.”

I nodded, intrigued. A simple question. Not a simple answer.

“I have no expectations,” Siddhartha continued. I have no expectations of anything. I embrace ‘nothing’. Because I do not expect to fall, I do not fall. I am not attracted to the Earth, and it is not attracted to me. Because I expect ‘nothing’, I undid the knots that tie me to the ground. I can choose to walk, but it is more fitting to fly.”

“Why can’t I fly, then?” I asked.

“You cannot fly because you expect to fall. You have learnt to expect the physical world to behave in a certain way. Unlearn your attraction to the world and you will fly too.”

My Patron Saint, the Saint of Sinners, had left me alone with the flying Buddha. Before the Buddha had shown up I was deep in a room under a museum where I had found things which should not be there. It takes a grave robber to know grave goods, and I was looking straight at a tin box full of dried roses, with a name written on the outside of the tin. My heart broke. Someone had put those in a grave, in a coffin, with someone they loved, so they could carry a little of them with him into the afterlife and the scientists or the obsessed had decided to disturb the rest of the talented and the suffering. What strange creatures we are to make a spectacle of the grave and collect the objects of the dead. Ancient Egyptian pyramids, necropolis treasures, graves of poets, it doesn’t matter. Where there is death, there are vultures.

All around me were the yawping, screaming faces of the lost souls who could not find their way home. Their eyes shone darkly all around me, hands reaching out for me. In my dream I started singing about letting little lights shine. I let the hands of the dead touch me, talk to me. I let myself see them as they saw me. I always find it is better to embrace the nightmare, rather than run from it, because in every dark moment, the light always finds a way to shine in.

The Buddha took the box of flowers from my hands and smiled back at me. “Expect nothing. Learn nothing. Be nothing.”

Learning how to fly free of ‘something’, free of ‘anything’, free of ‘everything’ is not as easy as it may sound. Deep in my soul I expect the ball to fall to the flower and my feet to be on the ground. I expect the knots that hold the world together in a certain way to hold, and gravity, wicked gravity to play its heavy dragging part.

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