Here is chapter 3.
Please feel free to do anything you want with this story. I invoke no special rights over it and place it in the public domain.
If you want to contact me for any reason you can e-mail me at: email@example.com
Another longer chapter. I have been finding that I don’t want to edit down as much as I did at first and I hope readers find the story readable.
I’ve had one or two questions about the Buddhism in the story. In a way it’s background to Jakob’s story but it’s pretty clear that it’s central to Jakob himself. This isn’t supposed to be a way of teaching people about Buddhism. I’ve explained things to the extent I have only because otherwise very few people would understand. I’ve also made some decisions about how to present things. One is simple: I’ve almost always used Pali terminology (the few exceptions are Thai words) because all Theravadin Buddhists are probalby familiar with it. I’m also making the vihara a pretty liberal place: most viharas have guests for specific religious/spiritual reasons and expect to them to live a certain lifestyle while they are there. This would certainly not include listening to music, watching TV or surfing the net for fun. I hope that no one thinks it misrepresents the sangha or is offensive that in my story Ajahn Ariyesako allows J and D to do all those things.
There's no sex in this story (there never will be any graphical sexual descriptions of any kind) so no warning is needed - this is suitable for younger readers. It’s possible in future chapters that there will be some affecton but it won’t be anything unseemly (there are plenty of stories for that kind of stuff if you want it) and sex may be referred to: you just won’t get to see it or hear the details!
Dhamma-Vinaya Bums Chapter 3
Martin approached David as he stood for a moment watching Jakob walk out of Wild Oats.
"What happened there bro?", he asked the obviously upset boy.
"I've fucked up, Martin. I just pissed Jakob off badly. After knowing the guy for a couple of hours I've managed to make a complete fool of myself and offend him."
"What did you do? All I saw was the guy walk off. And, David, you realise he was wearing a sarong man?"
"Oh shit. Great. He didn't take it off after we left the vihara. Martin I have to go after him and apologise. Can you take care of this stuff for me?"
"No sweat bro, of course. You're buying Evian water now? David that is so..."
"Don't say it Martin. Really don't go there."
"Just a joke, David.” Martin paused for a second and his eyebrows suddenly went skyward. “Oh shit. That's what you said? Go after him. You need to tell him quick or he's gonna think you're some 'phobe."
"I'm going,” David answered, jogging out of the shop.
Mean while, I was walking down the street cursing myself for having been so quick to anger. I tried to work it out in my head. I wouldn't normally have reacted like this would I? I mean if someone said "that's so gay" I wouldn't normally get angry. I'd probably make a joke out of it. I mean I'd want them to know that I thought it was a bit offensive but then, let's face it, gay boys say it too. But that's gay boys, and that's like some black people using the N word. It doesn't give everyone else permission to say it. Not an argument I liked - I wouldn't use the word like that but some guys do.
I was wandering without thinking of where I was going or what I was doing, my mind focused on trying to understand what had happened. But why was I so angry so quickly? It was because I liked him and I'd decided that really quickly. I thought about how I'd judged his very ordinary treatment of Martin and been so pleased by such a small ordinary thing like it was a massive achievement of his not to be a bigot. I thought about how kind he'd been, how helpful to the bhikkus and how much he obviously liked and respected them. I thought about how I'd watched him bowing his respect to the Buddha, dhamma and sangha in the shrine room. I followed my thoughts as honestly as I could and it came to me. The fact was that I'd invested the things he did with more meaning than I should have for the simple reason that he was good looking; that I was attracted to him.
I thought he was beautiful and so his ordinary good qualities had been magnified in my mind pushing my image of him toward perfection. And then he fell by making a casual and obviously humorously intended remark. I had tried to make David into an idol and then was angry that he remained human. I was clinging, this was tanha: thirst, clinging, attachment, craving. And now in the wake of tanha, dukkha: suffering, stress, anxiety. I had to put things with David right or I'd get more and more trapped in my anger and frustration. I needed to go back apologise and explain things to him.
It's at just this moment that I realise I'm not only walking through a town I don't know with no destination in mind but I'm still wearing a pakome which to most people is gonna look like a particularly dowdy skirt. Great. What the hell had Martin thought of that? For an instant I smiled and felt as though the moment of humour had let some sunshine back into my head. I unwrapped the pakome put it over my shoulders like some whack hippy scarf and turned in my tracks, intending to retrace my steps back to the store. I walked straight into David who had apparently just caught up with me.
“Jakob! Please listen man, I really need to apologise to you and explain something.”
“Nah, you don't David. I'm the one with the explaining to do. But, listen can we get somewhere that we can sit for a few minutes and talk?”
“You're still talking to me? If you are then I'll listen. But I do need to tell you I'm sorry.” David looked at me and I realised that he was more upset with the situation than I had imagined.
“Come on, let's find somewhere to get a drink and talk. But not Micky D's or BK, ok?”
“Taco Bell?” He asked me with just the start of a shy smile. It was enough to make me start feeling better.
“No, no Taco Bell either. No junk food chains at all. Come on, there must be a funky little coffee shop around here?”
“Settle for punky little coffee shop?”
“Excellent, lead the way.” He flashed me the full brightness grin and started to do just that.
“Come on, you'll love this place. How the hell it survives in Crystal River I don't know it's like some bit of San Francisco got moved here by mistake.” I followed him to the crossing at an nearby intersection and across the main road.
“It's just just a block away,” David continued and led on down the street. The fact that he'd come after me and that we were talking relaxed me. I didn't want to stress over my anger and I knew that I liked David easily enough to try to get him to understand why I'd been upset. I saw the place before David could point it out to me.
“The Orcs' Nest? ” I asked looking at the purple and yellow painted store front. “Don't you have a hobbit hole we could try instead?”
“Or maybe an elvish grotto? Think about it, it has to be orcs everytime.”
“Please tell me I don't have to change into all black and wear white make up. I've had enough fashion fun today.” David laughed.
“Oh yeah, oh man sorry about that too. I honestly didn't notice you still had the skirt on,” he explained.
“It was not a skirt! I was not wearing a skirt! It was a...”
“Rather fetching checkered sarong? If you insist dude.” Now I laughed. David pushed open the door to the Orcs' Nest and waved me in ahead of him. I looked around at the place and understood entirely why David thought this place belonged in San Francisco. But it was San Francisco somewhere in the 1970s I reckoned. The walls were painted yellow and graffitid in purple. 'Frodo rulez' was about as imaginative as the graffiti got. There were lots of low tables surrounded my cushions and bean bags and strewn across some of these boys and girls dressed in way to much velvet and vinyl.
I saw a table free by the window and made my way to it with David a step behind me. We sat down by the window the fading light outside supplemented by randomly distributed candles and lamps. We both settled comfortably onto cushions Indian style – not a million miles away from the meditation posture.
A girl in a purple velvet evening dress with a nose stud and heavily hennaed hair came over and knelt by our table to take our order. She brushed a strand of her long hair behind her ear and waited pen poised over pad. I hadn't seen a menu but then I noticed a black board on the wall. There was of course carrot cake and vegetarian chilli and home made brownies – which made me sniff the air for the tell tale perfume of sensi but there was none. I asked for a coffee white and David asked for a mixed fruit juice. When our server had left I looked across at David and started to speak.
“David, first of I really am sorry that I got so angry back there. I need to tell you why. I was pissed because you used the word gay the way you did. I know it was joking but I didn't really think before I reacted. The thing is I don't like using it that way even as a joke. I know that some gay people do it too but that doesn't give straight boys permission to use the word insultingly, even as a joke. As it happens, I don't like anyone using it that way.”
“Jakob...” David made to interrupt me.
“No hold on please I really want to finish. This isn't about telling you off honestly it's about apologising for myself and trying to explain. The thing is David that I like you. You're a really great guy, you're fun and you're considerate. I'd made my mind up about you and what I did was I started looking at you like you were the perfect friend just because I liked you so much. Then when you said that, when you made that joke, I was so angry because it was like you broke my perfect image. Does that make sense?”
“You don't think straight boys should use the word gay like that?”
“No, I don't really think anyone should but I do think straight people should be like extra-careful with that sort of stuff.”
“You think I'm straight. Hell, I'm stupid. Of course you think I'm straight you've no reason to think anything else. You weren't insulted because you thought I was calling you gay were you?” My mouth dropped open as I took in what he was saying. I felt my eyes widen.
“You're not straight?” I asked in my usual clever way.
“No. Look I should have told you maybe but there's hardly been time. I wasn't hiding it from you it just hadn't come up yet. I thought I'd pissed you off because you thought I was implying you were gay.”
“I was pissed off because I thought you were a 'phobe,” I replied. David looked at me for a moment and his face took on a particularly determined look.
“Jakob, I'm gay. I'm definitely not a homophobe. I'm sorry about the joke. I need to think a bit about right speech you know? You're right that we should all be careful about that stuff. I sounded like a bigot so you reacted. I guess this means that I don't have to worry that you're a 'phobe.”
“You didn't worry about that? Come on, you really can't have thought that I might be some gay bashing bigot?” I asked incredulous. David laughed shortly.
“No. I did wonder if you'd be uncomfortable. When Ajahn Ariyesako first suggested to me that we'd share a room I asked him about it. He said then that he was sure you wouldn't care but that if one of us didn't want to share for any reason we could take another guest room.” I looked at him puzzled. At times like this you just know gaydar is a myth.
“Okay,” I mumbled. “You might wanna sit down for this.”
“Dude I am sitting down. So are you.” He looked at me as though concerned for my sanity.
“Yeah well I meant metaphorically or whatever. David, I'm gay.”
This time it was David with the open mouth and the wide eyed shock.
“What?” I asked him, “It's a shock that I'm gay. And there's more: Ajahn Ariyesako knows I'm gay. He knew before I got here.”
It took David a moment to process this and then he fell backwards onto the floor laughing.
“Oh man. It almost feels like they set us up! How did he know?”
“I told him. I had a kind of attack of nerves about staying here and I wanted to speak to him. I know it's stupid because I've never met a bhikku who had a problem with me being gay but for some reason I wanted them to know before I got here and I wanted to gauge the reaction, you know?” A thought occurred to me. “Does he know you're gay?” David looked at me and was still for a moment. I wondered if it was an issue of some kind but then he answered.
“Oh yeah. He definitely knows I'm gay. My being gay is why I'm at the vihara in a way. I told you my parents used to be church goers?” I nodded, he'd mentioned that for some reason they'd left the church and started to visit the vihara. “I'm the reason they stopped going. Two years ago I came out to them and at just that time the minister in our Baptist church started to preach against homosexuals. It was bad. Really bad. I couldn't stand to go to church and listen to it. Then I came out at school to some friends and it got around. Rumours started at church and the pastor asked my parents if I needed 'deliverance' from homosexuality. Anyway, my parents decided to look for another church but they met Ajahn Ariyesako and here I am. From Baptists to Buddhists in about a week.” He laughed but watching him while he talked about it I could tell that there was some lingering pain. “So, I told Ajahn Ariyesako the first time I talked to him.”
I sat for a moment or two in silence.
“Do you think they set us up?” David asked with a smile on his face. I laughed out loud.
“No way, arranging marriages is forbidden! I'm pretty sure it's one of the serious rules as well.” I looked at David who clearly thought I'd had a sense of humour failure. “Sorry, I guess you were joking but my mind's still a bit fogged. So, are we done apologising and explaining?”
“I wasn’t actually suggesting marriage you know, “he grinned widely. But anyway if you accept my apology we're done. As far as I'm concerned you have nothing to apologise for: I shouldn't have made an offensive crack. Now, it's 7:40. do you want to go have a look at TVs?”
“Will we find anywhere open? It hardly seems worth it tonight. Wanna hold off until tomorrow?”
“Yeah, you're right. It was a dumb idea to go shopping this evening. Shopping!” David sat upright as though struck by a bolt of lightening. “I have to get back to Martin!” He pulled out some bills and put them on the table. Grabbing my arm he pulled me up too.
“I forgot about my shopping at Wild Oats. Martin was looking after it for me. Hey!” he called out cheerfully to the server, “I left money on the table – keep the change,” and with that he dragged me out of the store and back down the street to Wild Oats.
We got to the store to find that in the the twenty minutes or so we'd been gone a closed sign had appeared in the window but when we peered through the glass we saw Martin who waved at us and came to open up.
“He David, Jakob. I put your frozen stuff back in the freezer man, ok? I didn't want it thawing out. You wanna go get it?”
“Thanks, Martin,” David replied for both of us, “Jakob you wanna grab the food and I'll get the water? How much do we owe you Martin?”
I went back to the freezer cabinets and picked up the stuff David had chosen earlier which Martin had thoughtfully put in a bag for us. When I got back to the counter David and already paid for everything. Martin asked us what our plans were.
“We were going to buy a TV but it’s late now so I guess we’ll head back to the vihara and come into town again tomorrow for that.”
“Ajahn Ariyesako is letting you have a TV?” Martin asked which tipped me that he was familiar with the sangha.
“Yup,” David replied. “For the time we’re here we’re under pretty relaxed rules. Music in our room and we can eat in the afternoon as long as we keep it out of the bhikkus’ way. And we get a net connection.” Martin looked amused.
“The old teacher’s going soft,” he said. “Who’d have thought he’d let you get away with TV and music?”
“Hey,” I replied, “we’re teenagers! If we don’t have any TV or music for two months we might end up seriously disturbed.”
“Yeah and if I couldn’t eat outside of monk hours I’d probably end up eating the flowers in the shrine room,” David added. The three of us laughed and Marin took off his apron hanging it on a hook behind the cash register and followed us out of the door.
“You need a ride?” David asked.
“No I’m gonna walk. It’s destressing walking after a shift in the shop. I’m off at 12 tomorrow so if you’re in town then call me or stop by and I’ll come TV shopping with you.”
“It’s a plan bro. See you tomorrow”.
Martin set off walking wherever he was off to and David opened up the Volvo and climbed in. I followed and soon he was pulling out of the parking bay and we were heading back out of town towards home.
When we got back I wrapped the pakome around my waist and we took our shoes off just inside the door. David followed me up the stairs and when we got to our room I decided to change into a pair of long cargoes so that I could ditch the skirt. David sat at his desk and booted up his laptop while I changed.
“J, have you stayed in a vihara before?” he asked me while I was pulling my pants on.
“Yeah, a few times. But it was on retreat or visiting with my parents when they were on short retreats. First time I’ve stayed for along period.”
“I was kind of nervous at first you know?” David explained. “I assumed that it would be like being on retreat: keeping to the sangha’s lifestyle kind of thing.”
“You didn’t want to?” I asked him.
“I honestly thought I wouldn’t be up to it for such a long time man. I know it’s weak but it just seemed like I’d miss out on my whole summer of fun.” I thought about what he said and I knew that I’d had the same thought.
“So what changed your mind? Did you tell Ajahn Ariyesako about how you felt?” I asked him.
“Didn’t have to. He called me one day and talked to me about staying here. His line was that I could be out of the way of the bhikkus enough that they could relax the guest rules and that since I was here to volunteer my time was mine outside of that. And of course he told me that there’d be another guy staying so I wouldn’t be totally monkified after two months.”
“Ariyesako said ‘monkified’?” I asked just a bit skeptical of that one.
“Yup his very word. He’s been so good to me J, you know? I mean, he took so much time helping me understand things and helping me cope with being gay.”
“Ajahn Ariyesako did?” Now I was surprised. I couldn’t really imagine myself talking about that subject in any great depth with most people, let alone the venerable Abbot.
“He did. After I first told him he went away and he read books and magazine articles about gay teenagers. Can you believe that? I was blown away. The next time he talked to me he’d read up on it and he was really concerned that I understood what the dhamma attitude was. He gave me a copy of this really good talk by a bhikku – an Australian I think – who gave a sermon about homophobia and why Buddhists should reject it.”
Just at that moment there was a soft tap on the door. I got up and opened the door to see a bhikku I didn’t recognise standing outside.
“Bhante,” I said, making a small bow, “is there something I can do for you?”
“I’m bhikku Paisan. I know that you’re Jakob. Ajahn Ariyesako asked me to fetch you to his office. Let me show you the way.”
He turned and before following him I turned and shrugged a smile at David.
We went downstairs and through one of the corridors of the entrance hall and stopped at a door at the end of the corridor where bhikku Paisan knocked and waited a second opening when he heard a voice from inside. He held the door open and making a quick bow of respect to the abbot who sat inside behind his desk left me to go in.
I decided that this first formal meeting with the senior monk was an opportunity to show my respect and so I went in and bowed three times. I looked up and Ariyesako smiled at me.
“Sit down Jakob. I wanted to take some time to welcome you properly. It’s a little unfair that I know so much about you from talking to your teachers and you don’t really know any of us. But we do want you to feel welcome here.”
“I do bhante. Already. David’s been very kind to me and he’s explained that we’re not being exptected to take on ten precepts while were here. I’m not sure how confident I’d be of managing that.”
“But your teacher Venerable Thanissario tells me that you’ve been on meditation retreats and that you lived under the ten precepts like – in his words – an anagarika.” I looked at him in shock. An anagarika is a postulant – someone intending to take monks robes. He chuckled quietly. “Don’t worry, I don’t think he meant that you are about to enter the homeless life! Just that you’ve made serious efforts to practise.” I hope the relief on my face didn’t show too obviously. I respect the sangha but that life isn’t for me.
“Anyway, we’re all very glad that you and David are here to help us. I thought that you would like the weekend to settle in and then on Monday you might like to visit the shelter in town and work out a schedule for your work there. How do you like your room?”
“It’s very nice, bhante and I like David. I’m glad we’re sharing.”
“Jakob, from the sangha’s point of view I have decided that that floor of the house being separated as it is, will count as separate so to speak. You understand what I mean by this? We’re going to pretend that it is under a separate roof so to speak. We’ll treat it as though it were a separate appartment and we’ll leave you two to your own devices. You know how to behave, we don’t have to worry about that. There are one or two things I’d like to ask you. When the bhikkus are fasting I’m happy for you and David to eat but it would make it easier for all of us if you wouldn’t mind taking food to your room. I hope it doesn’t seem unfriendly but it could get tiresome for the bhikkus otherwise. And we’d like you to be especially considerate about cooking meals in the afternoon and evening. David has managed without any trouble so I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
“Thank you bhante. It’s kind of you.”
“It’s not a big deal Jakob. The other consideration is noise. I’m sure you know how quiet we are a lot of the time.” A considerable understatement on an ordinary day a buddhist monastery might be the quietest place I’ve ever been. “I’ve told David that you might get a TV for your room and I know that you were told you can bring music. Keep it down for us please? The last thing I want is to find the bhikkus wandering around singing.” I almost laughed out loud at this. It was quite a shocking thought: bhikkus Thanissario and Arjun strolling round the vihara singing KD Lang songs! Monks don’t sing. The nearest they come is chanting.
“We’ll keep it down Ajahn Ariyesako. Thanks for allowing it though. It would be tough to do without music entirely.” The abbot smiled at me.
“Well that is really all there is. I know that you know how to handle yourself around monks. So does David although he hasn’t spent quite as much time around them as you have. I hope this summer is good for you Jakob. We want you to get something out of it and if you’re lucky it will be a kalyanamittata.” I was puzzled. ‘Kalyanamittata’ is a Pali word that means ‘admirable friendship and it’s used to refer to your dhamma teacher – the best friend you can have.
“I have a teacher, bhante,” I told him confused.
“I know. A very good teacher. But when you have a moment look at the passage in the Uppadha sutta, right at the beginning where the Lord is talking to Ananda. Think about it for me.”
“Well that’s all really Jakob. I’ll see you if you join in puja and maybe you’ll be sitting in meditation with some us sometimes. Go and remember to enjoy your stay.”
I bowed making anjali and left him to wander back to my room. Sometimes monks are very indirect and I couldn’t help think that he was telling me something that I didn’t grasp yet. When I got back to our room David was lying on his bed with head phones on the overhead light was off but a desk lap threw soft light into his corner of our room. I raised my eyebrows at him and he lifted the ‘phones so he could hear me.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“It was fine but I need to look something up quickly is your laptop connected?”
“Sure, we have broadband. Believe it or not there’s a wireless access point in the library. Just go ahead.”
I kicked the web browswer and went directly to accesstoinsight to see if the sutta the abbot had asked me to look at was on-line there. It was. I read the first couple of paragraphs quickly.
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."
"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
OK. Well I’m not a monk but I think I begin to see what the old fox is getting at, I thought to myself. I didn’t doubt for a moment who was intended for my admirable friend. Sometimes I think they really can read minds.
I closed the browser down and went to sit on my own bed. I thought of listening to some music myself and then realised that early as it was I was tired. I got up and undressed to my boxers. I’d brought pjs but I didn’t see any need to wear them now. David sat up as he saw me getting into bed.
“You want me to turn the light out J?”
“No, it won’t worry me. I’m pretty tired I’ll fall right asleep,” I replied.
“OK J. Good night bro. Sleep well.”
“Good night D. Wake me up if I’m not up before you?”
“Sure J, breakfast at 6.”
I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.