I'm not sure if I've mentioned it in a previous post somewhere, but I live in a Buddhist centre along with eight other people. It's coming up to a year since I moved in.
First thing's first, I'm not a Buddhist.
Out of the eight people I live with, four are practising Buddhists - one being a Buddhist nun.
At the moment there's a silent retreat on.
I personally find it quite pretentious, but I'm trying to simply accept that this is what these people are into . . . because, after all, it's just a trip, isn't it?
Maybe I'm just expressing my own ignorance.
I would like to go on a silent retreat sometime, but for no other reason than to honour the silence and to go within; a bit like an extended Quaker meeting. But what I hear coming out of the meditation room is a symphony of chanted meditations.
That's not my thing.
One thing I find quite frustrating is that some of the people don't even smile at you, even if you smile at them. It would take a lot of effort for me NOT to smile at someone if they smiled at me. There doesn't have to be verbal communication - a smile is an expression of a kind acknowledgement from one person to another.
But where certain individuals are concerned, aspects of etiquette seemed to have flown out of the window during this retreat.
A few days ago I had a minor drama whilst cooking my dinner.
I was in the kitchen along with two others (one of those being the nun). Whilst waiting for my pasta to cook, I was looking for my spinach. Everyone has their own cupboard and fridge space, so I was looking through all of my food stuffs, but to know avail.
When suddenly, the Buddhist nun pulls out a bag of spinach from her shelf in the fridge.
Is that my bloody spinach? I thought to myself.
I've had plenty of things go missing in the past; whether it be eggs, bagels, salad dressing, fruit juice - but I'm always told to either label all my food or to accept the fact that this is what it's like living communally.
But had I just experienced first-hand, someone using - no, not using, stealing my food?
How am I going to find out when I can't bloody speak!?
I stood there for a few moments thinking of what the worst that could happen if I spoke to her:
1. She could ignore me - not so bad.
2. She could give me a nasty look and still ignore me - again, not so bad.
3. She could suddenly lash out and hit me with the massive spoon she had in her hand - that would be kind of bad, but seriously unlikely.
What if I just dipped my hand in the bag of spinach when she wasn't looking and threw some in my pasta?
. . . . I couldn't do it . . . .
I took a deep breath and did it - I spoke.
'Is that my spinach?' I asked.
She looked at me in not exactly the nicest way possible, but neither in the meanest way. The kind of look I would get if, say, Buddha was in the kitchen and I asked him why he was a bit of a fatty. That kind of look.
'No,' she whispered.
'OK,' I whispered.
But then I thought how would I know if she was telling the truth or not!? I couldn't ask her any more questions! When and where did you get it, for example.
I had to settle for a whispered 'no'.
I wasn't satisfied.
WHERE'S MY BLOODY SPINACH!?
Later on that day, I asked my mate, who also lives there, if he knew where my spinach had vanished to.
'I finished it off,' he said calmly whilst making a cuppa.
'You told me to.'
' . . . What . . . When?'
'When I had that couscous, remember?'
' . . . '
So that was that: I was losing my memory and I had broken a Buddhist nun's vow to remain silent.
Sorry, Mr Buddha.
The Cinematic Orchestra - Everyday - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBeKgoqVopk