‘The next time you see it will be when you die…’

He boarded the outbound 737 from Auckland looking out of place and time.

He was a Buddhist monk, replete with flowing brown  robes, practical sandals and on his  left wrist, corded bangles. Not a sober sort, he joked with other  passengers  as he settled into his seat.  One asked him what religion he belonged to.  A pause.

“Buddhist” he replied.

“That’s interesting” said the man –  who showed  no further  interest and turned to fiddle with his TV screen.

The monk sat in the seat directly in front of  me and I wondered if his close cropped hair  bristled above the top of  the seat.

An hour into the  flight I knew I had to solve a question which had  intrigued me for years.  Some 20 years ago when yoga was a  weekly activity  and it concluded with a  long period of meditation.

One night as I meditated, something extraordinary happened.  A brilliant white light penetrated my brain –  I  can’t say it was  the room’s  lights  being turned  on. No, this was a power light which remained for the briefest of moments  of pure  bliss. And then it was gone.

When the session was over, I told my teacher.

“You’re very fortunate” she told me. “Not many people get to see it”.

But what had I seen? And what  had caused it? Off to Google I went in search of a rational explanation and found little that made sense in that  sphere.  Yes, others had seen it in different ways. Some were frightened, others saw a  more diffuse, slightly coloured light but none of these experiences fitted with my experience.

The answer might be there –  right in front of me, so I leaned forward, apologised for my intrusion and asked him  if he had ever see the white light. He turned  to me and  after a moment of two – perhaps to assess if I was having him on or not – said he had.

Better still, he had an answer.

“When you leave your conscious self, your thoughts and words behind, you enter stillness”  And for  good measure he added:

“The next time you see it will be when you die”.


“Could I look forward to a blissful death then?”

His smile was as enigmatic as the Buddha himself, and  then  he turned away, question answered.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.