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.