Thursday, December 23, 2004

Hyakujo's Fox

Early on in my relationship (if you can call it that) with Mr. Bad Boy, I told a few of my friends I knew I was in danger of living 500 lives as a fox. Hyakujo's Fox is a famous koan that comes up often even in the just-sitting Soto Zen sect. Hyakujo was a Zen master who was asked by a student if the enlightened person is subject to karma. As a reward for his answer of "No," he was doomed to live 500 years as a fox. At least that's how I saw it, doomed. I knew there would be bad karma for getting involved with a pathological liar, yet I chose to be drawn in. I hoped I could change that pattern somehow, and for that I was willing to take on some negative karma. One of my friends did not see the fox story as so gloomy, because even if your actions do create negative karma, you do not have to live with those results forever. Eventually Hyakujo's fox was able to receive an abbot's funeral, and the karmic rebirths were over. The lesson to be learned was that enlightened ones are still subject to karma, but they are not fooled by karma.

I was surprised to see some of my wishes for that love echoed in Zoketsu Norman Fischer's talk that I've linked to. He says, "When we accept what is as what is and make our best effort with all our heart, willing to accept what will come out of it, and to work with that, then we are free- not from karma, but with karma, in karma, embraced by and embracing karma." I had hoped that my whole-hearted embrace of love for him, no matter how bad he was, could show him a freedom, a way to let go of his controlling and manipulating ways.

Zoketsu goes on to say:

No way of living is correct always- it may be correct and true, but just for now. Every moment we are at the crux- the place where life and death meet, the place where time and the timeless meet, the place where Buddha and yourself meet nose to nose and merge. Crux, cross, also, in our culture, evokes the idea of terrible suffering, bottomless suffering, that contains within it the seed of redemption.

This seed of redemption, this is what I pointed towards when I told him that I hoped his heart would break. Right now, he just doesn't allow it. He doesn't allow people in. He wouldn't allow love in. I hope my love for him has an element of timelessness to it, so that if that does happen, he knows it is there, has been there for him.

Zoketsu also says, "Maybe karma isn't a question of right and wrong or good and bad but Buddha doing what Buddha has to do to get the job done- to evolve toward enlightenment. So it might not be bad to have 500 lives as a fox if that is what you need." I think I did need that. I'm still struggling with those 500 lives. Every day, like a drug habit, the urge to think about him is reborn. Even when I think I've figured out and released my more base motives, thoughts arise again. The urge to call him arises again, and I resist that urge each day. Today I realized I am grateful for that a little bit. It reminds me that I can make poor choices and I must continue to be mindful, continue to be vigilant. It also reminds me that 500 lives as a fox might well be worth it if another person can be released from his animal realm, where the needs of others don't matter, only the basic drives to survive.

I couldn't, I wouldn't have gone as far as I did with this person if I had been single. I knew I couldn't count on this person for certain things you look for in a significant other: companionship; dependability; even trust. Many told me, including my husband, "You deserve better." I know, but I do have better: my husband. I know I am grateful I will have a wonderful holiday with Steve. If there's anything falling in love with another has taught me, it's that my love for Steve only grows deeper and more secure.

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