March 26, 2010

Taxi Driver Wisdom

It's ages since I've been to this page. I've been in Berkeley with Rob and Linda at the top of the world watching numerous sunsets and cloud formations. This time when I arrived, Linda had been planning to meet me at the airport, however she called to say she couldn't make it and would I mind getting a taxi. Not a problem, I said, and walked over to the transportation platform.

The driver assigned to me began talking the minute I gave him the simple signal which was, "How are you?" It must be a lonely job, meeting people all day and having no deep connection outside of hustling them through traffic and squeezing through spaces as narrow as Italy's old world streets. This guy was a good driver, not too wild, not too fast.

He moved to America with his family from Afghanistan about 5 years ago. He graduated from college in mechanical engineering but had a big love of astronomy and didn't like that the Bay Area is so profoundly lighted at night that it hardly gets dark enough to see Sirius. He was quite proud of getting his kids through college, his eldest son got a scholarship and graduated from a State University in criminal justice. His second son will graduate next year, and his daughter is entering community college this year. All in all, he thought it was a good situation for him after living in Boston and Virginia. He's learned to speak English. He and his wife work hard to promote the welfare of their children. He rues the 30 Year War in Afghanistan which has essentially destroyed the country.

At a stop light he asked me a question: "Are you here for a holiday?" "No," I answered, "my friend is dying and I've come to see him." This brought out an abrupt change in tone and a tender concern for my friend and me. Then he continued a quiet monologue and his wisdom and spiritual nature came forward, "You know," he says, "when we are born, we enter this world crying and everyone else is standing around us laughing. But when we die, we die laughing and everyone else is crying." He chuckled over this. Then he became more serious.

"We believe that we don't know at what moment we will be born or at what moment we will die. We are given this body that is our responsibility to take care of. But, our breath belongs to God."

At the moment he said this, the next breath for me was an experience of complete freedom feeling the Absolute, pure Emptiness, enter this relative and temporary body and being indistinguishable one from the other. I am breathed by and inhabited by the Absolute; I have complete and free expression in this form. One does not differ from the other.

I am fine to hear someone speak of God or use the notion or person of God to express what cannot be expressed. I am able to translate this into my own experience of the Absolute, Emptiness, whatever you want to call it. So, it's easy to receive these words, this great teaching from the taxi driver. There was no mention of religion or belief. Just these simple words.

Up, up the hill we climbed. I offered this good news to Rob and Linda, to the chaplain, to everyone who could hear this beautiful reminder. The breath is in and out all day, all night, every moment. It's here, it's free any time we want to remember that we are completely Form and Emptiness, completely liberated in every moment.

I'd say that was a good taxi ride. I gave a Dharma talk on this on Wednesday evening and hope to post the talk on the website very soon.