Tonight as I cleaned the house, I rocked out to the Steely Dan that was being piped through my speakers at a deafening volume. I’d just helped the LSD-cooking Kid Charlemagne clean up his test-tubes and scales and sent him on the run (the people down the hall know who he is, after all), and as I set down the broom and reached for the mop, Becker and Fagen began asking for Bodhisattva to show them the shine of his Japan and the sparkle of his China. Mop morphed to guitar, and I, too, asked for Bodhisattva to take me by the hand, promising to sell my house in town.


When I was twelve, my mom had an acquaintance who dabbled in crystals, aura-reading, and things of the sort. She was also a numerologist. As hippy-dippy as it sounds, to her credit she did have an almost supernatural knack for pegging strangers’ personalities and for determining (within general parameters) whether something good or bad would happen to someone and when.

One day she came for a visit and asked if I’d like to have my chart read. She took a notepad and a pencil from her oversized denim shoulderbag, asked for my first and middle names and birthdate, then proceeded to scribble numbers, various calculations, and arrows at a dizzying speed of warp factor five. Her pencil came to rest after a few minutes. Then she crouched over to examine her work, which looked to me like some sort of jumbled astral flow chart.

She gasped as her eyes widened with incredulous awe, then she almost reverently took my hand and breathily exclaimed, “I’ve always read about these, but I never thought I would encounter one in my lifetime.”

“One what?” my mother and I asked in unison.

“A bodhisattva!” She looked me over with such wonderment, that it seemed at any moment she might drop before me from the couch to her knees into some sort of pious kowtow. Just as I was beginning to think that she needed to cash in her sanity card, my mother responded with her own bewildered incredulity when she said,

“You mean she came back!?!”

Astonished that Mom seemed to both understand and believe what her friend was talking about, I exchanged questioning the woman’s sanity for questioning what I clearly didn’t understand.

“Whatsa….what did you say? A bodis thing? And where did I come back from?”

Mystified, Mom said, “I knew there always had to be something. You already know about the Buddhist concept of reincarnation and of trying to live each life better than the one before it…”

“Yes, and when someone has learned enough and reached the highest level of enlightentment, then they don’t need to be reincarnated anymore so they’ve reached nirvana. It’s kind-of like heaven – freedom from the struggles of the world and a state of pure happiness and pleasure, right?”

The woman interjected and said, “Yes, you’re right. And once there, nirvana is a choice. Nearly all choose to stay. Why would anyone want to leave freedom from the pain and misery this world has? But some – very, very few – do choose to come back. They see someone in need and make the choice to leave nirvana to come back to help. These are bodhisattvas, and they are special, special souls. Your chart says that you are one.”

“My babies…they couldn’t hold on.” Mom began. Through tear-dampened eyes, she looked at me with the same humbled amazement as had the woman. She continued slowly, “I thought I would never be able to have children. But then you came. And you stayed. You saw my struggle and you came back. You’re my bodhisattva.”


I don’t really think that I’m a bodhisattva. If in some former life I attained all of that enlightentment and achieved nirvana, then I should at least be able to maintain Mr. Miyagi-like zen and I think the Universe should have done me a solid and allowed me to skip all of the infertility hoopla. I’m sure that Mom doesn’t believe it in that exact sense either. But in that moment more than eighteen years ago, there was no way I could have understood my mother’s reaction the way I understand it now. It was like completely reliving the pain and heartache, then immediately realizing again for the first time what a miracle it was that you made it through.

Side note: Mom had considered naming me Aja, inspired by the Steely Dan album and song of the same name, which were released in the year of her pregnancy. Thank goodness she didn’t know back then that I chose her over nirvana; otherwise, I might have been stuck with Bodhisattva or some derivative like Sattva for a name.

Bodhisattva lyrics here.                 Listen here.
Kid Charlemagne lyrics here.           Listen here.
Aja lyrics here.                               Listen here.

***Brownie points if you listen to Deacon Blues and give me your interpretation of the song (lyrics here).

This post brought to you by Bleu, who might now be able to picture me loving Steely Dan.


10 thoughts on “Bodhisattva”

  1. What a cool story! I do have to agree though that I like you with the name Moxie compared to the other choices you mentioned 🙂 You may not think that you’re all bodhisattva, but I think that you’re at least a little bit bodhisattva!

  2. That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. And you know what? I pretty much believe that she was right.

  3. but you DID come back to help. not just your mom but your family and all of your intended families… so there. I’m going to start calling you bodhi now. kymbodhi.
    my dad and bros LOVED steely dan and so therefore I also loved them.
    what a great story all around.

  4. My Bodhisattva,
    I will be posting another comment about this post. But… I want my Brownie points first!
    “Deacon Blues”
    The song has to do with life, change and judgment. “This is the day of the expanding man” refers to someone going through a significant spiritual/life change. How the person is expanding is one that I have considered. I see a new birth of sorts, whether this new birth came by actual death and return to this earth to live yet another life or by his awakening and apparent renouncement of what others want and think he should be, it’s apparent this time around he is going to be himself.
    “That shape is my shame, there where I used to stand…only yesterday I stared through the glass…” represents this character’s past. This past was one in which he tried to live as society dictates a man should be, do, and act. His shame may come from the fact the rather than be true to himself and who he was, he feels he shamed himself by acts and deeds he may have done that turned out to be self sacrificing but did not bring the happiness and peace he felt he would have if since played society’s game and “did the right thing”.
    He’s made some decisions about his life and will have to “approach the stand,” as he will be judged by others. But he is “ready to cross that fine line,” determined to “be what I want to be.” And the sarcastic “sue me if I play too long,” and “this brother is free, I’ll be what I want to be” express this self-determination.
    Being true to himself other will no doubt call his a looser, thus the allusion to “losing.” The Alabama and Wake Forest football teams are definitely referred to here, but as symbolic references to any life that others judge as a “winning” or “losing” Alabama was referred to as the “Crimson Tide” and during this time they were the consider the best college football team and were “winners” for years. Wake Forest teams were the referred “losers” of the world. (The Wake Forest “Demon Deacons,” football team had losing streaks during the 1977 (1-10) and 1978 seasons (1-10) which paralleled one of several of The University Of Alabama’s extended winning streaks, including back-to-back National Championships during the 1978 and 1979. Alabama is known as “The Crimson Tide”) Hence “They got a name for the winners in the world and I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues”
    Embracing music, alcohol, vices, and self-destruction – and being ok with it because you’ve come to a point where it is home and it’s where you want to be. In a way it’s falling in love with failure, or what those that will judge him see as failures because of his change.
    If anything it’s about celebrating a lifestyle that many would look down upon: a lifestyle that you may know will lead to ‘dying behind the wheel’ (in all the ways to interpret that wonderfully multi-meaning line). The last lines are maybe the best though: “I cried when I wrote this song sue me if I play too long. This brother is free I’ll be what I want to be.” So what if it’s the life of the looser. So what if he knows he’ll die behind a wheel (literally or figuratively). He has struggled with society and himself and has finally become free by accepting himself and choosing his path – consequences be damned. He wants a grandiose name for the looser – because he sees the grandness in this life he has chosen. The irony here is: Does his self acceptance really make him a looser?

  5. The above post is from MommyLady! Forgot to sign it. I was going to set up an account but… alas, you have to pay for it.

  6. I FINALLY listened to all of it and read all the lyrics. I remember listening to Reeling in the Years growing up and never knowing the lyrics. I especially remember Ricky Don’t Lose That Number as well.
    I didn’t really ever take in their lyrics back then. I think partly because the sound to me was so specific and came across to me as “old fogie” in a way with the brass and whatnot. They are very unique in that they are one of those few who have their own sound unlike anyone else.
    Deacon Blues to me seems to be a song about being and doing what you want.
    Thanks for sharing it and sorry it has taken me forever to get to commenting.
    I really loved the Bodhisattva story of your mother’s. THAT was so beautiful and special. Bliss and I have been reading some of TNH’s children’s books together and it is really wonderful to discuss those things with him. He said one day that he always wanted to come back as my baby and me his mama and got very emotional about it. The death part was ok with him, so long as he was always reincarnated as my baby. I cried that night for so many reasons but mostly because I felt the very same way.

  7. “I thought I would never be able to have children. But then you came. And you stayed. You saw my struggle and you came back. You’re my bodhisattva.”
    Wow. That just made me literally burst into tears. (And contrary to my blog post today I’m in a pretty tear free kind of place.) Wow.

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