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