A lost sutta, composed in a singularly rare dialogue form, recently found, preserved in amber, in a heretofore undiscovered catacomb of Nalanda University.
Buddha: Verily I ask you, excellent Julia May Jonas, if you knew old age and death were coming in, like mountains advancing from the east and the west, the north and the south, so that your human life would be rendered most precious, what would you do?
Julia May Jonas: Oh Venerable Buddha, I’m not sure. Sorry – C’nai have a sip of that?
Julia May Jonas: Thanks. Wellsers, my first impulse is that I would probably study the dharma, get super motivated to uncover the nooks and crannies of my mind, learn how to do a headstand away from the wall in yoga class, try and figure out how to do what I was best at for the greatest amount of time possible in my day, you know, travel? (I don’t know I’m just kind of talking here), be super nice to all my loved ones for sure, tend my proverbial garden plot, if you will, you know, get out of my own way, get single pointed about what I think is the best way to spend my time, not “squander” – as you like to say – you know … That’s my first impulse.
Buddha: Verily I tell you ….
Julia May Jonas: But – sorry to interrupt you Venerable Buddha – but then I think about it and I think, yeah, but also, if I knew death was coming anyway, wouldn’t I just say, you know f*&^k it? (Excuse my language Shakya – can I call you that?). I mean, if I’m gonna die anyway what does it matter if I get drunk every night, or go after my best friend’s boyfriend. Listen I’m not saying I’m gonna do all that, but, you know, just because folks are gonna die doesn’t mean they’ll all of a sudden … you know what I’m saying.
Buddha: Do you want to get reborn as a dung beetle?
Julia May Jonas: Seems fine. I’d have 2 brain cells. I wouldn’t know I was a beetle.
Buddha: Yes you would.
Julia May Jonas: That’s where you and I don’t see eye to eye.
Buddha: But, excellent Julia May Jonas,
Julia May Jonas: I like when you call me excellent.
Buddha: I know. Excellent Julia May Jonas, don’t you see how every action that you take affects all beings around you, and that all beings equally affect you?
Julia May Jonas: Could you gimme an example? Like a – a whatchamacallit – a simile.
(THIS PART OF THE SUTTA IS SMUDGED, APPARENTLY BY SPILLED COFFEE, BEYOND TRANSCRIPTION)
Julia May Jonas: Okay, I see what you’re saying. Because I am responsible for everyone else’s happiness, everyone else is responsible for mine. So if I want myself to be cool I have to think about everyone else. Otherwise I’m not cool.
Buddha: Aw, you’re cool no matter what, Julia May Jonas.
Julia May Jonas: You’re the sweetest. But I have to care, don’t I? Don’t I have to make the moral choice to believe in Buddha Nature, or goodness or something like that in order to care that my life is interdependent? I mean how many times have I been like, “Oh, this bottle was probably made with slave labor and I feel bad but I’m buying it anyway?” And I do care! I agree with you! What about people who don’t? Don’t I have to essentially have a nature that cares about good in the first place, because of whatever causes and conditions? I mean philosophy does not dictate morality, Right?
Buddha: (REDACTED) Noble Human Birth (REDACTED) trust me you’ll feel better.
Julia May Jonas: Oh Venerable Buddha, I see now. I don’t think I could explain it, but I see. I wonder what the other worldlings think about it. If only we had some sort of magical forum in which we could send messages through air towards the purpose of having a lively discussion about whether impermanence is justification enough to live a dharmic life… I’d like to hear their thoughts.
Buddha: Julia May Jonas, you’re one crazy dreamer.
Julia May Jonas: No you’re one crazy dreamer.
– The last 400 lines of the sutta have been omitted, as they consisted primarily of Julia May Jonas and Buddha calling each other “one crazy dreamer” over and over and over again. –
(Published courtesy of Sleet Ostrich press, a subsidiary of Random House. Copyright 2009)