The last day the road expanded and contracted like an oily snake. The high-tension lines rose above the terrain. The dividing line was not there, but between rice crackers or grapes. We stopped sometimes and admired the leaves blowing, and again the wheels turned. How many miles? Not enough to erase our path completely. Would we have to circle the world, which all of us, bemused, have done?
We arrived at Mu Sang Sa on the hour like professionals. No one was ready, so our hurried transit collapsed into a family reunion. Many of the faces I’d not seen in a dozen years ― all of them looked the same. Are we chiseled out of granite?
A dark tide washed over me as I mounted the stone steps, the emanations from the enormous halls touching me like fingers through netting, not able to grasp but certainly on me. The scale of the place fit the scale of the man, the master who’d etched his lineage into our synapses. The legend was equal to him, formed around him a grand setting that his students walked through devotedly. The last of his creations, it was my first time to encounter it. I was struck by the openness of the landscape, the mountain ranges wide apart and perfectly balanced. The buildings were built on an incline, causing them to vault one above the other. These, made by human hands, had touches of brilliance mixed with the mundane, all of them enormous, filled with relics from other centers, other times. These living museums overflowed with kind and decent people, some dying, some reading quietly in corners, talking in low tones about times past, their tendrils wound tight through the debris.
Time slowed to the point that I watched the clock’s large, vibrating hands resonate in and out of phase. Was it a digital projection? Are we getting closer to the threads that compose it? Outside the wind beat against the window panes, another language that escaped me.
A Korean bolsalnim walked in and sat near the hot water earn. She read calmly and stared off into the distance. Different masters could be heard through different doors, their voices unmistakable. There were many there for teaching, leading retreats, giving talks, and that it was the day before kyol-che. A favorite introduced me to the bolsalnim, who soon realized we were facebook friends. The room was warm and vibrant after her.
Somewhere a piano, someone laughing. Every face that appeared was warm and encouraging, even though I was content to sit under the portrait of the founder alone.
“I’ll see you later tonight.”
On the way back, a fellow practitioner with strong views. Since I was boxed in, I didn’t talk about practice, but for awhile everything was a teaching point, mostly about not wanting things. There was something in his reasoning that struck me, as through it the tendrils that wound through the halls were partly described, here as a feeling of repulsion. I think it wasn’t easy for them to accept me back, a layman, in their robes. The institution that creates the path through to the original mind also obscures it, but what do I know about such things? Long after I’m done with this world, when there’s no more mention of my name, then the great peace will fill the void, as before.