November 22, 2014

Zen and the Dharmakaya Cadillac

Every Buddhist biker knows that "when the student is ready, the master appears." Last week I was the student, and Sensei manifested himself in the form of a 1981 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, white, with Maryland tags and an appetite for Lesser Vehicles.

The lesson began about five minutes before I was supposed to report for work. As usual, work was still about ten minutes away. Riding a Suzuki Katana sport bike didn't seem as much fun as usual that day. Buddhists in Northern Virginia have added a Sixth Remembrance to the canonical five: "I am of the nature to sit in traffic; I have not escaped sitting in traffic." This profound truth was far from my mind by the time I reached Forest Hills Drive and Route 50, with an overheated engine and a temper to match. There's no forest there, and no hill. Just one of the longest traffic lights in Falls Church - which, at the moment I arrived, turned a tempting yellow...

Being a Man of the Tao, I knew exactly what to do. Being an ego with 750cc's of raw power between his legs, I did the opposite. Entering the intersection, he makes not a ripple. All it takes is a flick of the wrist. I gunned it...

There's a sensation familiar to bikers. We've all felt it at least once. Time slows, the field of vision narrows, and each tooth buzzes in its socket like an enraged hornet. To the impatient priest breezing through a yellow light on his Twin Turbo Supersport, it can mean only one thing: He's done something stupid, and he's about to become permanently impermanent. So it was when the Great Vehicle, the Dharmakaya Cadillac, lunged into my path from behind a concrete retaining wall. Something flashed into my mind: dead bugs on my visor. Then I knew that I was dead. And that I have exactly twenty-seven teeth.

Then I was past, under, over, through - I don't know which. The killer was behind me. Clear road ahead. I was spared by the grace of God, or the infinite compassion of Avalokiteshvara, or quantum mechanics, or luck.

My ego knew it, too. Alive. Indestructible. Immortal.

"Nice driving, man."