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Chapter 25

For the coin to keep flipping

Illustration by Paloma Agüera

“I realize that if I were stable, prudent, and static; I would live in death. Therefore, I accept confusion, uncertainty, fear and emotional ups and downs because that is the price I am willing to pay for a fluid, perplexed and exciting life.” – Carl Rogers

At six o’clock sharp, the monk struck the gong just once, letting the echo fill the entire space, as if the sound was able to fill in the nooks and crannies, the tatami, the figures, every corner that began to light up in the temple that morning. Shortly before that sonorous tremor died down, another hit, and another, and another, and another, and another, in succession, leaving no room for echoes, accompanied the first sound of the instrument that, accelerated, seemed to follow the steps of another monk as he lit several incenses at the feet of a Buddha. A slight reverence, the slippers at the entrance, the cool tatami. They, with shaved heads and a large kimono, solemn, measuring each movement, lowering their heads with each image, with each statuette placed at a specific point that hides some meaning. I, once invited, sat on a carpet, cross-legged, trying to decipher the meaning of it all: the candles, the shoji through which some rays entered, the altar that held a Bodhisattva, the Japa Mala that each of them held in their hands and that I had seen in so many other Christian, Islamic and Hindu temples. One last gong stroke and, when they were both seated with their knees on the floor, a guttural noise raptured from the instrument every centimeter it had managed to colonize. Next, with a vibrating rumble that came from a place higher than the throat, higher than the physical, the monk began to recite the first verses of a Sanskrit mantra: “On abokya beiroshanō makabodara mani handoma jimbara harabaritaya un.” The voice, deep and transcendental, mystical, grave, was supported at times by the echo of the gong that struck again, at times by the smoke of the incense, as if the monk himself was not enough to connect with whomever wanted to connect, as if to that mantra the words he repeated over and over again were not enough, counting the beads of his Japa Mala, lowering his head in a reverence that was already done in the same place, on other knees, 1.200 years before, when they began to try to decipher the uncertainties of their existence.

The incense was extinguished, and the monk gave a last hit in the gong whose echo returned to occupy the spaces that belonged to him when it sounded at sunrise. The monk was silent for a while, contemplating the figure he had been addressing for the half hour he had been reciting the mantra. I closed my eyes and, the early hours, the softness of the tatami and the smell of incense sharing space with the echo, took me to a state of sleepiness, a mixture of dreams and lucid thoughts, nightmares and obsessions, futures I write and futures already written.

A few minutes later, the monk turned around, bowed his head to me in reverence and said arigato, inviting me with the gesture of his arm to pass into another room of the temple. We moved slowly, him holding his kimono, me trying to place my thoughts. Next to us, the other monk was waiting for us performing the Homa, a ritual in which wooden tablets are burned in a fire that contains prayers and I was the only one left to write mine, some words that suggest a wish, a kanji that would say in a couple of lines everything I carry inside and that would arrive, thanks to the fire, to whoever wants to hear it, my mantra to accept the uncertainty and the price I am willing to pay for a fluid, perplexed and exciting life: for the coin to keep flipping.

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