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Chapter 35

On the mountain the rain carried on, softly.  Bright grey clouds were a white roof for the vast gardens of the Monastery of the Wondrous Heart.  I stayed there for a long time, sitting on the wide balconies built of ancient wooden boards worn smooth and black.  I looked out over the mountains, swimming in a sea of impermeable whites and greys.  Each crag hovered like islands. 

Some say the mountains were really the fins and spines on the back of a giant submerged dragon.  There is one room in the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon, a room often closed and dark and cool.  It is said that the dragon is frozen there, steaming among boiling clouds, caged.  It is also said that there is another dragon, a huge beast, white with long tendrils and mammoth, wise, beady eyes.  One man, the famous Looks-for-Seclusion Field-Hunter, was called upon to summon the dragon to the main hall of the monastery.  For 7 years he waited, baiting the dragon.  Finally, when he saw it, he captured the dragon and bound it to the main hall.  I saw it looking down at me from the heights of the hall.

The monastery is a world of  white, grey, tan, and black.  Long paths of grey granite weave between sand colored walls.  Short, stunted pines are dwarfed by massive black halls.  Each temple is a monochromatic concentration, broken occasionally by a rainbow of blossoms.  When each arrives, it is greeted with awe and joy, a conversation piece between early morning prayers.

For days and nights I breathed the warm air of the mountain- scents of blooming hydrangea, rain, incense.

Many climb the mountain of the monastery of the Wondrous Heart.  Many stay at the Great Heart temple like I did.  Many sit and sit, stripping down their mind, searching for nothing, or perhaps clarity.

At the very top of the mountain is The Hut of the Eastern Ocean.  There, I once passed the highest monk of the mountain.  He was dressed in purple robes and he had a bloated bulbous alcoholic's nose.  He was on his way home and I was on my way out.  I had entered to see the gardens, of which there are three. 

One is empty.  The garden of the mind.  Standing on the balcony of the hut, looking out at this garden, all I saw was whiteness, waves and waves of grey and white.  Perhaps it was clouds, perhaps it was sand, perhaps it walls. 

A single rounded stone pool sits at the edge of the balcony.  a few scraggly pines and electrical lines can be seen far below on the mountainside.  Beyond this, there is nothing, just emptiness.  The white void reaches out until it becomes the sky and the sky reaches out until it becomes empty space.

One is a lush.  The garden of the body.  I picked my way among huge stones wet with dew, dense forests, blooming hedges and overgrown fields.  I passed fat stone lanterns and broad bulging stone washbasins.

The last, the garden that links the first and the second, sits in a courtyard of elegant wooden walls.  It is the garden of the spirit.

At first, it appears to be a familiar scene: a view of distant mountains rising to the surface above clouds.  Yet, looking longer and longer, the clouds look more and more like waves, waves rippling from each stone, each island, each mountain.  Below the surface, surely, each stone is linked, like mountains rooted in one earth. 

But in appearance, each floats in space, sending messages to one another with waves.  I have seen this garden a thousand times, mandala become physical reality: drifting space bubbles, space ships, trees in the mist, friends scattered across the galaxy, communication by telephone, energy rippling through the universe.