This piece follows Story Times with Frank – 1 posted earlier. The Koan of this piece: The Jewel is in everyone’s pocket – but most people look somewhere else without realizing that they have it – others are not skillful enough to find it from the pocket – only very few manage to get it. Some further briefs on Koans. Most Zen Koans were developed from the morals of Jataka Tales (e.g. see the two volumes of illustrated compilation of 100 tales authored by Todd Anderson and Ven. Kurunegoda Piyatissa, Buddhanet.net, 1994) as well as from different Buddhist themes. The method of story telling depicted in Jataka Tales (a total of some 500) was used by the Buddha (563 – 483 BCE) as one of the ways to convey his teaching (like: Righteousness; Sublimities; Happiness; and Meditation) in simple attractive terms.
Such methods of story telling were used in Hinduism and Christianity (e.g. the Parables of Jesus, 4 BCE – 33 CE). Some Arabian Tales, and European stories (e.g. Greek Myths; Aesop’s Fables; The Decamerone Stories by Giovanni Boccaccio, 1313 – 1375 in Italy; and the stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer, 1340 – 1400 in England) are noticeably parallel to, and probably have roots in Jataka Tales. In the Indian Subcontinent, China, Japan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries (e.g. Borobudur in Indonesia), the Jataka Tales gave birth to myths and many art works – paintings, sculpture, temple frescos, stone carvings, literature and modern movies. The concept of Koan is fascinatingly useful and attractive to convey morals, ethics and for stimulating thought processes. The fun faces and postures of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (image credit: anon): bashful, dopey, grumpy, happy, sleepy, sneezy, and wisey – remain with us in this 2nd piece to enjoy some more time with Frank riding on the wings of his observations, wit and imagination . . .
6 – Finding a Different Way
Once, while walking a person approached Frank with some booklets in his hand, tried to give one to Frank and urged him to go the place of worship to find peace. Frank assured him, “Sure, I am heading that way.”
The person seemed happy but then said, “Dear sir, the place is around this corner.”
Frank smiled saying, “I know, but I have found a different way.”
7 – Frank’s Unique Solution
There was a person named Ian who used to face an awkward situation while walking. The people coming from the opposite direction encounter a situation where they could not guess which way Ian was heading – coming to an awkward situation where both would swing one way or another before finding their way.
Ian told one of Frank’s friends of the awkwardness. He told Ian not to look into the eyes of the person, instead to look downward while walking. Ian complied, but then he was bumping on persons coming from the opposite direction. Another suggested him to look upward while walking. But then again he was bumping on others. Frustrated he came to Frank for advice.
Frank told, “Ian you should just stand still when you see someone is coming your way and then move after he or she has left.”
Ian came back one day saying, “Frank, you are brilliant. No more awkwardness, but then I became very slow.”
Frank smiled, “You know Ian, slow and steady win the race. And don’t forget, as elites not accustomed to taking orders – we love to observe how things are, enjoy miseries and chaos, and do nothing. Only after a while, when there are protests or someone applies for help, we write rules at our convenience. But then, we create more miseries, Ahah!”
8 – An Engineer’s Competence for Marriage
It was during the good old days. Frank was worried about his daughter Josephine.
She hardly hangs out with boys, instead buries herself in reading novels – Jane Austen and all that . . . Good Lord, how will she ever get married?
But one day a matchmaker arrived with a marriage proposal. An engineer wanted to marry Josie. Frank and his wife Mary got very excited, went to their daughter to declare the good news. But Josie was not in a mood, and flatly denied to marry. She had an eye for a neighborhood boy, but never told her parents. Anyway after long persuasion, she agreed to meet the engineer.
The well-dressed engineer came on a good day riding on a fancy horse-drawn carriage. Mary made sure that Josie had the right makeup and dress. They talked and dined, and finally the engineer left.
Mary asked, “Josie dear, he is such a nice gentleman. Isn’t he?”
Josie angrily replied, “Is he? How can you say that mom? The guy even did not bring a nice flower. He was talking to you and dad all the time, without even looking at me, as if I wasn’t there. No way, I am not going to marry that man.” So saying Josie stormed out of the room.
Frank and Mary got utterly disappointed. Then Mary smiled to Frank, “Wait, I have got an idea.” Josie had a broken mirror in her room, it was her favorite. Frank bought her a new mirror, but Josie would not let the old broken one go.
Mary went to Josie’s room, and comforted her. Then she looked at the broken mirror and said, “You know Josie, the engineer can fix your mirror.”
Suddenly, Josie’s face brightened up, “Really, mom?”
“Of course, dear! Engineers can fix anything.” Came the reply from the hopeful mother.
Smile came on Josie’s face, she hugged her mother, “Ok, I will do it.”
Frank never asked Mary about her magic, but they became a happy parent to see their daughter getting married.
9 – Naiveté Lesson: 1
Once upon a time, there was a person named Abuz. It was very difficult to teach or convince him. Friends asked Frank to take up the job. They said, “Frank you have an ability to convince people in a unique way. We are sure you will manage.” Frank agreed.
So, one day Frank invited Abuz to his place, and started by talking about warming climate and effects. Frank was saying that many plant and animal species would likely perish if humans do not take action.
Abuz interrupted, “I understand something needs to be done. But, how come humans have to take care of everything; god is there sitting idle, can’t he do something about it. We pay a lot to god, so it only makes sense that he takes some responsibility.”
“How do you pay to god?” Frank queried.
Abuz: “Well, apart from praying, we donate lots of money to the places of worships and clerics. I am sure god collects a part of those proceeds.”
Frank: “I am not sure, how god could do that.”
Abuz: “Come on Frank, if governments are smart enough to collect levies on every penny we earn and spend, then god must have some smarter methods.”
Frank: “I am afraid, god does not work that way.”
Abuz: “You mean to say that god is very callous. Why are we praying him for?”
Frank: “I don’t know the answer, but god does not work that way.”
Abuz: “Then the government must do it.”
Frank: “Perhaps they would. But then you have to pay for it with more taxes.”
Abuz: “Are you kidding me? Why more taxes . . . !”
Frank: “Not only one, but may be multiple . . . carbon tax, and what not.”
Abuz: “What about us . . . why stream roll of taxes?”
“Good question Abuz, but even god won’t be able answer that.” So saying, Frank thought he learned more from Abuz than actually teaching him.
10 – The Birth of Modern Democracy
Once upon a time . . .
In the large empire of Jambudwip, Frank was appointed as the chief counsel of the monarchy. A lawyer by profession he was taking care of Emperor’s rules of business. Once on an urgent business, Frank knocked on Emperor’s chamber.
“Lord Frank, please do come in. What is it? You sounded very urgent.” The Emperor looked curiously at Frank.
“It is, Your Majesty. You must have heard rumors, and I have been approached by a representative of wealthy businessmen and money lenders saying that they like to have democracy – and want to share power with the monarchy. They want to get elected by people to form a parliament and govern the country. And propose that Your Majesty relinquish power and work on their advice as a ceremonial head.” Frank spoke slowly, and was looking at the Emperor to see his reaction.
The Emperor jumped out of the chair, his face became red with anger, “How dare they? Bloody commons, butchers and hyenas! I gave them enough importance already, inviting them to banquets and bestowing royal titles. These greedy bastards now want to put their dirty hands on my power. They are lucky that I have not yet taken measures to guillotine them.”
Frank stayed calm, “Please, come down Sir. You know, they already wield significant power. They are acquiring and funding the media to propagate false rumors and demonize the monarchy on their behalf. Sir, with your permission I can initiate negotiations with them. Trust me, I will work out a very dignified deal.”
The Emperor started pacing across the room, walked to the bar stool and poured whisky and ice cubes on two glasses, took one to Frank and calmly said, “I trust you Frank. Don’t I? Good, talk to the backstabbing cowards.”
After about a month of negotiation, the Emperor and Frank met again.
“Do lay it out Lord Frank. How far could you work things out?”
“Your Majesty, I have tried very hard to understand their growing power, temperament and reasoning. It has become clear to me that they are after the power to control tax dollar$. They resent that the royals have the sole control of it. The only way to have the control is by legitimizing it in the name of democracy.” So saying, Frank paused.
“Hmm! So that is what it is. And . . .” The Emperor sounded impatient.
“Sir, the list of negotiations reads like this: all the estates of you and your extended family will remain in royal hands; the expenses to maintain and renovate them to keep their glory intact will be funded; the extended family will get annual dignified stipends according to ranks, and will be provided with top management jobs to keep everybody busy; all members of the royal family will be exempt from paying taxes; any wrong doing by royals will be dealt with discreetly beyond the touch of prosecutorial proceedings. Of course, Your Majesty’s office and supporting staff will remain as they are.” So saying, Frank stopped and looked at the Emperor waiting to see his reaction.
“Go on . . .” The Emperor was eager.
“Sir, I have also negotiated that there will be an upper chamber of lords to be selected by the monarchy. I insisted that the lower house as representative of the commons must sit in benches without any hand rest.” Frank gave a mocking smile and continued, “And that no government buildings should be more grandeur and majestic than the royals.”
“And they agreed?”
“Interestingly they did!” Both laughed and then Frank continued, “Sir, these people do not have any sense of dignity, they are just greedy for power to control the tax dollar$. Soon people will laugh at their squabbling.”
“And . . . ?” The Emperor was curious.
“And all the bills passed by both the chambers will become law only after the royal ascent. The monarchy, while working at the advice of the parliament, will have the power to comment and suggest changes to the bills, and in some circumstances can veto them.”
The Emperor was pacing up and down the room, his emotion oscillating between sadness and anger, and asked, “Frank, when they say people, what do they mean?”
“Sir, by people who can to vote, they mean those who are in good stature, women are excluded from this definition.”
“I thought as much, it’s all about controlling tax dollar$. These rascals cannot see anything beyond.” The Emperor then walked to the window looking out and said slowly in choking whispers, “You know Frank, we worked very hard to build this nation. When I reflect back, I must say I realize we could have done better for my subjects, for my country. But I love my people, my country. It is very sad to let that go. Don’t you agree?” The Emperor paused, then turned to Frank, “Let me discuss with the royal household.”
So, after about a week of family deliberations, the Emperor appeared before the people on the palace balcony and declared, “My beloved people, I am here today to declare something very important. I am involving all of you in the governance of our great nation. Henceforth a parliament and its leaders will take part in the governing rules of business. I remain the sovereign and as we have done for ages, will look after your wellbeing. I will work on the advice of the new parliament. I have signed a decree to this effect. If the parliament violates it, the monarchy will take back the power. Long live the monarchy, long live our nation.”
Thus modern democracy was born in Jambudwip.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was in the 21st century. Frank suddenly got a summon from the Emperor. Frank obliged happily, and went straight to the Emperor and bowed, “Your Majesty, it is so nice seeing you after a longtime.”
The Emperor greeted Frank in a rather unusual way, devoid of protocol, “Lord Frank, I was not sure where you were and whether my message would reach you. But very glad to see a good old friend again. You were alive when I passed away. How were your days when I was no longer there?”
“It was good, Sir. As you know, unlike others, the system of jobs is fair to us – we elite ruling classes do not have age limit, and can keep our job and choose to leave or retire when we feel we are ready. I used that privilege to the fullest. I remained the chief counsel for 5 more years, retired with dignity, and then appeared here.”
“Where are we really? I am glad I am seeing everything that is happening in Jambudwip and in the universe. And interestingly don’t feel like eating anything.”
“We got a dose of elixir when we passed away, so there is no need to eat. And we have become invisible to humans. Sir, is there anything particular bothering you?”
The Emperor vented out his disappointment, “You know, as I watch more and more of these showcases of democracy, I am getting angry and disgusted. Those elitist rebels promised a lot, to do better than us. But what a poor show! I understand that in the beginning they could not do what they wanted, but for God’s sake it is 21st century. When we ruled, we tried our best so that the benefits of economic progress and fairness reach everyone. How is it democracy, if all people are not meaningfully engaged for collective well-being?”
“Certainly not meaningful, Your Majesty. Now that we are no longer there, we are seeing things from a different perspective. We thought that the progress in science and technology, and industrialization that we initiated and funded – would have translated to the benefit and prosperity of all in harmonious living.”
“We see progress, don’t we? Science and technological progress in informatics, communication and others is very spectacular. Definition of people eligible to vote is extended. These progresses are a reality – but so is the reality of discriminatory fragmentation.” The Emperor continued, “It is clear to me, corrupt practices and abuse of trust and power are interwoven in governing policies – with a face so polished that most people cannot see their true nature. We tried our best to follow and set examples of certain values. But political leaders do not seem to have any care for such standards. People look at them as exemplars – but see what they get. Different methods of measure and software are so cleverly devised – that real miseries and hardships of people never surface. The renewed mantra is nothing but the primitive survival of the fittest. The rules, regulations and tactics from our colonial times have not been touched. Don’t you agree?”
“Sir, they have touched only those that benefit and protect them. The others are secretly kept intact to block some common people’s aspirations. They are basically mimicking our royal rule but in an innovative and ruthless way.”
“How so . . .” The Emperor looked at Frank curiously.
“Sir, if one looks closely, the structure that we used to rule, remained – with some polishing here and there, but at the same time making it more ruthless in others. The government and corporate executives have elevated themselves to the likeness of royals without regalia – in remunerations, perks and privileges, but in a more hubristic and snobbish way. Although they say otherwise, the idea of caring about the well-being of others – especially those who are in the lows of money-chain – hardly crosses their mind. They do not like to recognize the fact that – it is very painful for anyone – to be left out of the system one works for and contributes to.”
“Hmm! So, instead of one royal, now there are multiples. Unlike us, governing politicians rotating every few years – have the luxuries of shunning away from responsibility as if the problems are not theirs. Or they think that science and technology will always be there to rescue the economy with constant flow of tax dollar$. Or they deliberately like to keep common people’s problems alive, to talk about them over and over again – and showing the colorful carrots to solve them each time an election is held. Don’t you agree?”
“Yes Sir, I do. Even if they want, corporations and their professional lackeys would not let them – arguing that some problems are good for exploitation – for the thrival of business and economy. They, together with the media always play the card of fear – that economy and jobs are threatened – and each time they do so, the tactic works. Society is led to believe that bailout millions to corporations are good for economy. Thus the clever political process legitimizes thievery of taxpayer dollar$, which mostly end up in executive pockets.”
Frank paused then continued, “Sir moreover, if one party makes some progress, the next party rolls them back. So although science and technology are progressing, social systems stand still – and are even getting worse in some cases. The pursued system has become more innovative than us in tax collection, levied on both earning and spending. As if, enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor is sweet, reciprocation is sour. Mistrusts are so alarming – that things are being managed by assumptions, thievery and stereotyping.”
The Emperor looked at Frank in disbelief, “It is hard to believe, oh dear democracy!”
Frank continued, “Sir, the governing system is layered in multiple federal and local authorities and jurisdictions in the name of democracy – perhaps with a good intention. But they forgot to account for the benefit and convenience of common people in the equation – or deliberately did so. To people the system is nothing but more bureaucracy, more rules – more inefficiency and more confusion. They hide huge system losses in governance resulting from – incompetence, callous decisions and corrupt practices. One department or authority does not talk to another – and the system lets some organizations to prey on the vulnerables.”
The Emperor added, “Laws, rules and regulations have to be simple and straightforward compatible with common age-old ethics – to make it easy for ordinary people to understand. Don’t you agree? Otherwise only those who could afford good lawyers have the chance of getting justice, others get denied. As I see it, only when one seeks to get to services through lawyers, their voices are heard and rewarded – but for the same cause, those who go by themselves, face neglect and denial. You know, I feel ashamed that swearing and vulgarity have become so common that – civility has no option but to escape through the back door. Some culprits and anti-socials are let having free passes to conduct their evil line of works.”
“It’s really very unfortunate, Sir. Good policies and people are getting systematically layered down, sidelined and neglected. Human psychology is let being shamelessly applied through – thievery, bullying, media, targeted advertisements and crooked theories to fool people and running over them. We never thought such veiled malicious activities can be done in the name of serving people.”
“Goodness sake, you are so right, Frank.”
Frank looked at the Emperor expecting more from him, to which the Emperor added, “As one can see from here, the environment and climate are being driven to hell. Don’t you agree? We were no better, but one sees more fragmentation of the society in mistrusts and animosity in terms of income-level, color, age, gender, ethnicity, etc. etc. What is going on? Did you foresee this? I did not relinquish power for this to happen.”
Frank agreed with the Emperor, “Your Majesty has rightly observed. No, I did not foresee this either.”
The Emperor sounded wise, “You know Frank, it sounds very funny when they say partisan politics. With opposing parties facing one another in winning tantrum, what can one expect other than partisanship. Conflicts, mistrusts and intolerance are so alarming that families are being destroyed and couples are reluctant to start a family, afraid that they would not be able to raise children.”
Frank added, “Exactly so, Sir. Some just want conflicts – as if they are fun.”
The Emperor agreed, “Fun to some, pain and death to others. How horrible! Got to go Frank. We can talk for days. Let us get back at some other time. I like to watch how my descendents are doing.”
“Sure Sir. They have become very popular over time. Royal worshippers are increasing by leaps and bounds – more so in our former colonies – some just love to think that they belong to the crown. Before you leave, may I ask you a question?”
The Emperor looked at Frank, “You may.”
“Sir, would you like to get reborn in Jambudwip again?”
The Emperor replied, “I must say, the thought crossed my mind. But no, I am not a Bodhisattva. The place has become hell of a mess. There are no trust, no honesty and no decency of any sort. What they call as social order is nothing but greed – and artificial showcase to cover up the ugly wounds of utter asymmetry. I wish not, but I will be least surprised if those wounds spread someday in unmanageable proportions to crumble the social fabrics across the globe to disaster. I feel very sorry – but I thought I left a solid foundation. I wish they would come to their senses to open the door to wisdom. They should realize that when greed for power and money lashes out in pangs of treachery, ruthlessness and cruelty – no one is safe – society is not safe. Adieu Frank.”
So saying, the Emperor vanished.
. . . . .
- by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 10 March 2020