Disillusionment - By Mizeta Moon

Since the hippie days, when everyone was on a quest to discover who they were, and find meaning for their lives, I wanted to go to India. Yogis and mystics were alluring with their grasp of eternal truths. Being from Boring, Oregon, I felt left out when wisdom was distributed. When I won a bunch of money in the lottery, I immediately booked passage to the land of cattle worship and smoldering incense. My friends told me about a swami they studied under who set them on the path to enlightenment and could be trusted to deliver results. I was hungry for knowledge and unfulfilled, so I flew to Bombay, prepared to embrace any lifestyle other than what I previously encountered. 

A worn out Jeep picked me up at the airport and transported me sixty miles over bumpy, rut-filled roads to a compound that looked like it might sink into the underbrush if no one stopped its advance. Dung fires filled the air with smoke, and kettles containing unidentifiable substances bubbled while solemn women stirred their contents with wooden paddles. Everyone seemed haggard and thin. Underfed and unwashed. When I alit from the Jeep, I was accosted by a band of ragamuffins who tugged my sleeves and begged for anything I might be willing to share. Clutching my belongings tight, I walked to a building that was obviously the center of activity, hoping to meet the swami I was told about. I brushed a reed curtain aside and stepped into the opposite of what I expected to find. 

The swami wore a dirty robe, and his bony knees were grimy. His matted hair looked like things were crawling in it. When he smiled at me, I saw that his teeth were blackened and rotting. While it was true that I felt a wave of love radiating from him, my senses were repulsed by the conditions he embraced. Was the key to enlightenment ignoring the physical and focusing on the spiritual? If so, how could I accept tenure among the unwashed? 

On his shoulder sat a magnificent green and gold parrot that appeared to be the most healthy and well fed entity in the compound. Its beady black eyes assessed me as I sat my travel bag on the hard-packed dirt floor and waited for someone to speak. I didn’t have long to wait. The parrot said, “enlightenment comes at a price. How many Rupees have you?” To say I was flabbergasted by the parrot’s enunciation would be an understatement. I expected to pay for tutoring, but this was far from the school I expected. 

“How many do you require?” I replied. 

“All of them.” The parrot answered as the swamy ogled me in a way that made me uncomfortable. Would I have to pull my panties down as well? 

The swami reached over and held the parrot’s beak closed. “Stay the night,” he said in a quiet voice. “We’ll talk business in the morning. Please ignore my pet’s abruptness.”  

So, I stayed and supped on the mystery ingredients from the cauldrons, hoping not to get diarrhea. Slept fitfully on a reed mat and had a snake slither across me in the night. Woke to the sounds of water lapping. It turned out the nearby river was rapidly overflowing its banks after recent torrential rains. The water rose six more feet before noon. By then, I was ready to go home. All I’d learned was that buying spiritual enlightenment was a mission for fools. That there is always someone willing to exploit the naïve. I’d come halfway around the world to discover what I could find in my own heart. A sense of me and my place in the world. 

Since then, I’ve planted a garden and watched the process of nature unfold. Embraced the seasons and relished my own existence, no longer trying to find peace through someone else’s point of view.    

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