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9-22-07: Master Ni’s Love Story

At the end of the week after our beach walk:
L: “It’s for you. Master Ni.”
Me: “Hello.”
Ni: “You take me to bank?”
Me: “Sure.”

I regularly took him banking. This meant that we would visit two or three banks to shuffle his CDs around when they became due to avail his savings of the best possible rates for growth. (Ni: “Money is external chi. Important to cultivate external as well as internal chi.”) This materialism may seem odd from the context of the Hindu or Buddhist gurus of India and Tibet. But it is quite normal from the Chinese perspective.

In Journey to the West, a classic Chinese novel which I have written volumes on, (see my webpage on The Monkey & the Tao of China) Tripitaka, the hero, is a Buddhist monk on the quest for enlightenment. After going through 80 excruciating ordeals he finally reaches the Buddha at the top of Thunderclap Mountain. He is so excited until the guardians put out their hands, obviously expecting to get paid. Tripitaka is obviously flustered because he has taken a vow of poverty and only has his begging bowl. The guardians are insistent, saying they have a responsibility to their children and grandchildren. Finally Tripitaka gives them his begging bowl, which satisfies their needs.

On another tack I could say that the Universe has arranged for us to regularly get together to share essences through his banking needs.

After we had exchanged pleasantries:
Ni: “Got my passport.”
Me: “Already? But it’s only been a few weeks.”
Ni: “I told you. Goleta Post Office quicker.”
We laugh.
Me: “So what’s next?”
Ni: “Stay here. At 93, very difficult to move. Don’t want to be cremated.”

I reflect on this abrupt about face. I understand that a major factor of his impetus for returning to China has been his wife. She has been agitating to return to China for years, if not decades. She has never learned to speak English and so is relatively housebound. Her family and culture are there. She is getting older and has expressed the desire to die in China. Further although her health is good she has lost her short-term memory. (Ni: “Raising 7 children is hard. She did most of the work.”) As can be imagined this has led to innumerable difficulties. Although she can cook and maintain the house, Master Ni must be responsible for shopping, banking, medical visits. And he is not getting any younger. Without any support, except his students, who don’t speak Chinese, things will continue to become more difficult. A move to China, where he could have been closer to his children would have resolved many of these difficulties.

In anticipation of their arrival his son had even purchased an apartment for them to live in, which was close to his family. So everything had been arranged. Master Ni and his wife would be well taken care of with family around. Their last years would be spent in a life of relative luxury and ease. They would be surrounded with a culture they were familiar with and people who could speak their language. On the surface the decision seemed easy.

But now Master Ni had come face-to-face with the reality and decided to remain in Santa Barbara, where he had spent the last 33 years of his life. He would continue to trudge up to the Mesa to do his grocery shopping. He would be forced to deal with his own declining health – dependent on doctor’s, who couldn’t speak his language. He would continue to have to deal with his wife’s failing memory with all its attendant problems. But maybe not. His wife could realize her dream and move back to China now that everything had been arranged. All this flashed through my mind as we continued our drive.

Me: “What about your wife?”
Ni: “I told her she could go. She said would rather stay here with me.”

I almost cried. His wife’s dream of returning to China with family, friends, and a familiar culture could easily be realized. But now that her decades long dream was within her grasp, she turned it down. She made a conscious choice to be with the man that she had spent nearly 70 years with, raising a family together, and following his inner urge to move first to Taiwan and then to Santa Barbara. Although she had suffered isolation from family and culture, she had chosen to stick by him although he had given her permission to leave.

Ironically it took this crisis to resolve the agitation that had been going on for so many years. In their seventh decade together in the ninth decade of their life, she in her late 80s and he in his early 90s, their subtle conflict had finally been resolved. I had somehow thought that all interpersonal conflicts were supposed to be resolved long before this point. So my spiritual master who was concerned with uniting jing, chi, and shen – and moving through the Door to the other side, is instead involved in a love story with a happy ending, (at least for now) which only occurs in the twilight of their relationship. Again I am grateful for Master Ni’s human reality – showing the way of Love. Letting go and it all returns.