Tales of Karmic Becoming

Ræl H. Bishop


Kicking and screaming can be heard as a headsman drags someone by the neck down a dank corridor.

“Shut it, Cabal. You know how we treat dissenters.”

“That’s not my n-“

Before he could finish, Cabal was thrown into a dank cell with paralyzing force. He lay in a corner of the cell, writhing in pain.

“Listen, sir, you’ve got to get me out of here!” Cabal plead and plead, but it was in vain. The headsman locked the door and walked away. Cabal ruminated in this room, staring at the walls of his confines. Dusty corner. Dusty corner. Tiny window. Dusty corner. The room was eerily silent. He was all alone, scared, cold, and deprived of a chance at life. He quietly wept to himself, drowned in feelings of futility. Trying to make himself happy, he concentrated his thoughts onto his childhood. One particular event caught his mind.

“This is stupid. Why are we leaving offerings to this dead guy, anyways?” A young, frustrated Cabal stood before an image of the Buddha in a humble temple.

His father turned to him and said “We do this to request power and help from the Buddha.” The young Cabal still didn’t understand how the ritual had any real power, and in the argument his father became visibly frustrated.

Noticing the situation, a nun approached the family. Upon hearing the situation, she approached the child, who began asking her questions.

“So, the Buddha is dead, right? Dead as in not coming back, ever?” She nodded in response. “Then that means he can’t actually be here to accept these offerings, right?Would it just be better to give these offerings to birds or other people who need it?”

“Young one, the Buddha is long gone. Like you said, he is not going to physically receive these gifts. But by giving these gifts to the Buddha, you create happiness here, in your heart,” she said gesturing to her chest.

“But what if I’m happy while giving this food to the birds?”

“All actions come from the mind. You should be happy in giving, for giving without feeling happy about it is less fruitful than not giving at all. But the rewards you receive from giving to these statues, or to monastics, are greater than that of the birds. This is because their very presence helps you enter a better, happier state of mind, one that makes giving more earnest and fruitful. In giving to these statues it is as if you are giving directly to the Buddha, even though he is long gone.”

The boy understood what she was saying. It all seemed so simple to him. He further probed the nun until every possible question of his was exhausted; even his father was impressed and learned from the encounter. The boy then thanked the nun and gave the offerings to the icon. In doing so, he felt happiness from the offering.

With a finger and a clod of dust, Cabal drew a figure of the Buddha on the floor of his cell and began chanting. His chants started soft, but with time grew. A woman walked by the cell and noticed the chanting. She recognized it and looked inside the cell. Cabal felt her presence and opened his eyes. It was none other than that very same nun from his youth!

“What are you doing here?”, he asked quietly.

“Right now, breaking you out.”


0. Image at the top of the page is a modification of Hendrik Willem Cramer’s “Gedeelte van het Spanjaardshol op het Vreeburg te Utrecht”, 1828, public domain.

The Lamb | Cabal | The Apology