It's a remarkable sunset. Really, it is. Standing here on the top of the volcano, 10,000 feet above the beaches of Maui, I watch the sun settle into the golden clouds below us and feel like applauding and shouting, "Author.” It's so lovely it could be scene on a postcard. If I could just figure out why I am crying, I'm sure it would be the perfect ending to a perfect day.
We are talking serious crying here. I am standing in this parking lot, dripping what must be gallons of tears onto the front of my down jacket. I must look like an Italian fountain dressed in Gore-Tex. If I were the kind of person who embarrassed easily, I would be a goner right now. But then, if I were that kind of person, I probably wouldn't have made it through the things that got me to Hawaii and onto the top of this volcano with Rama. No, it's not the crying itself that bothers me, it's the not knowing why.
Rama is about ten feet in front of me, watching the sunset. He stands between me and the sun, and the fiery glow has turned the silhouette of his curly hair into a halo that would have made Botticelli weep, but I don't think that's it. I'm not artist enough to cry over mere aesthetic perfection. It could be a wave of gratitude or love. After all, the guy does tend to inspire those kinds of feelings. Some people could take one look at this radiant golden being and burst into tears quite naturally. But I'm not one of those. Besides, what has the guy done for me lately?
I mean, we've just come back up the trail from a short walk in the crater, and are pausing to watch the sunset before piling back into the buses for the drive back to Kaanapali. And to be perfectly honest, not much seems to have happened for me down there. To my unevolved eyes, it seemed as if we took a nice little hike down the trail and then stood there in single file while Rama walked out to a cinder cone about a hundred yards away from us and did a few things. What those 'things' were is totally beyond me. Although other students were oohing and aahing at various points in the performance, my subtle vision seems to have stayed back at the hotel, because I saw nothing. Diddleysquat.
Yet here I am a few minutes later, standing in a parking lot, doing a stunning imitation of the Rainbird sprinkler commercial. My heart chakra is going stark raving bonkers and I'm getting soaked. I don't feel particularly sad, yet I'm crying like never before in my life. It's not an unpleasant sensation, by any means, but I would feel so much more comfortable if I could just figure out why, preferably before I cry myself into a state of dehydration.
I remember thinking, down in the crater, about what Rama had said the night before, that often you don't notice how powerful a place of power is while you're there. "If that's true," I was thinking, "this place must be a killer.” There were no visuals to trip out on, no funny feelings or sensations to get lost in. There was just the strange, stark beauty of the crater itself and this incredible sensation of silence. Haleakala is the most silent place I've ever been on the planet Earth. Even when we were walking, the silence seemed to part and let us pass through so as not to disturb itself. It was as if nothing had ever stirred there except the winds.
Oh, yeah, the winds. I'd almost forgotten about them. They were hot! Not in the temperature sense, of course. In fact they were quite the opposite, and many of my friends' faces were beginning to take on the semblance of Lord Krishna's divine pigmentation from the cold. But I liked them anyway. They seemed to gust right through your body, just like the winds in the desert back home. These were a little different, however. It's difficult to describe. When these winds blew through you, they seemed to take parts of yourself away with them and leave that cold, crystalline silence in their place. Like I said, it's hard to describe.
You try it. Describe silence. See?
But what could there possibly be in silence to cry about? It's not as if I have to take it home with me, is it? The sun is almost to the cloud horizon right now, and the tears haven't stopped. This is going to fuzzy up my sunset something awful. Maybe it'll help if I close my eyes for a few minutes.
Standing there with my eyes closed, I have this feeling that I left something back there in the crater. I pat my pockets to check, but they're just as empty as they were when I started out this morning. Strangely enough, when I 'pat' my inner being, it's pretty empty, too. When I close my eyes, there's simply no one home. When I press my ear to the door of my self, all I can hear inside is the rushing of the winds from the crater.
Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm crying because I'm not sure there's an 'I' in there any more. After all, I seem to remember that there was someone there this morning when I woke up. But now I search around inside myself and find it empty. It feels a lot like I logged onto the computer this morning with my normal Logon Id, and now that it's time to log off, I can't find it anywhere. I remember having input all this data about myself — my name, my address, my hopes, my joys, my past history, all those things you find on the input screen of life. I filled in all the blanks perfectly. The system accepted my identity and I was off and running.
But now when I want to log off and go home, the sucker won't give it back! I stand there hitting RESET and pounding on the keyboard, but nothing works. I can't find all the old parameters in there any more; it's been wiped clean. Very disconcerting. I mean, how am I going to log on again in the morning if I don't know who I am? Can I really just pick a new personality with a whole new set of parameters and enter them into the system? Is it really that simple?
And if it is, then why am I crying about it? Why stand here and get all drippy about being given a new chance? What's wrong with having a new self? One would think I'd be happy about this rebirth stuff. I tell you, it's beyond me.
Maybe it's just one of those unanswerable questions. You know, the ones that Buddha was so good at avoiding, like "Why is there suffering," or "How did I get into this state, anyway?” There's really no answer. Things are that way because that's the way things are.
Maybe taking a walk with Rama on Haleakala is like that — there are rules. Maybe I should stop worrying about it and just enjoy the sunset. I'm crying because I'm crying, and that's just the way the universe works. It's just one of the rules:
The wind blows.
The sun sets.
The newborn cry.