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Put a Chinese-speaking Italian-American from Brooklyn in the holiest of Buddhist temples and watch the racial harmony flow.

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Everyday Buddhism

by Antonio Graceffo

The temple by my house had been blaring loud music, and running a live play, of some kind, for three days. The deafening noise, gongs, symbols and huge kettledrums, pounded by fat men wearing a g-string, ran non-stop, from early morning, till late at night. This cacophony was accompanied by a constant artillery salvo of fireworks. Even with the windows closed, the air-conditioner running, and my headphones on, the maddening racket pierced my brain. Like the character from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” the constant abuse to my eardrums was driving me to confess to the murder.

I was 150 pages into the new book I was writing, but all I had typed on the last fifty pages was “All work and no play makes Antonio a dull boy,” over and over again, ala Stephen King’s The Shinning.”

“Why all the hullabaloo?” I asked Kain, my best friend in Taiwan. His father was a Tai Chi master and full time instructor, which made Kain’s family very religious, and expert on matters of Buddhism.

But he didn’t know that word. So, I asked about the noise.

“Maybe it is that god’s birthday.” He said. “And, they have entertainment for him.”

“OK, fine.” I thought. “I like birthdays. Who doesn’t? But, a birthday is just one day. I don’t party for three days on my birthday. And, I certainly don’t annoy any Chinese people with it.

This situation clearly demonstrates the advantages of xenophobia and a lack of ethnic diversity. When I lived in Brooklyn, everyone was Italian, so we all had the same schedule, the same God, and the same feast days. I am sure that if there had been Chinese people living in our neighborhood, they would have been put off by the two-week long Giglio Festival.

My frustration supported Archie Bunker’s theory of race. “The sames should stay with the sames, and the differents should stay with the differents.” I know I came to Asia to experience the culture, but this was one aspect of Taiwanese culture I would rather have read about in a book.

It also demonstrated the problems with being in a ploydiacal society. With us, it’s just the one God, and he just has the one birthday. Here, everyday is somebody’s god’s birthday. That should mean that every day is Christmas.

Does that make me Scrooge? Probably not, because those spirits did it all in one night. But just in case. “Hey you, boy!” Shouted to a kid, ridding buy on a bicycle. “Go buy the biggest goose in the market and take it to Bob Kratchet’s house.”

Obviously not a Dickens fan, he rode on.

Another night, I had to ask Kain to explain the latest Buddhist festival which was keeping me up again.

“Someone die. Then 49 days later have this ceremony. They pray to help that person go to Heaven, or maybe animal, just so they will not become ghost.”

Kain used the word “ghost.” In the West, ghosts are mythical. But in the East, they play a part in your every day life.

During Ghost Month, the Taiwanese believe the spirits rise up and walk among us. It is a lot like Catholic All Souls Day, except that it lasts for thirty days. Kain was telling me that the Chinese believe that all children can see spirits, any time of year. They believe that when a baby is crying, inexplicably, it is because he saw a ghost.

“I believe it to.” He said. “My little nephew used to cry all the time. So, we took him to the temple. The priest put some water on him, and said some words. You know, like he do some kind of magic.”

“Did it work?” I asked.

“Yes.” Said Kain, solemnly, “Now he never cries.”

He explained that the dangers which ghosts present to children are worse during ghost month. “Little children are not allowed out of the house for the whole month.” He said.

“You’re kidding me.” I protested.

“No, it is true. That’s why my nephew came to visit me before ghost month started. Now, my sister won’t take him out, because he might see something bad.”

I had a very cute student named Joe, who I liked a lot. But he was failing my class miserably. I asked the school director, Noodles, to have a talk with him, afterwards Noodles came back with an odd sort of contentment on his face.

“I just talked to Joe.” He said.

“And, what happened?”

“He can see ghosts.” Explained Noodles.

“I see.” I said, looking in the mirror to make sure I wasn’t Bruce Willis.

“He can see them clearly.” Confirmed Noodles. “And I believe him.”

“Of course.”

Noodles smiled widely. “Joe said that he likes coming to school because this is a good place. There aren’t any bad ghosts here.”

I wish Noodles had told me months ago that Joe could see ghosts. Now, I am sure that his grades will improve.

We were having dinner at a buffet restaurant, which was dirt-cheap and extremely popular. I loaded up my plate with a mountain of fried chicken, fried fish, rice, stewed cabbage, and steak. And, of course, I couldn’t finish it all.

“You always leave food.” Admonished Kain.
“Yes, I know. My eyes are bigger than my stomach.”
“Buddhist believe in circle. If you waist food this time, you will be hungry in your next life.”

“We must finish.” He said, taking half the food from my plate.

Apparently, the idea of me starving in a future life disturbed my friend so much, that he was willing to over-eat, something he never did.

We saw the movie “The Others,” with Nichole Kidman. A family dies, but they remain, as ghosts, in their home, forced to co-exist with the new owners, who are living. Afterwards Kain said to me. “They were dead, but do you know why they did not go to heaven?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they loved their house too much. So they must stay there. It is not good when you love too many things. Then they keep you from going to Heaven, and you become ghost.”

“Own nothing, that nothing may own you.” I said.

Kain took a minute to decipher the cryptic English. “Yes, If own things then become like prison.”

We were watching the movie “Flatliners,” about some medical students from Colombia University, who were trying to explore the implications of death. They came up with the idea that if someone could die and come back, that they would have the answers to life. So, they each took it in turn, to let the other students kill him. The subject would lie on a table, and take large doses of Demerol, while his body temperature was artificially dropped below freezing. After several minutes, the subject would be revived with a combination of heat, CPR, and adrenaline injections.

When the students were revived, their sins would revisit them as physical manifestations. In order to go on living normal, happy lives, they had to go back and undo their sins.

“This like Buddhism.” Said Kain. “If have too many sin, then cannot go to Heaven. Do not go to hell either. Just live an unhappy life. But different from Buddhism. In Buddhism, even if you make amends, you still are punished, but not as much.”

My Buddhist friends give me a lot of interesting incites. These are intelligent people, living in a modern city, who legitimately believe in ghosts. They don’t believe that ghosts rattle chains, or wear sheets, but what we would call the supernatural, they would just call natural. “Flatliners” could have been a documentary for them.

Talking to Kain, he said, just out of nowhere. “Sometimes I want suicide.”

“What?” I asked.

“Not really, but sometimes I just think.” He explained.

“Why?” I asked.
“Sometimes I think everything is the same. There is nothing new. I just wish I could see Heaven once before I die.” He went on. “My life very boring, always the same food, always the same friends, the same places. I want something different, but I don’t think there is anything.” Then he asked me. “You have lived in many countries, is it very different?”

“Of course.” I said.

But then, I thought about it. What did I do in New York? I worked. I went to bars. I boxed. I wrote…What do I do in Kaohsiung? I work. I do kung fu. I go to bars. I write. What did I do in Costa Rica, or Germany, or England, or Spain? I did exactly the same things.

“You’re right.” I said. “It is all the same.”

“Even if go another country everything the same.” He said.

I started thinking about things like diet. The food is different in every country. But what do I do? What does every ex-pat do? We seek out the things that are similar to home. Teacher Joe insisted on buying Frosted Flakes, although they were nine dollars a box. I eat at McDonalds, even though for the price of one McDonalds meal, I could eat for a whole day in Taiwan. The TV is different, but I watch all the same stuff here, that I watched back home. Only now it has less meaning for me, and it has Chinese subtitles.

People in Taiwan work and marry and have children. They send their kids to school, just as people do anywhere else. They have their elections and their holidays and their vacations. They own businesses, and wear pants, and eat food, and drive when they should really walk.
Where do I want to go after Taiwan? Maybe if I go to Mongolia or Tibet, I will find that it is exactly the same. If that happens, what’s next? What’s left? Is this it? Will the rest of my life be always the same? Is the life of every human, everywhere, the same? If so, this is a very depressing thought.

“You’re right, Kain. Everything is the same, no matter where you go. If you do decide to commit suicide, let me know. I’ll join you.”

Taiwan didn’t seem to have special needs education, or schools for the differently-abled. The parents were faced with two choices. They could keep the child at home, forever, maybe even locked up, hidden away from the world. Or, they could send him or her to a mainstream, public school.

Kain was telling me that he had a student, who was learning-disabled. But instead of having a word for learning-disabled, the Chinese just say “crazy.” This was the same word they used for retarded, mongoloid, or insane.

“They told me to just have her sit in the corner and copy Chinese characters.” Explained Kain. “Every day she copy many, many character, and hopefully she will remember some of them.”

The Buddhists are a compassionate people, in the sense that they felt pity for this girl. But, since Buddhists believe in reincarnation, they don’t feel as much for a disabled person as we do, in the West. For one thing they believe that, hopefully, next time around will be better for this person. And, even worse, they actually blame the disabled person.

“She did something bad in another life.” Kain told me.

“You believe that?”

“Yes, I believe. She have to do something really bad, so god punish her.”

The empathy that they feel is almost the same way you would feel meeting a convicted murderer, who laments about spending the rest of his life in prison. Although you may feel the punishment is justified, he is still a human being, and our instincts tell us to feel sorry for a human being who has to be locked up like that.

My yoga teacher in New York, Aaron once said to me. “You know on a hot summer day, people complain about the horses in Central Park, and how much they suffer in the heat. But I always wonder, how do you know that the spirit in that horse isn’t Hitler?”

Buddhists also believe that their good deeds will come back to them. Kain and I went hiking, and there were tea stations set up all along the way to the top of the mountain. I was thirsty so I said, “Let’s buy some tea.”

“Cannot buy, it is free.” Said Kain. “They believe in circle. So, they give you free tea now, and later in another life if they are thirsty, you will give them something to drink.”

His next statement was very telling about the Asian mentality. “Every time do something good so you get something back later.”

We usually associate the concept of religion with a concept of poverty. In the movie, “Manhattan,” my Woody Allen quits his job, to save face. His friends ask. “Can you afford to do that?” Woody answers. “Oh sure. I have enough in the bank to live about a year, if I live like Mahatma Gandhi.”

But in China, poverty wasn’t really a goal.

My Malaysian friend Noorlisa, who I believe may have been killed in the WTC bombing, said to me. “Chinese people work hard because they are born with profit margin in their head.”

Everything is a business to them, even religion.

I’m thinking of combining the two philosophies. Maybe I will make a company, where people can work very hard. But, they will receive their pay in the next life. I will postdate all of the checks to 2120.

I told my boss, Clair, that I was late because I had been given a ticket on the way to work. Counting my motorcycle accident, this had been my second run in with the police in two weeks. Clair immediately went to check my horror scope.

“I don’t know if you believe.” She said.

“I don’t.” I confirmed.

When I told her that I was still in pain from my accident, she said. “The reason it hurts is because the Chi can’t flow through your body. You have some blockage where you are injured. It cannot heal until the Chi flows.”

I still don’t want to make a judgment on Chi. In the West, doctors are slowly beginning to admit that Chi may exist. In Asia, it is just part of every day life. I myself have seen it in Chinese Kung Fu. There are certain stances we take, and breathing, and movement where we build up Chi. Your body begins to sweat, and you can feel energy pulsing through you. Kain said, that his father, a Tai Chi master, could levitate a piece of paper with his Chi.

Clair took me to a Chinese medicine doctor right near our school.

When I had been in the hospital, I felt they did almost nothing for me. They didn’t explain my injury, or tell me how to treat it. They didn’t tell me to seek follow up care, or how long until I could ride a motorcycle or practice Kung Fu again. I also felt that they probably should have put my left arm in a sling, so it didn’t suffer further injury.

Now, I think the reason they didn’t tell me about follow up, may have been that in Taiwan, Western medicine is only for stabilizing trauma. Follow up care is done by a Chinese medicine doctor. It was standard procedure to leave the hospital, and immediately start seeing a Chinese medicine doctor.

The first thing the Chinese doctor did was put his hands on me. He felt all over my arms, shoulder, and chest, hitting nerve endings every step of the way. This is where I believe Western medicine fails. How can you heal someone without touching them?

When I had arrived in the hospital, immediately after the accident, the first things they did was take my temperature and my blood pressure. I wasn’t there because of a cold or fever, so I didn’t understand why they took my temperature. As for the blood-pressure, I will admit that I am about 20 LBS over weight right now, but that wasn’t my primary concern at that moment.

In the West, hospitals are sterile, impersonal places where sick people go to die. They are usually cold and the staff wears white uniforms, and the patients wear gowns. Why? I was there to have my arm and shoulder looked at, couldn’t I do that as well wearing my jeans?

The Chinese Doctor treated me in his living room. His wife was cooking dinner while he examined me. At first I thought. “This is unsterile. What if I get an infection?” But then I thought. “This is a million times cleaner than my apartment. And, I don’t get infected at home.” Besides, it isn’t like he was going to be cutting me open.

The doctor was a human being. I saw his family. The TV was on, so I knew that he liked puppet shows about Kung Fu warriors. The fact that he saw me in his house also made me relax. A lot of people will make a tremendous recovery when they are released from a hospital, because of the message that a hospital sends to the brain. If you are in a hospital, you feel like you are sick. But sitting in someone‘s living room, complaining about my aches and pains, seemed normal.

When the Chinese Doctor was done squeezing and tugging on the muscles, he put a heavy dressing on the injuries, with some evil smelling medicine inside. He recommended that I come back to him to have the bandage changed. “The rest of your follow up therapy can be done by your kung fu teacher.” Said the doctor, handing me a note for my Sifu.

In Chinese culture it was very hard to separate Buddhism, medicine, and kung fu. On some level, they were all the same.

As we were walking back, Clair said to me. “I wanted to take you to a special place. It was very important, but I didn’t know if you would know.”

“What place?” I asked.

“You had a big scare and stress, so I wanted to take you there.” She said, pointing at a small storefront, with a red lantern.

At first, I thought it was a brothel. That’s what a red lantern meant in France. I figured that would definitely calm me down a bit. But then, I realized it was a temple.

“You know.” Said Clair. She began mimicking prostrating before the Buda. She said “Bi-bi,” Chinese prayer. And she chanted “Amitofle.”

“But, is different religion.” She continued. “And I think you don’t believe.”

The Chinese believe that when you’ve had a bad fright, your spirit leaves your body, and you have to have a special ceremony to put it back in.

“I know about this.” I said. “But I don’t believe it.”

“I know.” She said, sadly. She looked very shy, and embarrassed. It was a look I had never seen on her. Normally, she was an aggressive, confident, and highly successful businesswoman. But at that moment, she looked like a small girl.

“I know, is different religion.” She repeated. “Westerner don’t believe.”

What is ironic, of course is that Clair claims to be a Christian, and our school was nominally Christian. But yet, they still followed the old superstitions. In my class, several of the kids had converted to Christianity, but, on Tomb Sweep Day, they still went to worship their ancestors.

“Just be Buddhist!” I want to shout.

I came home, one night, and found a movie playing in the street. There was a projector set up in front of the small, storefront temple beside my house. The film was shown on the wall of the building across the street. It was like the scene in the movie, “Chinema Paradiso,” when Alfredo gives a treat to the peasants, by showing the movie, for free, in the Piaza Centrale of the village. While Kung Fu monks kicked, jumped, and flew across the gray concrete wall of the building, the keepers of the storefront were burning mountains of spirit money. Other temples I had driven past were either showing movies or puppet shows.

Once again, I guess it was a god’s birthday. And, he must have been a very popular god, given the large number of shows going on around town.

I’ve never been a god, and probably never will be, but to me it seemed more entertaining to have people show me a movie, than to have people do penance. That is, of course, unless part of their penance was playing Twister with a porcupine. I would love to watch that. I can’t wait to become enlightened, just to make people do such silly things. My friend Greg, who I met in Costa Rica, once said. “You don’t truly have power until you can make people eat glue.” I think he was right. At the very least, it was something to meditate on.

Living near a temple wasn’t always easy. And in Taiwan, you were always living near a temple.

In my diary, I wrote “The damn Buddhists are keeping me up again!” Apparently some guy had died fifty-three days earlier, and the Buddhists have been memorializing him on my street to prevent him from becoming a ghost. OK, I can appreciate that no one wants a loved one to become a ghost. They would have to drag those chains about, and no one looks good in a white bed sheet. It’s too reminiscent of Nathan Bedford Forest, the founder of the KKK. But do they have to beat that base drum?

It started out a week earlier, when a bunch of guys in yellow chipmunk costumes waving incense, and praying set up a prayer stall, beside my house. I don’t think the Chinese name for the religious costume is chipmunk costume, but this is what they looked like, with those floppy, pointed hats, which make them a cross between a white supremacist and a Tibetan cab driver. Every day the family and friends gathered in the crowded space and prayed, centered around a flower-covered alter, bearing a photo of the deceased. When they went home, at night, they left behind tables full of food, offerings for the Buddha.

Since I was always trying to fit in, I went down, and mingled with the family. I wore my work out clothes, and the whole affair felt like a Chinese wedding. I asked each of the mourners. “Are you here for the bride or the groom?” Things went well until I mistook the offering table for a buffet. Apparently the Buddha isn’t big on sharing his food. Thus proving the superiority of Christianity. Jesus only had a couple of fishes and loves, and fed a whole multitude. Buda had a whole table full of fried chicken feet and beetle-nuts, but he wouldn’t even feed a stranger from Brooklyn. Needless to say I began looking for a new group of friends. The head chip monk, (was his name Alvin or Theodore?), hit me with a prayer shawl and said. “If I wasn’t Buddhist I’d kick your ass all over the street.”

“Just try it buddy!” I threatened. “I’m Catholic. I’ll use your head to mop up the parking lot, and then go to confession.” I think I showed him who had the superior religion.

Somewhere, there was a Muslim extremist laughing at both of. “You think you’re so smart with your pacifism and forgiveness. If I put a bomb in your mailbox, I win.”

Well, the jokes on you, Abdul, I don’t know my address, so I can’t get any mail bombs.

Typical of their sneaky, peaceful way, the Buddhists set up shop next to my house, quietly praying the first week. The second week, they had to put a few chairs out in the street, because the guests wouldn’t fit in the stall. Slowly, they began to outnumber me. Then, there wasn’t just praying anymore. There was also the occasional song. The singing was tolerable. And, it was mostly during the day. So, I let it go. By the weekend, they had built a huge tent in the middle of the street, leaving only about four free feet for traffic to pass. Eventually, they had a PA system, blaring their subversive message day and night, like in communist re-education camps on the mainland. They apparently made some kind of deal with the huge temple, on the other side of my apartment, because the temple monks joined in with them,  ringing bells and banging drums all night. My once peaceful life had been shattered, sandwiched between a Buddhist loudspeaker system, and the Temple band percussion section. With no sex or drinking to look forward to, there was no reason for the monks to ever give up their disturbing noise-making vigil.

I was so sleep deprived, that I started getting desperate. I was actually considering contacting Alquaida myself, and working out a cultural exchange. If they’d help me put a bomb in the Buddhist funeral, I’d teach them how to drink Jack Daniels, and how to eat bacon. Maybe it would be the first step towards peace between East and West. Having a common enemy often galvanizes the bonds between two groups. It was a common hatred for the Soviet Union that put the US and Afghanistan on the same side, back in the eighties. And, look how well that turned out.

The riff between Al Quaida and the US, was pretty huge. So, maybe taking out all the Taiwanese wouldn’t be enough. There are only twenty six million of them. Maybe we could start hitting other fringe groups, which everyone hates, like the Heaven Freedom sect, who bombed the Tokyo subway. Or, we could go after groups that are just annoying, like the Mormons. They would be the easiest to take out. The Mormons aren’t permitted to use coffee, much less Siren gas.

But alas, it would never work. First of all, there would be no way to sneak in to that funeral with a bomb. This was Taiwan. God knows what kind of electronic surveillance equipment the monks had. They probably had some type of pocketsize satellite transponder. We would have been reported to Interpol before we even got out of the house. Whatever computerized gizmos they had, you could bet they were more sophisticate than the cheap Polaroid cameras that Catholic Priests used in the locker room at the YMCA.

Come to think of if, taking out all the Buddhists at that funeral wouldn’t solve my problems anyway. Fist of all, they would all just be reincarnated a month and a half later, and probably as something that I hate. Some of them would be mosquitoes. Some of them would come back as smelly cab drivers. At least half of them would come back as street mimes. They would follow me around for the rest of my days, with that lobotomized half-grin on their faces, doing the elephant walk, getting trapped behind invisible glass panels, and being blown by the wind, not to mention pulling on that invisible rope of theirs. It would be worse than the mark of Kane. Every living man or woman who saw the long trail of street mimes behind me would know of my sins.

Aside from keeping me up all night, the Buddhists are all right. It’s the only organized religion I know of, where the practitioners get rich, and the preachers are poor. Where else could you go to church and say with pride. “Money is my God.”

The temple next to my house looks like the Church Bazaar at Our Lady of Lords, when I was a kid. Except that instead of it being a once a year fund-raiser, hidden away in the basement of the Church, here, it is an every day event, and it is in your face.

The temple had gift stalls, where you could buy all of those cheap, plastic products you see in China Town. There were lots of brightly colored, low-quality toys, which broke before I got them half way home. They also rented out concessions to food vendors and tea salesmen. You could even buy lottery tickets at the temple. When I walked past, I would see people lined up with all of this money in their hands. It always reminds me of the incident in the Bible, where Jesus walked into the temple and found moneychangers. Jesus flipped out, and drove them from the temple. In fact, it is the only incidence in the Bible, where Jesus hit anybody. For the Buddhists, it’s just normal. They would have called the cops on our savior for disturbing their business. At times the temples look like the count room at a Las Vegas casino. Security is tight, and the rules are even tighter. The last thing you want to do is get black listed. Then you get banned from the trip, and you can’t even so much as set foot in a temple to buy a Shan Kai Shek talking alarm clock, which wakes you up with a crackling recording of a celebrity impersonator saying, “It’s time to wake up my children, and retake the mainland, as is our birth right.”

These Buddhists found a good balance between, living for this world and the next one. They believe they get to go to next level by earning a lot of money in this one. That balance appears in our Bible too. When someone asked Jesus if he should pay taxes to the Romans, Jesus said. “Render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s. Render unto God what is God’s.”

Most of the rules of Buddhism only apply to monks. Laypeople are only expected to follow the four commandments, two of which are a piece of cake: “don’t murder” and “don’t steal.” The one about “not drinking” seems to be the one that everyone violates. Although, on the whole, this society drinks a lot less than we do in the West. The other one, I have difficulty with is “don’t covet your neighbors wife.” I like what I like. Is it my fault if she is already married? I see it as a mere sequence error. Maybe if she wore a burlap sack after marriage I wouldn’t get so turned on. Maybe Muslims have a point after all.

The rules for priests are much tougher. They can’t have any sex at all. Kain told me. “We always read in the newspaper about Catholic Church, and don’t allow gay. For us, have no special rule for gay, just rule for sex. No married person can have sex with another one, even if man or woman. No priest can have sex with anyone.”

The Shaolin temple has been occupying my thoughts quite a bit lately, as I am trying to formulate a plan to go study there. “What about the monks at the Shaolin Temple, are they Buddhist?”

“All monks are Buddhist.” He said

“So, even the Kung Fu monks can’t have sex?”

“No, no sex.”

“If I go study there, does it mean I can’t have sex?”

“No you can’t.”

Apparently this Kung Fu thing was going to cost me more than I had thought. “Surely I could have some sex.” I insisted. “I mean, maybe if there is a cute young female monk...”

Kain got very serious. “Never, never have sex with monk!”

“Why not?”

“Monk say want to do good. Make a promise to do good, and live obey religion. Monk try to become Buddha. If you sex with them, you hurt them from become Buddha. In our religion if you hurt someone from become Buddha, you go to hell.”

Kain is capable of joking about most things, but he was deadly earnest about this one.

“OK, I won’t seduce a young monk when I go to the temple.” I said.

“Promise?” He asked.

“OK, I won’t seduce a young monk when I go to the temple.” I said.

“Promise?” He asked.

“I promise.”

In the end, he made me promise three times.

On Tomb Sweep Day, all of my students and all of my friends said that they had to go back to the birthplace of their grandparents, to make offerings. A son has to be responsible for the ancestor worship. So, if a man has no sons, his spirit will not be revered.

Beatrice, a Protestant missionary, told me. “That is one of the big issues in conversion. Many times, a man has told me he wanted to convert to Christianity, but then there would be no one left to worship his ancestors.”

“I read that the Protestant churches don’t allow ancestor worship.” I said. “The Catholic church allows offerings of food but not the burning of ghost money.”

“Why is that, I wonder?” Asked Beatrice.

“Probably because every dollar burned is one that could have been given to the church.” I joked.

Beatrice liked any joke where the Catholic Church came out badly.

I asked Kain, “If you could go anywhere in the word, where would you like to go?”

“Well, I want to go to New York. I also want to go to San Francisco, and I would like to go to Heaven.”

Obviously, this last one shocked me.

“Heaven?” I asked.
“Yes, you know, where you go when you die.” He explained.
“Yes, I know what Heaven is, but what do you mean you want to go there?”
“Heaven have many levels, right? I want to see it before I die.”
“I don’t.” I said.
“But don’t you want to go to Heaven when you die?” He asked
“Of course, but I’m planning on being there a long time. So, I can get to know it then, during eternity.”

Kain talked about going to Heaven like it was one of the choices of where to go for Chinese New Year. Right now, he is planning to go to Hong Kong and Macau. I hope he doesn’t have his heart set on this Heaven thing.

“Why your priest no can marry?” He asked.

“Well, there are many kinds of Christians. And we Catholics are the only ones where the priests can’t marry. It’s like we have the strictest rules, and the other religions were formed so people wouldn’t have to follow so many rules.”

“Yes, but do they ever tell you why he no can marry?”

“Not exactly. But I assume it’s because they want him to have thoughts that are
lofty, and not to be so caught up in normal human life.” I said. I reflected for a minute, thinking of a better way to explain it. “You know how Pusa doesn’t want to become Buda, because she wants to have helping people in her mind, and if she becomes Buda, then she will have nothing in her mind?”

“Yes.” Said Kain.

“It’s like that. The priest is supposed to separate himself from this world. It shouldn’t be in his mind.”

Kain thought a minute. “But Pusa can become Buda and then change back again. So, sometimes have nothing in her mind, sometimes have world in her mind.”

I thought about that for a minute. “I guess your right, it’s a stupid rule.”

“Buddhism mean always want to find middle.” He said, “Don’t want be good or bad, just middle. And must respect everyone, and accept everyone. Your church don’t accept Buda, but Buda accept your church.”
Contact the author at: Antonio_graceffo@hotmail.com

Writer Bio, Antonio Graceffo, BA, Dip Lic, AAMS, CMFC, CTC, RFC

Originally from New York City, Antonio spent much of his childhood in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. He spent seven years in the United States Military, in both the Army NG and the US Merchant Marines. Antonio is fluent in German, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese. He holds diplomas from Tennessee State University, University of Mainz, Germany, Trinity College, England, Heriot Watt University, Scotland, Universidad Latina, Costa Rica, as well as advanced degrees in business and Taxation from various universities in the United States. Antonio has studied and competed in martial arts and boxing for over twenty-five years, and has studied at the Shaolin Temple, in Mainland China. He works as a full time adventurer and writer, and currently lives in Taiwan.

Antonio's writing has appeared in the following publications: Escape Artist, Travel in Taiwan, Taiwan Ho, Travelmag (UK), Good Morning Chiang Mai, Travellers Impressions, The Chiang Mai Mail, Marco Polo, The Huahin Observer, Centered on Taipei, The Pattaya Trader, Life Style Taiwan, Canoe (Canada), Views Unplugged, Kung Fu Magazine, Yellow Times, Bike China, Small Boat Forum, Holiday Times (Thailand), Writing World, All Things Global, The Write Market, The Rose and Thorn, Blueberry Press, The Elizabethton Star, Go Nomad, Close Quarters Combat, Hack Writers, Go World, Bike League of America, Martial Arts Planet, The Travel Rag, Black Belt Magazine, The Bristol Herald Courier, Radical Adventures, , The Investment Advisor, I Soldi, America Oggi, The Italian Tribune, Pagina Uno, and The Italian Voice, Tales of Asia, Buddha Fist, Canoe (CA),

Antonio's book about his studies at the Shaolin Temple, "The Monk From Brooklyn," has been accepted by GOM Publishing, and will be available in 2004.

His book, "The Desert of Death on Three Wheels" is currently under review for publication, in 2004.

His book, "Adventures in Formosa," will be published in Taiwan, in June of 2004.

Contact the author at: antonio_graceffo@hotmail.com

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