The Eight-Spoked Wheel

Blair Hurley

Casting Off

There are three objects before you: a robe, a bowl, and a pair of sandals. That’s all you get. Cast off everything else: your jewelry, your money, your underwear. These things are not so hard to shed. They go easily. Then go your drawer of wool socks, the house you grew up in, your period — you won’t be having that anymore, with one bowl of rice a day. Now let go of your books — that’s harder, isn’t it? — your relatives, your lovers. You won’t need any of them.

Make three vows. Take refuge in the Buddha. Take refuge in the dharma (the teaching). Take refuge in the sangha (the community). These will protect you. They are the three jewels. They are the only vows you need.

Now follow the five precepts. Refrain from stealing, from killing, from lying, from intoxicants, from sexual misconduct. That is a fluid one. Some say it means do not rape, do not philander. Some say it means, be chaste. Give yourself carefully, and only once. Some say it means, do not have sex. Sex leads to attachment, desire, and children, which after all is bringing another tiny bit of suffering into the world. You can only have sex, say the masters, if your detachment from it is absolute. The dalai lama says, if you can eat a fine meal and a plate of shit with equal enjoyment, then you can have sex.

Are you getting it now? Are you feeling free? Are you extinguishing desire?

That is Nirvana — a word in Sanskrit used to describe the extinguishing of a candle flame. Can you extinguish yourself ?

About the Work

Blair Hurley

Blair Hurley is a Boston native and has short stories published in Descant, The Red Rock Review, Quality Women’s Fiction, The Best Young Artists and Writers in America, and elsewhere. A graduate of Princeton University with her MFA from NYU, she is currently at work on a novel.

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