Friday, 20 March 2009

The Old Frog and the Sea

If meditation were all it took to achieve Enlightenment, frogs would be Buddhas.

Ranida the frog lives in an old well that supplies sweet water to a mountain temple. He loves his home, shaded by cool ferns and moistened by the mountain mists. He spends his time teaching his companion, a carp who swims at the bottom of the well, about the world above water, about the bright sunlight sparkling like diamonds in the dew, the stars and the wind, meadows of grass and forests of bamboo. But his friend is incapable of understanding or appreciating the splendors of dry land, where food is hard to find and not nearly as tasty.

One day a turtle stumbles by, and Ranida invites him to stay and enjoy paradise with him. But the turtle looks around with a cynical eye and scoffs, “This hardly compares to the Sea. All the waters of the world pour endlessly into that place, where they neither decrease in drought nor rise in floods.”

Ranida has never heard of the Sea, nor have his neighbors, but they send him to the local temple to ask the frog monks about it. Of course, the Sea, they pretend to be wise, but they know it only from their books. Join us and we’ll take you there. Ranida becomes a junior monk, and studies meditation, qi gong, kung fu. As he labors his desire to visit the Sea grows, and he begins to ask who has actually been there, if any intend to travel in that direction and when they will be leaving. Soon his questions cause so much unrest in the monastery, he comes to the attention of the abbot who sends him away to a master toad living alone in a wilderness gulley; this master will teach him how to reach the Sea.

Full of hope, Ranida departs on his journey. He must cross raging rivers, rescue helpless tadpoles from the clutches of snakes and cranes, meet salamanders and newts, who introduce the psychedelic wonders of microscopic pond life.

Master Toad is a trickster and a magician, a master of escapes and spells. But he is also the keeper of real, powerful secrets of the world, such as the secret of immortality. When Ranida finally finds Master Toad, he is taught that in order to reach the Sea one must give up what one loves most.

A great storm brews and rain falls in torrents. The gulley is threatened with flooding. Ranida rushes back to save his master but finds the toad will not leave this place of danger. As the waters rise and the flood approaches, Ranida must decide to flee or stay. In the end he overcomes his terror of floods and returns to stay with the Master. Amid lightning and thunder they are together swept up in the torrent. The old Toad cries, “The Sea is inside you. You must eliminate yourself in order to let it flood into your being and carry you away!” And he expires, whispering, “The Sea, the Sea!”

Ranida is stunned. All is lost. He clambers onto a bit of flotsam and is carried out on the raging waters, in despair. He no longer wants to get to the Sea, he just longs to return to his beautiful well, and enjoy his happy days with his carp companion.

But when the day breaks, he discovers a sight before him that he never imagined. A wide open ocean, the sun shining on its glittering surface, and the bit of flotsam to which he clings is his old friend the turtle, returned to the sea.

I wrote this in 2005, and titled it Hidden Dragonfly, Crouching Frog, but abandoned it when I learned Dreamworks was creating Kung Fu Panda, and was reminded of it when Enjah asked for dancing amphibians.


Osprey said...

And who is to say that they are not :-D

Young Geoffrion said...

I suspect they are Taoist immortals.

Enjah Mysterio said...

thank you! A cautionary tale ...