It was time for one of those nights when I sat and drank with Kapila. In my long life there have been few times that have been so pleasurable as those that I have spent with Kapila- and in the times that I have spent with Kapila there have been a few as pleasurable as the ones that I have spent drinking with him.
For as long as I can remember I have been a cynic. I have refused to have faith and beliefs. I have never stood up for anything, except perhaps for defending my right of not standing up for anything. Whether it is by chance, by choice or by the force of circumstance I leave to the reader to decide but living in multitudinous time and space I have found it extremely difficult to hold on to a set of beliefs. I have learned to play the devil’s advocate and I can argue against anything- but I cannot defend a single belief, not in earnest anyway.
So I respected Kapila for having a set of beliefs and I respected him even more for not believing unquestioningly. Those who believe in totality and those who don’t believe it at all – take the easy way out. It is people like Kapila who brave the toughest battles. The seat of this battle is the human mind, as a particular interpretation of Bhagvad Gita says- even the Mahabharata is a battle that is fought in the battleground of the human mind.
I must mention that Mitran was also with us, though he wasn’t drinking. He never had. And despite that or perhaps because of that he never failed to lecture on the ills of drinking. He regarded that as his holy duty – he considered it a sin to drink and he went a step further and considered not berating the drinkers as a sin too.
Mitran began, “There are not one or two but six perils of drunkenness which the Buddha mentions in the Singlovada Sutta; it is the cause of quarrels, loss of wealth and reputation, diseases, immodesty of dress, disregard of honor and the ruin of one’s intelligence. You must shun it to live a full life”
As I said, I could argue against anything, I could argue point by point or I could dismiss the whole theory with one stroke. I chose the latter – “Mitran, why must one live a full life, why is life to be valued?”
“I cannot tell you the meaning of life, but I can tell you how to reach there, and giving up alcohol is a step in the right direction”
“That is not a good trade Mitran, you are asking a heavy price for something, and you don’t even tell me what it is”
“The thing that I promise you is beyond value, and thus you have to agree to my terms”
And that was about the end of it, Mitran and I were on two extremes- the extremes of belief and non-belief – there was no common ground.
Kapila was drinking, slowly. Whether that was because of reluctance or not, I never could make out.
Kapila was the common ground between us otherwise Mitran would never have tolerated me and I quite reciprocated his sentiments.
Kapila asked Mitran- “So is the argument against alcohol based solely on its ill effects?”
Mitran played it safe – “What are you getting at?”
“I could say that similar arguments could be levied against love, it can cause quarrels, and it can cause loss of wealth and as many would vouch definitely causes a loss of intelligence!”
“You are talking about how love is commonly perceived, love in Buddhism is nothing but a desire to see the others happy, what is commonly perceived as love is conditional love which is, in fact the exact opposite”
“If love is unconditional, how do you decide who to love,” I interjected.
“Exactly my point”, said Mitran, “You must love all and none in a special way”
Had I read Rudyard Kipling’s “If” at that time I could have said Mitran just picked up the idea from there!
“So what is detachment, if one must love all,” Kapila asked.
“Detachment is rising above the trivialities of life”
“And this is exactly what alcohol does for me, so Mitran, my dear friend your belief and my non-belief is no different, they are both manifestations of escapism”
Mitran probably had a lot to say to that, but I had lost interest and the alcohol inside me had also led to a sufficient loss of intelligence for me to not even attempt to respond to Mitran.
I had escaped, and so had Mitranl; it was Kapila sitting between us, who had no escape.