Travel Stories

Meeting Djuka

There is a dreamy quality to my rendezvous with Djordje, the almost Buddhist monk, tea ceremony and meditation master, at his home in Nova Gradiska, Croatia, something almost too real (if there can be such a thing), something so real as to be extraordinary, as if real is magical, which reality surely is.  Words are clearly insufficient in a setting where something called "I" is honestly wondering if he even exists. Where as if in a dream I am sitting in a field drinking tea made of individually rolled tea leaves.  Listening to the music of stones.  Wondering if I created the music or if the music created me?  Form is emptiness.  Emptiness is form.  There is no end to ignorance. 

Djordje speaks loudly and authoritatively to me.  He listens to me.  He argues with me.  He tells me how ignorant I am.  He commands that I listen only and not think of my answer.  We discuss consciousness, ego, mind, knowing, not knowing, wisdom.  We discuss politics, the real word, meditation, women, and bread.  Like every stupid man, I am perfect.  Djordje tells me this. He tells me this often.

Djordje announces we are going to visit his friend Djuka.  Naturally we take thermoses of hot water, tea leaves, a tea pot, and cups.  Djordje tells me he was 25 when he met Djuka who was then 40.  Djuka had been a priest, but saw through the hypocrisy and falseness of the teachings and took off the robes.  He lived as a hermit among some hill villagers near where we were now.  Over time Djuka somehow gathered a following, initially young people who he educated.  Over time the community provided for Djuka.  Djuka wrote an important letter, like an epistle, to his followers in 1985.  Djordje has a copy of the letter.  We arrive at our destination.  Djordje takes the letter and the bag with the tea from the car.  We walk into a cemetery, sit on a bench next to a grave with nothing but a simple wooden cross, and drink tea with Djuka who has been laying here for some time, even pour Djuka some tea, read aloud his letter, reflect on Djuka who had a long torturous imprisonment at one time, talk about my beloved friend Alan Berkman who had a long torturous imprisonment at one time.  Woodcutters on the hillside down tall trees which crash noisily to the earth.  I ring the cemetery shrine bell, which, of course, I am not supposed to do.  Djordje expected nothing less.  Like every stupid man, I am perfect.