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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2196049
Amilcar seeks enlightenment. Third place in the No Dialogue Contest.
Independence and the Hermit

At the age of 18, Amilcar felt called to be a hermit. For many years he wandered the world, seeking the tranquility and peace that would enable him to meditate upon enlightenment. This proved to be quite difficult, the pressures of daily life allowing for few opportunities to spend long periods alone and undisturbed.

Hearing the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, Amilcar went in search of just that sort of tree. Since he lived in England at the time, this proved rather more difficult than he expected. It was not until he learned that the Bodhi tree had the scientific name of Ficus Religiosa that he began to zero in on his goal.

As its name would indicate, the Bodhi tree is actually a type of fig tree. With a bit of research, Amilcar was able to establish that fig trees can be grown in cold climates, if potted and kept in greenhouses. He advertised in his local newspaper and eventually received a reply from a man who was prepared to let him sit under his fig tree. The fact that Amilcar would also be sitting in a greenhouse was a little unfortunate but, as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.

On the appointed day, Amilcar showed up at the door of 121 Primrose Avenue. His knock was answered promptly by Mr Burnaby, the man who had responded to the advertisement. Amilcar was ushered courteously into the living room where he was introduced to Mr Burnaby’s wife, Mrs Burnaby. After a cup of tea and conversation about the finer points of hermitry, Amilcar was escorted into the back garden and the fabled greenhouse. Inside, he met the fig tree.

It was not a large tree, although already its topmost foliage was pressing against the roof of the greenhouse. It afforded some shade to an open area directly at its foot and Amilcar decided that this would be where he should sit. The great box containing the root system of the tree formed a convenient backrest for the hermit. Mr and Mrs Burnaby shook hands with him and then left, allowing him the space to settle into his new abode.

Amilcar felt a sense of peace and contentment drape itself upon his shoulders as he sat, cross-legged, under his Bodhi tree for the first time. He meditated upon his great good fortune.

And so passed his days for many months afterwards. Mrs Burnaby insisted on bringing him a cup of tea and a few biscuits every morning and Amilcar did not have the heart to refuse them. Although he knew that he must strive towards full independence of earthly support, it seemed churlish to refuse the kind lady’s offerings. Amilcar decided that true asceticism could wait until he was a little further along the path.

It rained often but Amilcar was protected from the weather by the greenhouse. He reasoned that this was the unavoidable consequence of his Bodhi tree’s situation and there was nothing he could do to make his life less comfortable. No doubt this was something else that could be attended to in due course.

The matter of independence was worrying to him, however. As long as he accepted the gracious hospitality of the Burnabys, Amilcar was not really independent. This awareness of his weakness nagged at the hermit until meditation became impossible. The independence problem filled his mind and he could not clear it at all.

One morning he woke with the knowledge of what he must do. If he was unable to meditate under the Bodhi tree, he must give it all up, the tree, the greenhouse and Mrs Burnaby’s tea and biscuits. It was the only way.

Amilcar rose stiffly from his position, prayed one last time beneath the tree and went to tell the Burnabys of his decision. They were very understanding and wished him well on his way. Mrs Burnaby pressed a tupperware bowl of biscuits into his hand as he left.

It was as he was walking away that Amilcar realised that he, just like the Buddha, had received his revelation of independence under the spreading Bodhi tree.

Word Count: 691
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