Winnie-the-Buddhist by P.B. Law
In Which P. B. Law Imagines What Would Happen If Christopher Robin Taught the Forest Animals about Buddhism
When the animals awoke in the Forest that morning, they all knew that something had changed, but not until the sleep had fully left their heads and seeped back into their pillows did they begin to remember what it was. Yesterday afternoon Christopher Robin had returned from school, where he had learned about Buddhism. After explaining it to them, he told them that he was now a Buddhist and wanted to know if anyone wanted to join him.
Of course, because they all loved him, the animals had said Yes without really stopping to think. But now they found themselves thinking very hard about what being a Buddhist might mean. Winnie the Pooh lay in bed, asking himself, “Does this mean I have to do something differently? What do Buddhists do with their mornings and afternoons? I hope I don’t have to give up my little-something-at-eleven-o’clock.” This thought made him feel so all-over hungry that he had to get up and go to his cupboard to find something to sustain himself.
When he had finished his breakfast, Pooh wandered over to Piglet’s house to see if Piglet could remember anything Christopher Robin had said yesterday. Halfway there, he found Piglet sitting in their Thoughtful Spot trying to think as thoughtfully as he could.
“Hallo, Piglet,” said Pooh. “What are you thinking about?”
“Oh, hallo, Pooh,” said Piglet. “I was trying to remember what Christopher Robin said yesterday, but I can’t get all the words in my head at the same time. Some of the things sounded very grand and friendly, like Noble Truths and even some of the bigger things, like loving kindness. But some of the other things didn't seem very much like things at all—suffering and emptiness and what-not. At least they didn't seem to be so very to me.”
“I was about to say the same thing myself,” said Pooh. “Maybe we should go ask Owl. He has a good brain that can remember long things without their getting all wobbly.”
So they set out together for Owl’s Tree. When they arrived there they found a new sign posted by the door. Owl had meant for the sign to say, “Buddhist Scholar,” but this is what he had actually written:
“What does that say?” asked Pooh.
“Something about dust, I think, but I can’t say for sure,” said Piglet. “Owl’s brain is so roomy that he can store more letters in his words than I can.”
So Pooh pulled on Owl’s bell ringer and knocked on his door. After a moment Owl called out, “Go away. I’m thinking…. Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” For that was his way with everybody.
“Now that we’re Buddhists,” Pooh said to him, “we’re trying to find out what Buddhists do. So we can do it.”
“They look for Awakening,” said Owl. “That’s what they do.”
“But what’s a Wakening?” asked Piglet in a casual sort of way to show that he wasn't afraid of Animals with Unfamiliar Names. “Is it a Friendly Animal, or one of the Fiercer Sorts?”
“There are three kinds,” Owl replied. “Sudden, gradual, and rude.”
“Oh,” said Piglet, suddenly remembering that Christopher Robin had talked about this yesterday. “I only remembered the first two.”
“The third is the most commonly spotted,” said Owl.
Piglet did not like the sound of Sudden and Spotted Rude Wakening's, for they sounded too bouncy, like Tigger. He preferred a Wakening that would be fond of Very Small Animals and wouldn't jump on them without warning. So he said in a casual voice to Pooh, “I think it would be a Finer Thing to look for one of the shy ones, don’t you, Pooh? Like the gradual ones. They might be grateful that we took the trouble.”
“Yes,” said Pooh. “They’d be the most likely to greet you in a friendly way and offer you a little honey as a hallo-getting-to-know-you kind of present. They do have honey, don’t they, Owl?”
“That I can’t say for sure. You can never tell with Awakening.”
“But how do you find Gradual Wakening's?” asked Piglet. “Do you call for them? Or do you set a trap? And how do you make sure that you wouldn't catch Sudden or Rude Wakening's? Because we wouldn't want to cause them any inconvenience. It would be a shame to catch them and then tell them to go home because we caught them by mistake. Especially if they’re Sudden or Rude.”
“The only way to find Awakening is with long words, although there’s some disagreement as to which ones work best,” said Owl, “You might try ‘Momentariness’ or ‘Non-duality’ or ‘Interconnectedness.’”
“Inner neck—Bother,” said Pooh quietly to himself. “That sounds like too much for a Bear of Very Little Brain.” So he turned to Piglet and said, “I think we should go give it a try. What do you say to that, Piglet?”
Piglet didn't feel quite prepared to catch a Wakening, especially if long words were required, but he didn't like saying No to Pooh, so he agreed in as agreeable a way as he could muster. Then they said Good-bye to Owl, who added helpfully as they were walking away that they might also want to try “Mental Concomitants.” But when they had gone off far enough that he couldn't hear them, Pooh whispered to Piglet, “I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone who knows how to spell TUESDAY, and certainly Owl’s brain is very fine for Keeping Things, but it’s not so good at Putting Them Together in a Useful Way. I don’t feel he really knows as much about Wakening's as he lets on. Why don’t we go over to Eeyore’s place? Perhaps he will have some more Helpful ideas about how a Wakening might be found.”
Piglet agreed that this was a splendid idea, as Eeyore was the most gradual and un-Tigger-like animal in the Forest. As they walked along, a little Wondering Hum started coming to Pooh. After humming it to himself first, to make sure all the words had found their proper places, he hummed it aloud to Piglet in a wondering sort of way:
If a Wak’ning gradually came upon a Pooh,
Would it say Hallo or holler Boo?
Or ask a tricky question
As would curdle his digestion,
Such as “Are there What's?” or maybe “What’s a Who?”
If a Wak’ning rudely ran into a Bear,
Would it pat his fur or pull his hair?
Or offer him some honey
And tell him something funny,
Such as “Now is Here, but Nothing’s Anywhere”?
If a sudden Wak’ning dropped down from the sky
Would it land on Piglet or nearby?
Or quiz him with a quiz
About what isn’t and what is
And why his “Me” is really not his “I”?
If a Spotted Wak’ning perched up in a tree,
Would it pounce on you or bounce on me?
Or say it’s all the same,
That we’re all of us to blame,
’Cos He is You are I am They are We?
Pooh was about to hum the first verse again, to make a Round sort of Hum, when he realized that perhaps this was not the best Hum to be humming to Piglet at this hour of the morning. After all, sometimes a Hum might seem very hummish when it’s inside you, but when it’s outside for other people to listen to, you realize it wasn't so very hummish after all.
Piglet seemed to be thinking the same sort of thoughts, for he said to Pooh, “You know, Pooh, I don’t think a Wondering Hum is the Hum we need just now. I would rather you thought of a Comforting Hum or an Encouraging Hum or a How-Brave-You-Are-Piglet-hup-hup kind of Hum. And besides, now that I think of it, even though Gradual Wakening's might be fond of Piglets, there are two kinds of Fond, you know. There’s the how-nice-to-see-you-won’t-you-have-some-of-my-haycorns kind of Fond. And then there’s the my-my-how-tasty-you-look kind of Fond. And how will we know which kind of Fond it is until it’s already too late and I’ve just remembered I have something very urgent to do at my house just about now….”
“Don’t worry,” said Pooh. “We’re both in a wondering sort of way because Owl has got us all confused. But I’m sure that when we see Eeyore he will end our confusion, and then a Very Encouraging Hum will come to me.” So Piglet decided that the urgent thing wasn't so very urgent after all, and they continued on their way.
When they came upon Eeyore, they found him sitting next to his thistles, talking to himself. “Ideals,” he said. “Sweet nothings. Pathetic.”
“Hallo, Eeyore!” called Piglet. “We’re looking for a Wakening!”
“Well, you’re not going to find it if you look for it. You’re already as awakened as you’re ever going to be. Which isn’t much. Ha-ha. That’s a joke.”
“But we don’t want to be a weekend,” said Pooh. “Maybe you didn't hear us properly. We’re looking for a Wakening, and we don’t know where to look. Or what to do with it if we find it.”
“You look inside your self. Which doesn’t exist,” Eeyore replied. “That’s another little joke. This Buddhism business is very humorous, if you ask me.”
“But we thought—,” said Pooh.
“We wanted—,” said Piglet.
“That’s the problem,” said Eeyore. “All this thinking and wanting. You want things to Make Sense so you can make them better than they are, but that only makes them worse. All you can do is Accept that things are Just The Way They Are and can’t get any better than they are, and stop all this silly thinking.”
But all three of them were now thinking very busily to themselves. Piglet was thinking that thinking and wanting were sometimes very Helpful, if you put them together in the Right Way, and Pooh was thinking that maybe Eeyore wasn’t turning out to be so Encouraging after all, while Eeyore was thinking, “No grey matter in their heads, these two. Just grey fluff.”
But before any of them could say anything, Rabbit came rushing into Eeyore’s clearing with a Very Important Air about him, a Captainish sort of Air, an If It Weren’t for Me, Nothing Would Ever Get Done Around Here sort of Air. “Hallo, Eeyore!” he called. “Oh, and you’re here too, Pooh. And Piglet. Excellent.”
“Hallo, Rabbit!” they all replied.
“Well, I haven’t much time to chat, but here’s a notice I wrote out for you.” And he gave them each a slip of paper with writing on it. “Now that we’re all Buddhists, we need to organize a Buddhist Group that Does Things and Engages and Elects Officials. So I’ve called a meeting for this afternoon in the Meeting Place, and that’s what it says here on the notice, in case you can’t read.
“Will we find a Wakening at the meeting?” asked Piglet.
“Who has time for Awakening,” replied Rabbit, “when our Reputation is at stake? Well, I have to run off to Owl’s Place now, to give him his notice, but I’ll see you this afternoon.” And in a flash he was gone.
“Hah!” said Eeyore scornfully. “And I thought Rabbit had Brain.” Then he picked up his notice with his teeth and placed it next to a patch of thistles. “That,” he explained to Pooh and Piglet, “is so I can eat it by mistake, if you know what I mean, when I have my lunch, and then when Rabbit asks why I didn't show up at the meeting I can tell him that something ate my notice.”
“Here, Eeyore, you can eat ours, too,” said Pooh helpfully, as he and Piglet placed their notices on the ground in front of him.
“Why, thank you,” said Eeyore. “How thoughtful of you. Not like some.” And he picked up their notices with his teeth and placed them next to his.
Now that they had done Something Nice for Eeyore, Pooh and Piglet decided it would be a good time to take their leave. So they said their good-byes and continued on their way.
But as they walked along, they realized that they were not feeling any more comforted or encouraged than before. In fact, they were feeling very less. Pooh tried to think of an Encouraging Hum for Piglet, but all that came to his mind was a Hum he had caught from Eeyore, which went like this:
Oh, we’ll never find a Wakening,
No, not even if we try,
So we’ll just continue wondering
And never know quite why.
Oh, we’ll never find a Wakening,
Especially if we try,
So we’ll have to keep on wandering
Until—ha, ha—we die.
This Eeyore Hum was much more Discouraging than the Owlish Hum he had hummed before, so he decided that it would be a Very Bad Hum to hum out loud to Piglet. But even though he hummed it just to himself, it was bringing him to the Sad Conclusion that they might never be good Buddhists and find themselves a Wakening at all.
But Piglet wasn't paying any attention to Pooh for there were noises around the corner on the path before them. Unexpected noises. Unfamiliar noises. Noises that made him apprehensive at first, but then made him say, “Oh.”
And then, “I do believe—.”
And then, excitedly, “Pooh, Pooh, do you hear what I hear? I think it’s Christopher Robin.”
And suddenly Pooh felt that this was turning out to be a much better Buddhist day than it had been, and that maybe they would find their Wakening after all. For there, indeed, when they had turned the corner of the path, was Christopher Robin coming in their direction.
“Christopher Robin! Christopher Robin!” they called out excitedly as they went rushing up to hug him. “We’ve been Buddhist all morning and looking for a Wakening.” — “Because Owl said—” “But then Eeyore—“ “And we weren’t—"
So Christopher Robin waited until they had calmed down and could tell him everything that had happened in its Proper Order. When they had finished, he wanted to laugh and laugh out loud, but they looked so dejected that he only laughed to himself and said, “Oh, Pooh. And Piglet. I do love you so.”
As that made them feel much better, he took them back to their Thoughtful Spot and sat them down and explained everything he could remember about Buddhism and Awakening in very short words that even a Very Small Animal and a Bear with Very Little Brain could understand. Pooh and Piglet said, “Oh,” and “I see,” and “But I thought—” so many times that they began to feel like Very Foolish Animals Indeed. But then Christopher Robin cheered them up by saying, “Still, what you did was the Wisest Thing any animal could do. Given the circumstances.”
“Really?” said Piglet, brightening.
“Do you mean that?” said Pooh, feeling a little more like That Sort of Bear again. “Given the sorghumstishes—whatever they were?”
“Yes, of course,” said Christopher Robin. “When you don’t understand something, the Wisest Thing is to ask questions. Just be more careful about who you ask them to.”
“But who do we ask,” asked Piglet, “when you’re not here to ask them to?”
“Ask questions of yourself.”
“But which questions should we ask?”
“Oh, questions like: ‘What am I doing right now?’ and ‘Is it making me happy and the other animals happy?’ and ‘Is that a Long Happy or just a Short Happy?’ And then you do only the things that make a Long Happy. Can you try that?”
“Yes, of course,” said Piglet bravely. “I’ll try.”
But Pooh was stopped for a moment by the thought that even just a Longish Happy might mean having to share some of his pots of honey before he had fully examined their contents. Then he thought of how much he trusted Christopher Robin, so he finally said, “So will I.”