A recently discovered entry in the Buddha's diary suggests he was no dour saint but had a pretty good sense of humor.

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Here is a translation from the recently discovered Diary of Buddha, originally scratched onto leaves of grass by an exact and lavish hand. This entry seems to come just shortly before a historic decision to allow females into the Sangha.

North India, Fall 503, Tuesday                                                                                                       

Dear Diary,

I discovered that people can see through the monks’ robes. That’s bad for two reasons. It’s getting cold and the draft chafes, and more importantly, sunlight silhouettes the monks’ personals and it’s getting to where the local women from whom we beg food can tell what a monk is thinking. Perhaps two layers of silk will cloud perception.

I caught a monk hiding a mutton curry in his begging bowl today. He hadn’t eaten it yet. He’s very young and I was overwhelmed with compassion for him.

I recall the early days of my meatless dieting. My stomach became a nautical knot suitable for tie-up at a typhooned Taipei pier. I never slipped up like this boy did today, but I did feel desire. No more of that though for me. I can exist on just a whiff of buttered rice and a swish of murky river water. I can’t remember the last time I ate a meal that was larger than my thumb. I’m as thin as a whisker weed.

My stomach became a nautical knot suitable for tie-up at a typhooned Taipei pier.

But I wouldn’t call it asceticism, not like those bramble-wearing Brahmins whose arms and legs have withered into dead tree trunks. Unlike them, I don’t promote death-defying tricks.

I just like to keep life simple.

Anyway, I felt compassion for the young man, but I did have him deliver the mutton curry to a nearby orphaned Teacup Maltese puppy that had licked my heel earlier in the day. I also made this errant monk stand on one foot in a rye field in a rainstorm pinching two grains of rice in each of his thumbs and pointer fingers.

I was amazed that he stood there like statuary for thirteen hours. I observed him with one eye while I kept the other eye closed in meditation. Then I put an end to the whole matter with the long arm of love, holding out to the boy a fist of buttered rice and a clay cup of river water. He sobbed into my sleeve.

Today some women petitioned me to join us in monasticism and itinerancy. And what should I call them if I do permit it? What is the feminine form of the word monk? 

Mink ? 

Deepthi is devout and as smart as a coiled cow whip. Her mood is calm: it’s still, like a leafless shrub in one of those tiny Himalayan gorges that are a leg’s length across and ten thousand horse heads deep. I am impressed with Deepthi. 

Still, I would expect humor in a person who holds to my regimen. I am no dour saint. If I see Deepthi smile tomorrow I will permit female monks. I think it’s minks. In any event, without a smile, I will not commit to minkery.

I suppose I should give some consideration to sex appeal between the monks and the minks.  Sex is slippery. It can get inside a person. I absolutely must sermonize upon it. I have always repeated one thing when unbidden sexual thoughts disturb me, and that one thing restores my chaste equanimity: “Every Little Nanny is a Ninny to Me.” I sing it. It was a childhood ditty, performed in the castle of my youth.

The old-timers have been with me since my deer park sermon, which was not quite a sermon but more like the recitation of a short pastoral poem that came to me under that now-famous banyan tree. Anyway, these old-timers are never above the practical joke. They put a poultice in my loincloth today and it gave me an irresistible itch just when I was preaching to the Dal and two hundred of his stone noggin toadies and hangers-on.

I’ve no doubt that rustic yogis in the crowd viewed my kinetic performance as instruction for two new yoga poses and three fresh ballet moves. A spinoff Buddha sect is undoubtedly in the making.

—from a work in progress, “Almost True Diary Entries From the World’s Famed Religiosos

J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religius ideas since 1992 at various colleges and since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic...

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