“What can you tell me about him?” Preuss asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“What kind of man he was. What your impression of him is. If, in fact, understanding his connection here is important to understanding the man. Whatever might help me find out what happened to him.”
“That’s what you’re doing?”
Roshi Ross made a show of taking a thoughtful sip from his teacup.
“He was a searcher,” the abbot said at last, “as we all are here.”
“What does ‘searcher’ mean?” He cocked an eyebrow.
I’m not sure I like this guy, Preuss thought.
“I mean what do you think he was searching for?” Preuss tried to keep his voice neutral.
“I suppose what we’re all searching for here. Enlightenment. Understanding. How to deal with the suffering that’s so much a part of life.”
Roshi Ross thought some more.
“Above all, Charles was seeking for a way to be a good man,” Roshi Ross said. “The moral precepts of Buddhism appealed to him because he saw in those precepts guideposts for living a good life. But the thing about Charles was, he wanted a good life not only for himself, but for everyone he came in contact with. He practiced the two foundations of Buddhism, karuna—compassion—and metta—loving kindness—with everyone he met.
“The cornerstone of our practice is to extinguish ‘I’ and ‘me’ and act in harmony with ‘we.’ This is what Charles found attractive here.”
“The police are working on the theory he met someone and brought him or her back to his house,” Preuss said. “And whomever he met is the one who killed him. If that’s correct, from what you’re telling me about him, he might well have opened his home out of a sense of compassion and loving kindness, as you say.”
“Yes,” Roshi Ross said. “I do see it as a possibility. Even a likelihood. Charles was open-hearted. He would always help anyone who needed assistance. Even beggars on street corners.”
“Was he in the habit of helping people that way?”
Roshi savored another sip of his tea.
“Yes. He would even bring homeless people here to get warm and share a cup of tea. And perhaps to sit in meditation with us.”
“Who would he bring home?” Preuss asked.
“People he knew or saw who needed a good meal and a place to stay for a night.”
“But you don’t know any specific people?”
Roshi Ross pursed his lips and shook his head. “I don’t know specific people. We’d talk after our sittings, but he never mentioned names. There are so many people in this city whose needs are overwhelming. If he could do something for even one of them, he told me he would. Sometimes that meant bringing someone home for a hot meal.”
“Or a place to sleep for the night?”
“Yes. A foundation of our practice is what we call the three poisons—ignorance, attachment, and aversion. What we might also call delusion, desire, and hate.”
“Those are strong poisons.”
“Indeed,” Roshi Ross said. “There are antidotes to those poisons. The antidote to delusion is wisdom. The antidote to desire is generosity. And the antidote to hatred is loving kindness. Charles practiced those with dedication.”
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