By: David Xi-Ken Shi
I have been rereading the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis (again) to still work on the underlying, and most unyielding, meanings that are hidden within this simple children’s story. My reflection is being helped along by new research by Michael Ward that all serious critics agree has “broken” Lewis’s code. We can find lessons that propel our Buddhist practice along in some of the most unlikely sources, and this series of stories is no exception. The central character in this chronicle is Aslan in the form of a lion that acts to represent a universal representation of the causal nature of our world. We Buddhists might think of this as Dependent Co-arising, or Buddha nature. Images might come to mind by others that use difference names (gods, Jesus, Buddha) that have been used throughout human history for reflecting on the spiritual aspect of human thought. What ever we call it, the character of Aslan is all inclusive, although Lewis had his own interests in creating such a complicated character. It is the very realization in literary form that reflects a “transcendent reality”.
I want to share with you an excerpt from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to act as a contemplative lesson, and see what you think the meaning can be. Share your thoughts with us and lets see if, together, we can learn an important lesson that can enrich our practice.
Peter, still out of breath, turned and saw Aslan close at hand.
“You have forgotten to clean your sword,” said Aslan.
It was true. Peter blushed when he looked at the bright blade and saw it all smeared with the Wolf’s hair and blood. He stooped down and wiped it quite clean on the grass, and then wiped it quite dry on his coat. “Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam,” said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, “Rise up, Sir Peter Wolf’s-Bane. And, what ever happens, never forget to wipe your sword.”
——– C. S. Lewis
Now for you that have not read the Narnia Chronicles a youth named Peter has just been compelled to fight a Wolf (again) that was attacking his little sister. A similar experience he had before and failed at. Yet this new experience was different. This was his first time at having to act in defense against a destructive force that took on a very real personal dimension, and he succeeded. But he did not hear “job well done” or other positive phrases, he was told “What ever happens never forget to wipe your sword”. What do you think the meaning of these words mean in the broader context of Buddhist thought? And what are the cultural references that might make it relevant in the “real world”? Does a monk carry a sword too? If so, what is our sword designed to cut through? What can we do when we meet a wolf as we walk our spiritual path? Is a wolf more than a wolf perhaps?