How can practicing Buddhism save you from a burning wreck?
“Peace can be found within, no matter the external circumstances,” Allan Lokos writes in“Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living.”
“Forgive me, Allan,” I thought, when I read his book for the first time. ”You may be the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center, in New York City, and you may be tight with the most celebrated Buddhists on the planet, but I have read this many times in many books. And the words roll off me. I prefer deeds: how people react under stress. As in the Zen saying is blunt about this: ‘Watch how the master puts on his sandals and peels his orange.‘”
Well, now we know about Allan Lokos.
On Christmas Day, Allan and his wife, Susanna Weiss, were in a plane crash in Burma. They had to fight their way to get to the wing exit, which was on fire. Allan pushed his wife through burning jet fuel. But it was easier to save her than save himself: When Allan jumped, he was badly burned.
Susanna wrote friends:
We were in dire circumstances in hilly, rural Burma. After a rough ride on winding rutted roads on the metal floor of the “ambulance,” we spent the day in a type of rural hospital with virtually no care — there is no medical care for the local Burmese people. Two US Embassy consuls were vacationing there and came to help us get out. At first it was impossible, all government red tape, but through some miracle, the president of the airline sent his private jet to take us that night to Bangkok Thailand, the nearest city with any real hospital.
That whole awful day and then the flight to Bangkok was very hard on Allan, who needed immediate acute treatment. We spent four days in Bangkok in a good hospital trying to get him stabilized to travel, as he desperately needed to get to a Burn Unit. Two days ago we were medivac-flown to Singapore, where Allan had a major surgery of over 5 hours.
[Interesting that only at the end of her letter does Susanna write, almost as an aside: “I have some burns on my face and hand, not major, and I had a broken vertebra as the plane crashed.”]
Allan made it through surgery, a 30-hour flight in an air ambulance and eight weeks in a Manhattan burn unit. Slowly, slowly, he is recovering. His spirit, from all accounts, is more resilient than his body.
This gives his book unusual credibility. Like a ton. And in addition to his wisdom, you get teaching stories, which are much more amusing and irreverent than you might expect. [To buy the paperback of “Patience” from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle download, click here.]
Suffering, writes every Buddhist, begins when you want things to be different from the way they are. And on this point, Allan is a world expert: “Wisdom evolves from seeing things as they are and patience comes from accepting things as they are.” But it’s easy to forget this, easy to react immediately. Mistake. As he writes, “Patience is born when we create a pause between our experience of a feeling and our response to that feeling.”
Reading “Patience” a second time, with Allan’s acceptance of his situation in mind, I am much more impressed by his thoughts. Clearly, his practice—especially the part about developing patience—helped him survive. It’s worth considering that it can do the same for us.
This was previously published on Head Butler.
Image credit: Elsie esq./Flickr