King of Dhamma Preview & Cover Reveal
King of Dhamma Preview & Cover Reveal
Published: July 14, 2020
RCN Shorts are a new kind of reading. Short stories under 50 pages and really cheap. We are pleased to announce RCN Short's first publication King of Dhamma by Huei Lin. Here is a free preview of that. (Find more RCN Media Shorts here.)
“May all beings be happy.”
The venerable S. N. Goenka squinted. Then he launched into a mesmerizing chant, closing out our seventh day of silent meditation. He was our teacher: the world’s eminent and tireless champion of Vipassana, a warmhearted old man with a mission. Under his tutelage, a forlorn cast of down-and-outs had assembled in this pastoral getaway and committed themselves to ten full days of noble asceticism. After confiscating our belongings for the duration of the retreat, our instructors then presented us with a stark list of prohibitions to observe during our stay. Among the banned activities: speaking, making eye contact, eating meat, killing, consuming intoxicants, reading, writing, masturbating, and fraternizing with members of the opposite sex.
We rose at 4 AM and winnowed the rest of the day away chasing the dissolution of the self, or a cathartic moment. Nothing but this, twelve hours a day. Punctuated by two very light vegetarian meals that made the most of brown rice and miso soup. Sleep, it turns out, was a precious commodity in perpetually short supply. Crammed in a room with twenty other devotees, we moaned in our creaky beds and waited for the wakeup bells to sound.
The one highlight of our day was the evening discourse. Each night we congregated in a small room to receive S. N. Goenka’s wisdom, which he dispensed with saintly calm and deadpan wit. But he wasn’t in the room with us. Actually, he was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for more than a decade: the late Goenka had moved on to greener pastures in the cycle of samsara, leaving us with mere video recordings of his lectures. Shot on VHS, these videos served as a kind of communion: the shoddy camerawork, paired with Goenka’s droll anecdotes, was a welcome dose of slapstick philosophy. Huddled around an old TV monitor, we hung on to every word. It was the S. N. Goenka Show.
“Breathe. Breathe with a calm and equanimous mind.”
On this particular night, I had forgotten my hair elastic in the room after the evening discourse had finished. While everyone else dozed fitfully in their beds, I tiptoed back to the lecture room. Failing to locate the light switch, I knelt on my hands and knees, feeling around in the dark for my hairband. I didn’t find it, but something else happened. The TV screen turned itself on.
The room was suddenly aglow, the TV monitor crackling drunkenly. The image stuttered for a few moments, as if something were trying to rip through the curtain of pixels and materialize onscreen. Then, he was there. The distinguished S. N. Goenka— smiling at me with his trademark equanimity. The sudden burst of light from the TV startled me. Figuring that the VCR must have been activated somehow, I grabbed the remote control from beside the screen. But before I could turn off the TV, S. N. Goenka deigned to speak.
“Hello there. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
I dropped the remote and shrank back against the wall, cowering speechlessly. S. N. Goenka eyed me with ruthless compassion.
“You seem frightened, good sir. Don’t be scared. I don’t often get to chat with anyone, on account of my being quite dead.”
When I’d told my friends that I planned to attend a mediation course, they’d immediately tried to dissuade me. They warned that nothing would come of such masochism— aside from, possibly, some very unpleasant hallucinations. At the time, I had blithely shrugged off their concerns. Now, I was talking to a dead man.
“You know— after I died, I was reincarnated as a cat somewhere in Manhattan, in New York City. Not a bad life, but somehow less than satisfactory when it comes to sophisticated thought. That’s why I keep a signpost to my previous vessel here, in this realm.”
I gurgled something unintelligible.
“Well are you going to say something? How are you liking bootcamp? How do you like the food? Pretty bleak, eh?”
S. N. Goenka then proceeded to pick his nose, examine the booger, and flick it onto the floor.
“I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never seen such a sorry pack of dunces in my entire life. Hopeless, every single one of you. I don’t know why you’re wasting your time here at this New Age gangbang. Here’s some real advice for your problems: marijuana and fried chicken.”
July 14, 2020
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King of Dhamma
Author: Huei Lin
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Imprint: RCN Shorts
Partway through a silent meditation retreat, one attendee has a puzzling encounter with a dead man which shatters the monotony of his daily routine. When an old TV turns itself on one night and the dead man appears on the screen, a young writer’s reality starts to bend in startling new directions. His new companion preaches unorthodox wisdom that blurs the line between earthly pleasures and spiritual awakening— delivering a series of lectures that baffle and titillate with their straightforward love of sin. The young protégé becomes obsessed with this phantom, staking out the TV room at the end of each day in order to catch a glimpse of the elusive guru behind the screen. Their conversations are by turns playful and irreverent— and always thought-provoking. In the end, nothing is what it appears to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Huei Lin is a writer, musician, and photographer from New York City. His professional work in the film industry paired with formal training as a classical musician has led him to pursue various forms of media including screenwriting, directing, and composing. In 2016, Huei was an artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity where his collaboration with the Indigenous Leadership Conference and Music as Theatre department produced an acclaimed short film, “Black Earth,” which he shot and directed. From 2017 to 2019, he held a position at Canadian documentary studio EyeSteelFilm as a post-production assistant and editor. Since 2011 he has lived and worked primarily in Montreal, Quebec. His body of writing is composed of short fiction and narrative nonfiction. Recurring themes in his work include impermanence, modern life, and belonging. In 2019, two of his short stories were selected as semifinalists and finalists in the The William Faulkner Literary Contest and the Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction Award Competition, while other works of short fiction have been published by RCN Media. A screenwriting collaboration with UK and Hong Kong-based film director Luke Casey of Ocean Pine Studios is currently in pre- production. Huei is completing his debut novel.