Christ and Buddha walk into a bar one evening. The bartender asks, “What can I get you?”
Christ replies, “I’ll take a bottle of your best wine.”
“And you?” the bartender asks, looking at Buddha. “What’ll you have?”
“Nothing…I had a cup of water this morning.”
Shrugging off the comment the bartender reaches below and brings out an old bottle of the house red. Dropping two shekels onto the counter top Christ quietly says to him, “Bless you my son,” and turns to walk away towards a table near the center of the room. A warm glow lights up the bartender’s bland face.
“You didn’t have to do that you know,” Buddha says to the Christ as he finally catches up to him, each noisily sliding their chairs out from under the table.
“I know, but it’s so fun to watch the reaction,” says Christ as he sits down onto the hard wood, grimacing.
“Yes, but now he won’t be any good for an hour or so now,” responds the Buddha, crossing his legs in his chair, easily assuming the full lotus position. “Look. He’s still dumbfounded.”
They look over to see the barkeep still frozen in his spot, staring blankly ahead into space, hand holding a rag and not moving an inch. The two shekels were still there.
“He’ll be okay. Besides, he needed it,” Christ says with a smile. “You sure you don’t want anything to drink? How about a cracker?”
“No thank you,” says the Buddha. “I had a half one this morning to break fast. I’m good.”
“How you ever got portrayed as fat and laughing I’ll never know!” exclaims Christ, shaking his head, the light from overhead casting strange shadows onto his face, giving it a shadow-ring shape across his eyes.
“Oh you know it all right. It was just an image they saw, wasn’t even me actually. They saw what they wanted to see,” explains the Buddha. “What can you expect though? Most of those around me were starving themselves to death, thinking that was the way to be. Can’t blame the world for seeing something they wished they were, fat and full.” Patting his belly, the Buddha continues: “Food and joy, that’s what they were missing so much of. Food and joy. So they went with the bigger picture, fat and laughing. Never mind the truth.”
“Tricks of the trade,” laughs the Christ.
“Verily,” responds the Buddha.
“Now, don’t start that again. You know I never said that word.”
“I know, I know. Just teasing you a bit,” smirks the Awakened One.
“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord!” shouts Christ, and the sound was so loud that it could be felt bouncing off the walls and back again.
“Even better! I like you so much more with a bit of drink in you!” laughs the Buddha. Christ joins in timidly with a chuckle at first, then getting the joke, belches out a loud Hoorah!
After a moment that lasts for an eternity, the two settle down, relaxed now that the tension had lifted, reminiscing alone over old memories that only they possess, the two divines lost in their own unique perceptions. A complimentary glass of water sits on the table between them, and Christ catches Buddha staring at it.
Clearing his throat the Christ says, “You know I could…”
“Don’t!” replies the Buddha sternly. “It’s fine being water and I’m not really thirsty. I don’t want anything to impair my thinking. And we have some serious things to discuss. That’s why we agreed to meet here in the first place.”
“Sure. Well then, let’s see. Last time we met we were going over the plans for the next religious phase for mankind. You change your mind about it yet?” asks the Christ. Buddha begins to shake his head. “Sure you don’t want to go back there, help them out some more?”
“No,” responds Buddha flatly, with no emotion at all. “They have enough from me as it is. You’re the one they want, the one they need. At least you enjoy being there. I didn’t care much for it. Took everything I had to stay there in the first place.”
“Aha! So it’s true then? I suspected as much. You finally going to admit it?” asks Christ triumphantly. “You could have turned tail and left just like the stories say, when you became enlightened and awake?”
The Buddha straightens upright in his chair and says,”Yes, it’s true. I could have left. I chose to go back. To teach them some things. Unfortunately—-”
Tears begin to form in Christ’s eyes. “I’m sorry, what was I to do? I didn’t know. You should have told me sooner. We could have worked together. And I’m sorry about the whole mess it caused.”
“Yes. Well, I forgive you,” says Buddha. As the words hang in the air, with no one saying anything the silence begins to build, growing more and more until a loud crackle is heard from outside. Then, silence again.
“There, it’s done and over with,” declares Christ seriously. “Now, back to business. Sorry I got us off track. I’ll get right to the point. We, the three of us, we were thinking about something to do with joy, having pure outright and wild abandoned fun, but then we decided it’s not time for that yet. They’re not ready, so we’re going with something different, yet something even more spectacular than the last time. Shape-shifting. Once we worked out all the details, it was an easy decision.”
The Buddha, sitting with half-closed eyes, suddenly opens them with shock, awakening fully. “Shape-shifting? Are you serious? That’s the plan? It’s far too soon for that. You should all do what you did last time, walk on water or maybe run across it. Heal somebody, a bunch at once maybe, something. Anything besides shape-shifting!”
“We think it’d show them something for real,” Christ replies, somewhat defensively. “The water-walking wasn’t believed anyways, not by all of them, so if we show them this, they couldn’t deny it, especially if it’s caught on camera. We’ve worked out the projections, and nearly all of them result in it being the cornerstone of a world-changing event, the hallmark of the new religious drama. Male to female, and back again. Or vice versa. Not sure about that yet. But young to old won’t do it. Not even animal to man. It has to be the sex-change type, the change of sexual identity that’s involved in reincarnational terms. Show them what it really means. It happens anyway, so why not?”
The Buddha, still shaking his head in disbelief, says, “I can’t agree with that. It’s too soon. How could you all think that’d be a good idea?” He begins to put his finger directly onto the table, ready to…
“Wait! Don’t do that. Let me explain. It’s something beyond what’s expected, something that they haven’t even begun to realize. A few suspect it, yes, and some that dream of it, and the distortions of course when they can’t make the connections, just like always, but to actually see it,” says Christ. “To really take them to the next phase, something that will last the two-thousand year cycle, an event that they’ll be stuck for awhile trying to learn and understand what it means. We think they’re ready enough. Besides, it has to be something earth-shattering. The times are always extreme for us. Well, not for you, since you’re not going back, but me, I have to. It’s part of my purpose. And fish and bread won’t do the trick this time.”
“But…but…” Still shaking his divine head the Buddha closes his eyes, and begins to breathe calmly. For a moment the concentration is nearly visible, as he stretches his imagination into the many possible and probable futures, with time opening up as it shows nearly all the various repercussions involved. Finally opening his eyes and awakening the Buddha says, “I see. Yes, I see. So be it then. This will change everything, you know, but you’re right. It’s a good choice. Will it be you then, or one of the others doing all the work?”
Christ shakes his head in sympathy. “It won’t be me, Sidd. If you only knew how it worked with us you wouldn’t even have to ask. The middle-man one day, the lead-off the next. John should have some hard work finishing it off though. He does kind of dread it but we’re going to make sure no one slacks off this time, Paul included. This time it’s all or nothing.”
As the two divines sit quietly, Christ sipping wine and Buddha with half-closed eyes, from far off in the infinite barroom the sound of metal scraping on metal could be heard. Turning his head slightly so as to not attract attention the Buddha asks, “Well, what about him? Is he going to show up and spoil your plans this time?”
“Not a chance,” replies the Christ. “This time he’s going to be busy fighting dragons, his own personal war. It’ll keep him preoccupied until we’ve come and gone and then it’ll be too late. There won’t be time for anything else. We’ll be the only prophets this go around.”
“But I liked him,” says the Buddha. “He wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. Stood up for himself and what he believed, even with the gross distortions. A shame really. The world could use some more of that, don’t you think?”
“No, not one bit. It has a lot of his influence already, too much really to be honest, so the answer is no. He’s agreed on it as well. And ever since he picked that fight with Zor and ran him off the world’s never been the same. We think it only fair. Reap what you sow.”
“Karma, you mean,” responds the Buddha.
“Whatever. It’s all the same.”