I resignedly went back to my training, somewhat relieved, but in my heart, I knew this whole episode with Weepasa was simply my mind trying to squirm out of the inevitable – the constant mindfulness he insisted would be required.

In time, I was able to see that these questions were not me, and there was, in essence, nothing that controlled me or was controlled by me. It just happened due to kamma. The contact with my senses and the impulses in the mind merely came and went like everything else in the universe that resulted from a previous condition. If only I could experience the unconditioned, that state of existence where I was not the result of something that had happened before - or the cause of something that will happen in the future.

The most severe challenges were those incredible revelations and amazing understandings that arose, so fleeting that if I didn't immediately stop to think about them, which I did sometimes for days on end, they would disappear into thin air, and I could never get them back. It was some time before I caught on to their capacity to disrupt my practice, and I learned to drop them as soon as they arose, regardless of how earth and heaven shattering they were. This practice of dropping great insights instilled an understanding at a demystifying, subconscious level that allowed the mind to go deeper yet. How deep it would go I had no idea, but I wanted the key.

My training became routine and as the months passed, I gave up more and more control as the mind simply reacted and then observed the reactions . . . and as the years went by, I went deeper and deeper.

One night, it occurred to me that I had lost track of time. I knew that I had spent a number of years in Weepasa's compound, but could not remember if this was the fourth or fifth cold season. I decided not to think about it and went to sleep that night as usual.

I typically woke up a few minutes before the bell, and today was no exception, but as I began to practice, there was enough moonlight coming through my little window to outline something sitting in the corner of my room. I lit a candle and was astonished to see the sorcerer! What a surprise! My old friend had been gone for so many years, and I wondered what brought him here. He never appeared except for very important occasions.

There was a strange expression on his face that puzzled me however, almost one of pity. Nevertheless, this was my first conversation with someone for years and I was really looking forward to it. Little did I know how short this conversation was going to be.

The sorcerer was looking down at the floor.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He looked at me, but the fire had gone out of his coal-black eyes. They were now strangely subdued, reflecting a deep compassion. "I have had to do this with you for many lifetimes," he said, "and it does not get easier. Since you have so valiantly struggled with this quest for eons, it is difficult to say what must be said."

His ominous words completely confused me, so I remained silent . . . as the sorcerer destroyed my life.

"You will never find the key in this lifetime," he said with finality. "There is no reason for you to waste the few years you have remaining with this fruitless quest."

"What?" I couldn't comprehend what he had just said. This could not be, not after coming so far and doing my best. It was not possible at this late hour that everything would be taken away from me, wasting my entire life.

Frightened and bewildered I blurted out, "Are you joking? Is this one of your stupid tricks?

I desperately searched his eyes, looking for some glimmer hope, some kind of trick, some clue as to what was going on. I was terrified and confused.

The sorcerer stood up, his face revealing resignation and profound sympathy, as he prepared to leave.

"No!" I begged. "You can't just go like this and leave me here. What am I to do? Please . . . help me."

"I am truly sorry. The dragon has defeated you." And with that fatalistic statement, the sorcerer disappeared.

I can't describe the feeling, the crushing impact. After years of the most intense inner work and austerity, this hit my clear mind like a ton of bricks. I was devastated, crushed. I had attained nothing. I was nothing. I knew nothing. Now I no longer cared if I was reborn in the world of form, pure form, or non-form. I didn't care about anything. I just sat there with my head buried in my hands. Everything had fallen apart.

I felt someone taking my hand into her two small ones, and when I looked up, there was Ariya. I couldn't help myself and began to weep, as she smiled at me like a mother smiles at her infant child. With tears streaming down my weathered face, I said, "Ariya, I really thought that I would find my key. I tried so hard. Other men find it in a few short years but I couldn't, so I believed you and spent my whole life trying with everything I had with no thought of doing anything else. I followed my heart as you said, and I followed my masters' instructions. Where did I go wrong? Please . . . at least tell me this."

She looked at me with sorrow reflecting in her dark, piercing eyes, "The sorcerer spoke the truth, my great king. You will never find the key because as long as ‘You' are present, the Dragon of Atta keeps the key securely hidden inside of you. You always feel you must constantly be the center of attention in everything, and therefore the dragon grew stronger and stronger. You, ‘The King,' will never leave the center. You ‘The King,' will never let ‘yourself' go."

Her words pierced my heart like a dagger. I had failed in my life's quest, and nothing I could do now would change that. I was defeated. The search for the key was finished, and with no home to return to, I was painfully alone, with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, and my mind became a blank screen, as everything fell apart. (To be continued)

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com