What a Soap Box Taught Me
About Sage & Sin

August 1972— My first trip to Europe
visiting my sister and brother-in-law
living then in Frascati for a year,
she studying art, he, high-energy physics.

I had written a letter to Paul Brunton,
living in Switzerland, hoping for a meeting.
But Tony told me "PB is a sage who answers
letters in the form of a life experience—

He can read your mind and see if you're just
curious or a serious student on the path."
So to make my mind pure, I'd meditate
in front of a Fra Angelico, a sunset,

on top of Mt. Lao, in Augsburg Cathedral
where Mozart once performed. Returning
from our three-week trip, PB's postcard
said that he'll grant me an interview.

I was ecstatic and while on the toilet
in my sister's bathroom in Frascati,
a soap box with "Sconto 100 Lire"
was facing me. I figured sconto

means "not to count"— 100 lire off
the regular price of the detergent box.
Suddenly I knew the meaning of sage
as without age, mind always in the Eternal.

And sin is not some immoral act or
Adam eating the apple in the Garden,
but whenever we're not in— not in tune
with our inner self, not being true to our

conscience. I ran out of the bathroom
shouting "Sconto! Sconto! Sconto!"
My brother-in-law thought me mad,
my sister said "Doesn't sconto mean off?

He's going to take off his clothes and run through
the streets naked like Saint Francis!" I wouldn't
venture that far, but on that day in Frascati
a soap box taught me the meaning of sage & sin.

                        — Peter Y. Chou
                             Mountain View, 2-27-2007

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