The Case of the Missing Hour

Last Quarter Moon Uposatha Day, October 8, 2012

I am hoping that there is a prospective sleuth or a professional gumshoe among my readership who can illuminate the Case of the Missing Hour. Not that I expect to get the hour back (I would probably just spend it writing on this blog in any case).

This is how I remember the start of the day last Tuesday:

4:30. Alarm, I lazily click it off. I lie in bad, stretch a bit. It is a little chilly in my cabin beyond the blankets.

4:41. Finally I get out of bed. I make coffee and study conjunctions in A.K. Warder’s Introduction to Pali for about 40 minutes, during which I finish the coffee. I do a little stretching put on my hat and leave for the Dhamma Hall. It is dark as always and I use my flashlight.

~5:25. Arrive at Dhamma Hall. I expect Mahendra, a visiting retreatant from India via Boston, to join me but he is not there. I unlock the door, do bows, get settled on my cushions, set a timer to count down from 1 hour. I will sit for 50 minutes. Well before the end of the period I hear someone enter the room behind me.

6:20. I ring the bell to end the sitting period. Suddenly Dr. Than Tut, another visiting retreatant, is next to me and reports that I am late for breakfast but he had not wanted to interrupt my meditation. I begin to explain to him that it is only 6:20, that breakfast does not start (for the monks) until 6:30, but as I turn to speak to him I notice that the sun is streaming through the windows whereas at 6:30 the previous day there was only the very slightest glimmer of sunrise in the sky. Disoriented, I abort my explanation.

By the time I arrive at breakfast it is in fact 7:30 not 6:30! The abbot finished eating and left long ago. Maung Wah, the cat, has also eaten but is still hanging around and is delighted to see me finally arrive. Sayaw Lay, our nun, has kept food on the table for me while Dr. Than Tut went to find me.

Where did the hour disappear to?

I explain what had happened and Saya Lay concludes that I was in very deep samadhi indeed and inadvertently sat for almost two hours. She and the doctor, looking a bit wide-eyed and awe-struck at the depth of such samadhi, both instinctively bring their hands into anjali as she interprets the incident and concludes with, “Sadhu sadhu sadhu.” I try to explain that I don’t think that was what had happened but they will not listen.

In fact there are other equally plausible explanations:

  1. A time warp or an unanticipated time zone change occurred somewhere between my cabin and the Dhamma Hall.
  2. I became so immersed in Pali conjunctions and coffee that the time just flew by.
  3. I in fact fell asleep once again after shutting my alarm clock, for almost exactly one hour, even though I have no recollection of having done so at all, nor of waking back up.

It is a far far nobler thing for an hour to be swallowed into samadhi than into slumber, but we must consider all possibilities. After breakfast I ascertained that the alarm was indeed set for 4:30 and that both of my clocks were showing the correct time. My cell phone showed that the abbot had tried to call me well before 7 am, no doubt worried about his missing monk.

By way of investigation I have no one to interview, since I saw no one that early morning. I talk to Mahendra and sure enough discovered he did not see me at all that morning in spite of his claim to have come to 5:30 meditation, to have found the door to the Dhamma Hall locked and to have gone back to his room to meditate.

2 Responses to “The Case of the Missing Hour”

  1. Kevin Says:

    The Wheel of Time is unpredictable.

  2. Dean Says:

    The cat knows where the hour is.

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