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Dialogue with Dismas


mahaksadasa c. 2002



My name was Mgabe, and I must now break my silence. I have been granted a memory from my past life, and I must tell the story. I do not pretend to be a hero, in fact, I was the most abominable of human beings. However, despite my life of heinous crimes of murder, robbery, and causing untold misery to others for many years, two events occurred that defy explanation. This story is not about my activities two thousand years ago, but the events that I now tell of can only be explained by relating my history to a certain degree.


I was born in the fertile Afar Region of what is now known as the Horn of Afrika. My poverty stricken parents were both killed by highwaymen, led by Dismas, the Thief. Despite his evil intent, he personally rescued me from the burning hut. He was uncontrollably angry at the failure of this exploit, so he rescued me only to have something to show for two difficult murders. He took me under his wing, and I was his apprentice bandit. He protected me often even by killing his own partners in crime. His leadership was ruthlessly ingrained into me while I was taught the nefarious trade.


When I was seventeen years of age, our troup, led by Dismas, was operating near the great pyramids of Giza Plateau. Our targets were anyone travelling facing the sun, and the sun was a perfect concealment. We used the element of surprise to hijack our victims, and we became quite wealthy taking what we pleased from desert travelers. Occasionally, we would spare their lives if no resistance to our demands occurred, but even a crying child was enough reason to leave them all dead for the birds of prey and scavengers. We were twenty strong and well armed and well fed soldiers, and only once in twelve years of my membership did I see one of our own harmed by a weary traveller.


As invincible as our troup had become, there was never a good reason to change our methodology. Whatever goods, gold, spices, jewels, currency, silks and tapestries, entered our part of the upper Sahara, these goods were seen as our possessions, and possession came quickly. We had amassed many beasts of burden to carry the loads we obtained to our oasis, and no one with any sense tried to curtail our activities. So formidable was our group that on more than one occasion, we even defeated advance scout troups from the great Empire Armies from the North of the great sea. We had man-slaves and the women we took alive were ours as we wished. Our invincibility was disturbed only once during our fifteen years in Giza, and this disturbance was only experianced by our leader, Dismas.


It was an early morning, and the season of days was in full bloom. We were to the east, and, as usual, our intended victims were coming our way and could not see us. The travelers, from miles away, were only a family, so we did not expect much from our heist. A beast and two adults, and one infant, were clearly noted by our scouts. As we surprised them, the adults showed no emotion whatsoever, no panic, no fear, no trepidation of any description. Dismas personally supervised this particular attack.


The family was ordered to dismount the beast and present their belongings to us. The family quickly complied. Hundreds of balls of myrrh gum were unloaded from the beast, bars and coins of gold, and an assortment of other fine spices was also carried. Such wealth in the desert was unheard of, and we immediately thought that they had raided our own stockpiles. Dismas asked the middle aged gentleman, "Where did all this loot come from? Are you highwaymen like ourselves? Which caravan did you attack, and did anyone flee your small troup?"


The man answered, "I am a carpenter, and we are in the desert as exiles from the cruel Herod. The wealth you see here are gifts for our newborn son. The royal princes from the orient traveled far to present these gifts, deluded by the stars. We have no need of such things, but we use as barter to afford protection."


Dismas' men laughed, and started the attack. But as they loaded the bounty and began the murder of the victims, Dismas stopped them. The female traveler, the mother of the infant, was removed of her desert protection, and was revealed as the most perfect of women. The bandits wanted immediately to pillage her beauty, but Dismas became most angry. Five of the twenty bandits did not listen to Dismas, and he killed them on the spot. The rest of the men were in shock at the insanity displayed by their leader, and did not move. Dismas spoke to the woman, "Most beautiful woman, why are you with this old man and infant? Have you been taken against your will? I wish to protect you at once." The woman would respond to the calamitous event of the morning.


Dismas said to the woman traveller: "Oh Star of the Morning, why have I failed in my occupation? Your family faced the blazing sun, and we were upon you before we were noticed. Yet, I was blinded by an unknown radiance from where the sun has yet to travel. And now, I not only hesitate, I have killed my own people who were only accepting their share of this raid."


The young mother spoke to her confused captor, "I have possession of a Pearl. This gem is unseen by the commoner, and can only be perceived by the twice-born. As the Great Sea is to the West, so this Pearl has passed from generation to generation without any interference from the great sun of the orient. Your vision is your hesitation from your duty, and this has also allowed you to hear from me. I will tell you of your life, and upon hearing, you may decide to destroy or glorify the Pearl as you will."


"I cannot criticize your profession. The professions of those we flee are far worse than your own, for they are covert in their implication in human suffering. Promising protection, the kings ruthlessly pillage their wards, with untruthfulness, uncleanliness, avarice and evil, without any mercy in their hearts. While your troup may be hunted worldwide as outlaws, you deceive no one. When you arrive, you act as Death, and the event is swift. Our concern is that the quality of mercy is absent in the kings' tormentors of the people and the bandits of the highway as well. Your hesitation indicates an ember of mercy and justice that carries potential of rekindlement into a blazing fire, the very luster of the Pearl of my being. Therefore, you will be successful in all your endeavors and will have no fear of the kings while you recognize life as different from the bounty you take as you will."


Dismad replied in wonderment, "I will kill no more unless to defend myself. Your words fulfill lessons from thousands of nightmares of screaming corpses. As a fool, I was born into my profession. My father always killed those whose valuables he sought, and I had only known this way. But as he died in my arms from the spear of a king's soldier, I felt a pang of remorse. For fifteen years, I slaughtered many, and only spared my apprentice Mgabe. I now not only spare your family, your bounty remains intact in your possession. My only request is that you tell me of this unseen Pearl."


The mother replied, "I am Mary of Axum. My husband, Yusif, has won me from the temple of Solomon. His wife had died from plague, and his children, James and Didymous Thomas, are in the shelter of Salome, the midwife, in Palestine. The evil Herod has targeted all the newborns of David and Solomon and executes them without regard. We have escaped through Sinai, and now wander in exile until we hear of the king's death. Our patron, the famed seaman Arathemia, will be awaiting our arrival in Alexandria. His service to Caesar surpasses even that of Herod, and a great war is certain if we are denied safe passage to Nazareth."


"Your demonstration of mercy indicates the death of our common enemy, Herod. Perhaps you could escort us to the sea, and we will pay you nicely for your service. After our evening meals, I will impart to you the significance of treasure not of this world."


Dismas at once agreed to the Mother's proposal. He spoke to his troops: "I have offered protection for this caravan. I have killed our friends for their safety, and you may rebel if you wish. I am leaving with this caravan as their soldier, and Mgabe has agreed to join me. You are dispersed, and whatever is considered mine at our base camp now belongs to your new leader, who should be recognized by reluctance to kill human beings. Your robbery is approved, but murder is now forbidden. I will return in two moon cycles, and we will leave this desert for the cedars and olive groves of the North. Do not attempt to deter us, for your own good."


The exiles continued their journey fully protected by Dismas and myself, and the troops fell into disarray. They did not attack Dismas, but followed at a distance for many days. Eventually, drawn by their profession, they must have returned to the Giza Plain, but myself and my master Dismas never saw any of them ever again.


Yusif and Dismas rode ahead while I led the beast of the Mother and Child. She did not speak to me, but allowed me to hear her sweel lullabies to the infant. That first evening, Dismas told me of his conversation with Yusif. It seems that this carpenter was the true king of his people, as direct descendant of King David, conquerer of the Philistine Nation. His kingdom is now torn, and the Makabean Rebellion marked 500 years of fraternal tribes at war with each other. The House of David was banished to Nazareth withoput power, and Herod was subserviant to the Roman Caesar as titular king. The mother is a direct daughter of King Solomon, and Afarian as well. Solomon's wealth has been plundered, and the God of Solomon is no longer worshipped. It seems, according to Yusif, that the infant is the new king, but that the kingdom he will rule is beyond all conceivable realms of this world. I did not understand any of this and asked Dismas to explain the meaning of God.


Dismas said as the sun departed into the western sea, "I am truely sorry that I harmed your parents. You love me as a father, but I am only a criminal. I do not understand anything Yusif has told me, nor does the Axumite mother make any sense to me. They may well be insane for all I know, but one thing moves and keeps me. Since we first saw their silhouette at dawn, my hair has stood on end and tears have incessantly flowed from my eyes. I must know of the Pearl."


So I slept, thinking of possessing a Pearl that cannot be seen. As I drifted, her sweet lullibies filled my ears and my heart.


As I slept that night, a troublesome dream came to me. A small scorpion came from a rock and rose to the sky, growing to an enormous serpant. As the serpant grew, it began to devour the firmament, and lightning and explosions filled the night sky. The woman of the caravan we led then confronted the serpant, who now had seven hoods. The serpant resisted, but when the woman placed her foot upon one of the heads, he became docile. She spoke to the serpant, and though the words of dreams are seldom remembered, I not only remembered then, but now in my different existance two thousand years later, the voice is still clear.


"Serpant, you have been given a home within the earth, yet you are not satisfied. You seek the Father that you have mistaken as your enemy. But He is not your servant, and will never come to you by your demand. What you destroy to get His attention is insignificant, for the whole firmament is but a hair on His head."


The serpant cried out, "But I have a will. Is it not proper to fulfill desire at all costs, knowing that cruel Death eventually rules us all?"


The Mother replied, "Proper action for one is victimization of all others, so ideas of proper behavior are simply concoctions of imperfection. It is a fact that all we see will soon face Death, but this event is not the cessation of existance. Actions done without knowledge of the quality of life are not satisfaction of desire, rather they only increase desire to the point of frustrating insanity. You may devour the entire universe, yet you remain hungry. Therefore, the wise always accept that desire has no satisfaction."


The serpant, upon hearing these words, became Dismas, and replied, "Dear Comforter of the Afflicted, I understand now that my ways do not bring happiness. I have accumulated more than anyone, yet only possess emptiness as a trophy."


I awoke wondering about my master Dismas, who was already preparing for the day's journey. He was explaining to Yusif and Mary the dangers ahead while we ate the morning meal. Mary gave her first description of her newborn child.


"As you have witnessed, there is no danger for us. Just as you thought of yourself yesterday as our tormentor, today you falsely assume that you are our protector. Neither is the case. You are a servant and never a master, and though you resist the more powerful voice within you, such resistance does not affect the outcome. God is the Being you speak to when alone, and He always gives opportunity for action."


Dismas said, "Who are you to pretend to teach. I do not understand a thing you say."


Mary said kindly, "I, too, am a servant, yet my service is not wasted labor. I serve my Son here, who is the Light of the World. He entered my body on His own accord, and I accepted without protest. He is here for one reason only, and will be eternally glorified as the Deliverer of Dismas."


Dismas asked, "This infant is my salvation? This is nonsense. Since when does any supernatural being, god or otherwise, have anything to do with a desert thief?"


Mary said, "Many will always think of my Son as the salvation of the pious masses, but only a very few specially empowered people will take Him as personal and intimate without caring for the approval of the other breathing corpses. He has come not for the confident, but for those who are miserably lost, not unlike your self."


Dismas smiled humbly, but decided there to abandon the caravan. We travelled with them only to the next village, still many days from Alexandria. As we left, Dismas said to Mary and Yusif, "Farewell, and I wish I knew of your serenity. I have never witnessed such equal-mindedness. Though I would like to emulate, it is beyond my nature. I hope to take only your favor with me." We noticed many people from the village coming to offer them homage, so we quickly departed, tears flowing from our eyes.


Alone like never before, Dismas and I took refuge in the desert. He knew of every oasis, and we decided together that we would not gather our forces. We decided that the Kingdom of Judea would be our home, but we would not arrive there for another ten years, when I was 25 and Dismas was 37. We plied our new trade for subsistance. We killed only in self defence, and we refrained frfom raiding families. We robbed the trade routes and centurians by stealth, and lived comfortably. We were equals from the night that we abandoned the Holy Family, as Dismas had told me.


"The holy lady told me that to be a master of another was illusion, so we are now partners, friends and brothers. I do not know this God she speaks of as if He were her husband, but I do know the incessant voice inside. Do you hear voices, Mgabe?"


I replied, "Master, I mean friend, never is there a time when lively discussion is not taking place in my being. Sometimes this conversation is interrupted by my mind who hates these talks, but there is, certainly, another Being who never leaves me."


Dismas said, "So the woman knows the TRUE. It is my enemy mind who made me leave before she described the Pearl. We must go to Judea, maybe the wise men there know of this Pearl. Our lives are changed forever by these intended victims and we must never forget them. Do you remember the song she sang to her child, that King of Kings."


I replied, "As I remember the Afarian language of my parents, I caught only a few words. She called herself the Temple of the Almighty and something about how she is now worshipped by the Creator Himself as His refuge. She sang about her son's father, and how the Father's will is being done through Mother and Son."


Dismas said, "Yusif was thed most powerful man I have ever met, yet he referred to his son as a child not of his doing, that his marriage to the Axumite woman was for future children, not this one. He said the child was born consecrated from the Temple of Solomon. Yusif did not speak much, but we are fortunate we did not attack him. He could have killed us all with his glance, and probably would have been as nonchalant as he was in pretence of weakness. I suggest that these were Gods of the Desert, or it was all a dream."


Many years passed, and we were informal warriors against the evil king of Judea as well as the Empire's centurians. We were very successful looting those who were described by the Gods we met in the desert as a greater evil. We operated near the Great Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Both of us were old now, over 30 years had passed since we gave up our old army on the Plains of Giza.. Perhaps old age had depleated our skills, and eventually, we were arrested by Roman forces. I was released because my skin was black, and the Romans feared the magic of the Afarians. But Dismas was sentenced to die at Clavary Hill. He and another were tied to trees and left to die. I could not rescue him, but I was allowed to be there with him during his ordeal. The other man was angry and resentful, but Dismas seemed to have a certain peace about him.


He said, "Mgabe, our lives have become successful by the wishes of the Morning Star who came in the desert. We never gave up hope of finding that invisible Pearl she spoke of. We sang her song and have been happy. She told us that death does not affect life, so I have no fear. This world is better off without me, as I have done cruel things, but she said I will be delivered by her Son. I know this will come to pass."


A commotion erupted as hundreds of Judeans came up the hill. A man was being tortured and then was brutally nailed to a beam by hands and feet and placed between the trees of Dismas and the angry rebel. Dismas could not look at the man as his gaze was fixed upon a crying woman in the crowd. He cried out, "I have found the Pearl!" The woman was none other than the Morning Star, the Goddess of the Desert we had met over 30 years ago, who had never left our hearts. Her radiant beauty was untouched by time, and her son, the King of Kings, was being murdered by the mob.


Dismas did not speak to me directly again, but he turned to the One called the Nazarine, who was hanging next to him. The other man, a vile creature, was taunting the son of Mary, goading him and mocking him as if he finally agreed with the murderous mob below him. He shouted in a horrible voice, "Hey miracle worker, save me and yourself, and we will lay waste to all of them."


Dismas cried out to the rebel, "You are the evil voice of my mind that always keeps me from hearing the TRUE. Be silent!" The rebel died instantly at Dismas command, and Dismas turned to the Nazarine, and in a quiet prayerful voice, said, "We meet again, but you have never forsaken me. Your mother told me of your glory, but I took you to be just an infant. She told me of how you remain invisible to all but the twice-born, but you can show yourself as you please. I am but a fool and a criminal, and I see no injustice in the way I am facing Death. But you, dear sir? There is no crime in you, and the greatest injustice of all time takes place."


"Your mother told me that death has no effect on life. I think you have tricked these rulers into this action. I think you are here to demonstrate life as indestructable. And your mother also told me that your mission is for my benefit alone. As I face this Death, I cling to life wanting nothing other than to remain forever with the Holy Family I rejceted in my youth. Please overlook my evil works, but keep me in mind." Dismas was crying profusely, and the Nazarine inquired, "Is your pain unbearable now?"


Dismas replied, "My arms are only connected by the skin, and a fire burns me from within, but my tears are not for this. My tears are warm, and this indicates a joy never before felt."


The Nazarine comforted him by saying, "You have appeared to render service to my Father, as have I. Our connection is beyond this realm of Death. Your guilt is illusion, but serves to purify your heart. I have come to open a great gate, but I have no one to enter while I complete my Father's desire. As you are no longer under the jurisdiction of Death, you will be the first in Paradise. All who you love will soon be there, in fact, on this very day you will be with me and my Father. Your faith in the Word of the servants of my Father, this alone, has purchased the greatest wealth of the Pearl. You see before you the voice of the TRUE within your heart who never abandons you."


Dismas tried to explain his unworthiness, but the Nazarine continued, "You took a small step which is all my Father saw. The greatest holy men of Judea did nothing to save us, but though you wanted something else, you gave us protection. Your running away did nothing to deter my Father's stride toward you. My greatest disciples below, watching, do so in hiding. Other than my brothers, James and Thomas, my mother, that Magadaline woman, and of course, Salome, the midwife, all my disciples still fear this Death. They are yet immature. Yet you, a criminal, are being torn by Death, yet your sadness is not for yourself. You cry for those who cannot see what you now know. Therefore, I see no disqualification. My Father commands love, but you need no command for what your heart is now made of. Rest now, Dismas, for you alone are the successful completion of my Father's desire." Dismas smiled sweetly, and died then and there.


The Nazarine looked skyward, saying, "Father, I drink from the cup of your Life. You have not forsaken me, for you alone have arranged for this Dismas, who has done evil in this world, to be purged from all sinful reaction. Please give all my followers this nectar as well." As the Nazarine passed away, the firmament opened up. The earth heaved mightily, and the assassins fled to no avail. Many of the mob dropped dead on site, their hair turning to ash, their skin dropping from their bones.


I turned away from Calvary Hill to see Mother Mary, who shed no more tears, who smiled gently. The Magdaline woman and Salome, the Afarian midwife who comforted the older sons of Yusif, tended to the remains of the Nazarine. I took down my friend Dismas, and placed him upon our beast, and took his body back to the desert beyond Mount Sinai.


I had heard later about the glories of the Nazarine, how he rose up from the dead, but I cared not to listen. I returned to the Afar Triangle and never spoke again. I was regarded as insane, but my song was of the Pearl. In my form of Mgabe, I, too, passed away in due course of time, but I was not granted any memory of such events.


I live in this age, in this world, but Mgabe's story is now told. To call Dismas "the Good Thief" may not be accurate, for perhaps he incarnated with the Nazarine, Yusif and the Pearl as their vehicle of Pure Love. What I have related here is the TRUE, and is contained in full in the Names of the Father.


The Holy Names of the Supreme Lord will set us free.


hare krsna, mahaksadasa


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