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Round the Bend: Pages 121 through 122

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  • Round the Bend: Pages 121 through 122

    ROUND the BEND
    Nevil Shute, 1951

    ```(annotated and with added blue highlights by al-Brunardot)



    "That's right," I said.

    He sat in silence for a long time after that. I shot a glance or two at him after a time. His head was shaking in the way that very old people do; it seemed to me that he was getting very tired. I had been with him for something like an hour and a half. I glanced at U Myin, and in his return look it seemed that he agreed with me; it was time we went away.

    I broke the silence presently, after at least ten minutes. "Father," I said, "I think it's time we went home now, and left you to rest. I'll come again one day, if I may. And I'll send the Nautical Almanac as soon as I can get one out from England."

    "Stay for a minute," he said. "I have things to tell you."

    He sat in silence again, and I waited.

    At last he said, "I know that you are not a religious man. I will put what I have to tell you in words as simple as I can make them. Men are weak, and sinful, and foolish creatures. When they are given something that is beautiful and good they can recognize it and they venerate it, but gradually they spoil it. Infinite wisdom, infinite purity, and infinite holiness cannot be passed from hand to hand by mortal men down through the ages without being spoiled. Errors and absurdities creep in and mar the perfect vision. All the religions of the world have become debased. According to the present code of this religion I may not take life, yet I may eat meat if somebody else kills it and puts the cooked meat in my bowl. You Christians have similar absurdities; you have a curious ceremony in which you eat your God. The Moslems fast, which is a stupid thing to do, and they give far too much thought to the outward forms of prayer and pilgrimage."

    He paused. "Every religion in the world requires to be refreshed from time to time by a new Teacher. Guatama, Mahomet, Jesus—these are some of the great Teachers of the past, who have refreshed men's minds and by their lives and their example brought men back to Truth. We are very far from the Truth now, far enough here, even farther in the West. Belsen and Buchenwald exceeded any horrors of the war here in the East. But we are all in this together, wandering, far, far from the Truth."

    He raised his head. "This thing is beyond the power of ordinary men to put right," he said. "We must look for the new


    Teacher. One day the Power that rules the Universe will send us a new Teacher, who will lead us back to Truth and help us to regain the Way. There have been four Buddhas in the history of this world, of whom Guatama was the last. One day a fifth will come to aid us,
    if we will attend to Him. Here in Burma we earnestly await His coming, for He is the Hope of the World."

    I sat silent while he rambled on. He was putting into words things that I had resolutely kept in the background of my mind, in little cups that I hoped might pass from me.

    "We know a little of the Teacher from our sacred learning, based upon the movements of the Celestial Universe," he said. "We know that He is very near to us in time. We think He is already born. We think that His birthplace is somewhere in that corner of the continent of Asia where Tibet and Russia and China meet. We think that He will be of a mixed Eastern and Western stock. We think that this man is the Saviour of the World."

    I moistened my lips. "Do you know where He is going to teach, Father?"

    "That has not been revealed," he said. "The only certain fact we know is that His ministry will last for four years and twenty-three days."

    He was silent again, and when I looked at him he was sitting with his eyes closed, perhaps in some kind of a trance, perhaps asleep. I glanced at U Myin and got his agreement; we got up to go. The old man never stirred. I waited for a minute, but there seemed to be no point in staying any longer or disturbing him, and after a time we climbed down the ladder and went back to the car.