Reposted with permission from Rivera Sun, author of her new novel Billionaire Buddha.

bbuddha riverasun

This is a short excerpt from my new novel, Billionaire Buddha, a story of love, awakening, and yes, some heartache for our human family, too. I’ll be sharing a few excerpts this week. If you’d like to read the whole novel, here is where you can get a copy:

At the root lay an ancient unfairness that had embedded itself in the psyche of generations, passed from father to son like blonde hair and blue eyes. For millenniums, humankind had believed that one man could rule another, own another, or set himself above another. According to the rule of law, a cop could snatch a man off the sidewalk and press him into servitude. Dave saw his freedom gone forever, stolen by the iron weight of convictions. The cop had stolen his ability to live as he pleased and forced him to bend his labor to the will of society. He had stepped into a cycle as old as Viking ships and galley slaves chained to oars to provide manpower for the captain’s voyages. It was as old as conquerors and kings; as old as the abolishing of the Commons. It was as old as the Great Enclosure that kicked the people off the land. It was as old as Columbus claiming the New World for the Old. It was as old as the genocides of native tribes. It was as old as the conscripted labor that built the Great Wall of China. It was as old as slavery on the Nile, Russian gulags, plantations in the South, and the warring tribes of Africa.

Dave traced the threads of imprisonment and enslavement back through history, pondering each era like a bead on a meditation mala. He saw bodies stretched in bunks, in rows, shoulder-to-shoulder tight, three layers high in chains, the dead rotting above the dying, the living sickened and terrified. He saw bodies thrown in graves, lining the ditches of every war. He saw pale bodies emaciated into bones, the white snow of the German winter tight around them, the smoke of incinerators black and churning. He saw mounds of Jewish hair, heaped like bodies in the ditches, stacked like bison skulls, piled up in mountains. He saw the heaps of bison bodies, dead across the plains; the bodies of the people who held them sacred, dead across the continent. He saw the herding of human beings in long lines, on the Trail of Tears, into ghettos, into camps, into gulags; train loads to Siberia, busloads across America.

He saw rare emancipations sparking moments of freedom in this world: Moses raining down God’s plagues, parting waters, leading Jews from slavery; Frederick Douglass revolting from chains and death; Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman racing through the darkened woods; indigenous uprisings, the Levelers and the Diggers, the workers’ movements for cooperatives, the cry to occupy for equality in wealth. On and on, the recitation went, one prayer bead recollection at a time. The mala stretched longer than the night without scratching more than just the surface of the truth.

There were the women standing throughout history, thin-lipped, frowning, subjugated to the men, imprisoned in obedience. There were the slave-wage workers chained to a paycheck, selling their labor to the owners, their sovereignty and dignity eroded by the economic grind of titans who forced generations into poverty. There were the masses of animal species, locked into pens and pastures, driven off cliffs, chained to plows to labor for human beings, caught in nets to be devoured. There were invisible ropes of property lines, binding up the planet, this great round orb of Earth which existed long before humanity walked the surface, which will exist long after the last human falls extinct, upon which the mightiest man of wealth and power is but a flea in the circus of humanity . . . a flea devouring the globe’s skin, sucking the blood, leaving poison, itching this great mother to no end.

And there was himself, imprisoned for existing in a society gone insane, locked up to labor for a lifetime because he would not own another being. He had been locked up for refusing to own property, a home, or rent one from a richer man. He walked the Earth and slept in forests, performed small tasks to buy some bread. But freedom is an illusion in a world bound up in chains. The flea upon the slave’s back becomes the property of the master, as does the child in the slave’s womb, the knowledge in the slave’s head, the songs in the slave’s mouth. The worker is a slave to the business owner; the prisoner is a slave to the jail.

“We are not free until all are free,” Dave murmured, thinking of animals, land, forests, fields, women, children, and planets.

Billionaire Buddha is a novel by Rivera Sun