Yearbook 2008


Sebastian (Israel, 32yo, computer programer)

If you visit Antaiji sooner or later you will be told either by Muho directly or by some other resident that "You create Antaiji and you don't count at all".

I want to write about the meaning of these words for me.

When I visited Antaiji for the first time nothing fitted my expectations. I arrived three days before the Hossen-Shiki for Daido-san and the schedule was very irregular. We did some samu preparing Antaiji for all the visitors that came, but other than that there was not much zazen practice. And the way I thought back then there was not much practice.

At the time we were about fifteen residents and the whole place seemed to me more like a youth hostel than a Zen temple. In the three days from my arrival until after the ceremony we had two unofficial parties, one official dinner party, a nun was asked to leave for reasons I failed to understand at the time, I was sick and we had only three periods of zazen practice. The Hossen-Shiki was over, the guests left, another two days passed and sesshin started. It was not until after the sesshin, with all it's emotional turmoil and it's horrible physical pain, was over, that I could start to understand a little bit what these words meant. It took me another year of practice and then some to be able to articulate what I'm writing now, two years later.

It seems to me as if our mind always makes up stories in order to organize the world we encounter. In these stories we always play the leading role. Sometimes we are noble and sometimes we are villains but we always play the leading role. These stories are always judgmental. So when I speak or even when I write these words I'm telling a story with me as leading role. And when you hear me or read this text you are telling yourself a story with you as leading role. It took me a while to realize that these stories are the function of a healthy mind. So how can we be released from them?

This brings me back to "You create Antaiji".

As I see it, two different thought patterns will have two different answers. One way of thinking will be that since these are the stories in our head, since it is our viewpoint that makes something good or bad, then changing our viewpoint will inevitably change our world. This is obviously a very good explanation for "You create Antaiji". Another way of thinking will be that since Antaiji is a community that changes from day to day with each person coming and going, then we create Antaiji with our actions. That is - what we do and how we do it is what creates Antaiji. This is obviously true as well.

So which is right? Are they both right? Is the truth somewhere in the middle?

The way I see it: If Buddhism is about changing our viewpoint of the world than it is no different than any other psychological system. On the other hand, if Buddhism is about concrete action then it is no different than any other utopian political/social movement.

Buddhism is neither. I think the truth is that Buddhism is not about action or non-action and not about thought or no-thought. It is about the right action.

If you live the life of right action it means that you have embodied "You don't count at all".

The way I see it we can't place greater importance to our own viewpoint over that of another. The result is not "non-action" but rather the right action which is directed towards the other, towards Buddha. When we direct our action towards Buddha both our viewpoint and the world change simultaneously.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to live the life of right action, at least for me it is. Fortunately when I sit Zazen I don't have to worry about it. So for me just sitting is the right answer and right action.

So we don't have to be released from stories, we just have to treat them according to their true importance. What kind of story did I tell myself when I thought there is not enough practice or that Antaiji is not how a Zen temple should be? What kind of story did you tell yourself when you read this?

I'm eternally grateful to Muho-san and the entire sangha at Antaiji, past and present, for being living teachers for me and for the entire world. For teaching me that the gate to the reality of life is nothing more and nothing less than Zazen.

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