Yearbook 2008


Muho (40yo, Antaiji's German Abbot)

This year is the seventh year since I became the abbot of Antaiji. I have spent an equal amount of time here as an unsui and as an abbot, although the time as an abbot seems to be much shorter. When I became the abbot, at first I thought "I'll do the job for 10 years and then I'll see, maybe I will have a succesor to whom I can give the moanstery". That was a dream.

About a year ago I decided to take a sabbatical year in 2008. Not only because it was my seventh year, and also the seventh anniversary of my teachers death. I also wanted to have time to think about Antaiji's future direction, and more than anything else, I wanted to spend more time with my family.

Still, everything in 2008 was business as usual until May. We had been eight people during the winter, a stable crew, and after we returned from Takuhatsu at the end of March the number of residents rose further. Preparations for Miyaura Roshi's ceremony and for the planting of the rice fields proceeded fast, and - thanks to the help of many who joined us during the weeks before the ceremony - both the ta-ue (rice planting) as well as the ceremony itself in May were a success. After the June sesshin I left Antaiji for two months and many people left around the same time, some returning to their home countries, others went to different training monasteries. The idea was that everyone who wanted to stay during my absence was welcome to stay, although we would not take new arrivals. The people who stayed could agree on their own schedule for which they alone would be responsible. Adult practice, no reliance on a guru.

From early June to early August I visited Europe with my family. Travelling to visit relatives and friends and also to conduct sesshins and give talks in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and the Netherlands. For me, it was a very valuable experience, as it was the first time that I conducted sesshins in Europe. All I did was put a notice on the front page of our homepage, stating that I would be in Europe for two months and available for sesshins and talks. When people wrote me e-mails and asked about the dates of these events, I answered that they would have to organize them themselves. And that is what people did. We had four sesshins with four teishos, one in the Netherlands and three in Germany. There were another four dharma talks, one in a Dojo in Amiens (French translation can be read here), one in a mindfulness training centre in Maastricht, one in a book store in Berlin and the last one in a Dojo in Basel. I was surprised about the interest in all of the events, especially as I had never met any of the persons who organized these events before. It would not have been possible without the Internet.

My kids also enjoyed the trip. It seems that my wife had most of the stress, as we drove 5000 km in a car, spending 2 or 3 days in one place with funny relatives of mine, then moving on to a sesshin, then visiting some friends... Before and after Europe we spent a week in Thailand, which Tomomi enjoys a lot.

I came back to Japan on August 9th and after helping at the O-bon rituals in a temple in Kyushu - as every year - I was back in Antaiji on August 17th. There were three people still there, taking care of the temple. Even after coming back to Antaiji I tried to keep as distant from the community as possible, not participating in zazen at all (although I was asked to appear from time to time during sesshins, which I reluctandly do), and just helping with organizing samu (no-one of the three residents has spent more than a year at Antaiji).

Thus I enjoy much more time with my family than I used to during the last six years. it often happened that I lamost didn't see my children for the whole five days of sesshin, now I get to play with them every day. During the winter, Tomomi and the kids used to stay in Osaka at my parent's-in-law house, but this year we will probably rent a house in hamasaka. Our plan is that I will spent one week with them, then be one week here in Antaiji, then another week with my family. I will spent the weeks here at Antaiji participating in zazen, the dharma talks of the community and writing my first book in Japanese.

So what is going to change next year? What Antaiji needs is a crew of responsible, adult practioners. One major change that will bemade is that we accept new arrivals in 2009 only during the 100 days between March 26th and July 6th and then again from August 26th to December 8th. Everyone who wants to stay after July 6th or after December 8th will have to commit for at least three years. Although I am aware that that is a lot to ask for, that is the kind of person that Antaiji needs. So in the future we will have a ckear distinction between short term visitors (up to 100 days) and long term residents (minimum stay of 3 years). The reason is that in the past we had people stay for long stretches of time, still behaving like visitors when they should have been examples for others already. Ebven though I talk a lot about "adult practice", when everyone can come and leave whenever they like, with no resposibilities and commitments envolved, I seem to end up as the kindergarten teacher after all.

So I hope that whoever stays for good in 2009 will be aware that it is them who have to carry Antaiji. That doesn't mean that I will stay away from the daily practice of the community as I did during the second half of 2008. Apart from asking people to make a commitment, not much will change. I will participate in zazen and samu and the meals, maybe just have dinner with my family. But hopefully the community will grow and members will mature to a point where much of the organization can be moved from my hands to their's.

We will see how it works out in 2009 and then decide about 2010. Antaiji is an important place for me, and I am sure it must be important to others as well, and will continue to be so in the future.

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