Lotus in the Fire
Words and no words
Wisteria and trees
Food for donkeys, food for horses
Through the water, through the clouds.

January 2007
[prev] [next]

My first encounter with Buddhism (II)

Eleven Years After Aum (Part 11)
With 16, I entered a Christian boarding school. One of the teachers there had a Zen meditation circle. He had originally studied philosophy, later became a Catholic priest, lived in a Theravada monastery in Thailand for a year and finally became interested in Zen in the tradition of Graf Duerckheim, who combined zazen with body therapy. I was one of those whom he invited to join the circle. It was a time when a certain bhagwan wanted to drive in a different Rolls Royce each day of the year, so Eastern mediation didn't really interest me so much.

A week later, that teacher came back and asked again: "Why don't you try it at least once?" I was alarmed, because I thought that his persistence only proofed how dubious this whole "Zen-thing" was. Anyway, I again answered: "No thank you, I'm not interested in this kind of stuff!"
But he insisted: "Have you ever tried it?"
"No, of course not."
"Then how do you know that you're not interested? Shouldn't you try at least once before you can say that it isn't interesting for you?"
Not that he really convinced me with that statement, but I felt at a loss and agreed to participate in zazen at least once, so that I had a reason to finally tell him that "I am not interested". He wouldn't manage to brainwash me in a single sitting, I thought.

But I was wrong... I didn't attend not only that first sitting, but all that were to follow, then studied Japanese to prepare myself to become a Zen monk. Which I did at Antaiji, after graduating from university. And today I am the abbot of this monastery.

But why didn't I just quit after the first sitting, as I had intended to do? Why am I still practicing zazen for almost 1800 hours a year? The easiest and most honest answer would probably be to say: "I have no idea! I'm asking myself this question all the time, but somehow I just can't stop it."
But I'll try to say more. I think that zazen saved me. All the questions that I used to ponder on during my childhood were somehow answered, or maybe better: replaced by a different outlook on life. But it took me some time to realize that. First came the very simple realization that "I have a body". Everyone knows as much as that, but for me it was a big discovery at the time. I had been living in my head all through my childhood, or at least since I could think.
"What is the meaning of this life? Who am I in the first place?"
I used to think that I couldn't live as long as those questions were answered. But I was only thinking inside my head. And there was no answer to these questions in my head. It never occured to me let go off my thoughts, and that paying attention to my body, paying attention to my surroundings, paying attention to other people, might actually be a way out of the depressing doubts I was burdening myself with.

At the time, my worldview was something like this: "I am here. I am the subject of my thoughts. I am the eye that sees the world. I am connected through nerves with that body, which I use as a tool to communicate with the world. Inside the world, there are other subjects just like myself who also express themselves through their respective bodies (or maybe that is just an illusion, because I can not really look "behind" the expressions of those bodies. Do I really know if they aren't just all zombies? Or aliens? And how about myself? Ain't I an alien too?). Anyway, I have to somehow get along with those other bodies to survive in this alien world which I was thrown into. This body is my only tool to achieve that. It's nothing more or less than that. The other bodies are basically enemies, but I should try to turn them into allies to have greater chances to survive myself."
When I think about it now, a quite strange worldview, but maybe not so uncommon even among the leaders of great nations?

Both my father and the teachers at school had regularly told me that I had a "bad posture". At the time, I didn't understand what they tried to say. "Who cares about my posture? As long as I listen to what the teachers say at school, reproduce it in the test and get a good score, who cares? This body is just a tool, after all."
But through zazen, I experienced for the first time that changing my posture actually changed myself, and it also changed the world around. So rather than "myself" being the subject of my thoughts and views, that has a body, I realized that I am part of this body. The posture, the breath, the beating of my heart, all of that is me. It is not that I just have a body, no, I am the body. And the body is again part of the world. It is connected. The invisible wall that I used to build around me never existed. I started to sense that the world doesn't not start with myself at the core, a body around, and the rest of the universe somewhere in the distance. No, rather it is the universe that lives through this body as "me" and as "you".

Anyway, it all started with the discovery of my body, the posture, the breath, and at first it just felt good. I had found something that I had forgotten too long.
(to be continued ... Docho)

Muho, an alien trying to survive in a hostile climate.

Throwing away

Ifve been interested in Buddha way more than three years. Three years ago, I decided to finish as a globe trotter. I encountered an opportunity to face my death about seven years ago. I was on the way home; I felt some difficulties to respiration in the commuter train which has full of passengers in Tokyo. When I woke up, I was gazing up at the dark sealing of the hospital. After that, I started to think gWhat is LIFE?h Maybe it would come from this experience. After feeling bad in the train, I realized that my death would come soon or whenever. But on the other hand, it was true I have had questions of life.

Before I would die, I wanted to see the world, people, meet different ideas. So I decided to travel. The will to travel was more superior to another desire such as money or position or having relationship with a female. At that time I was a student so I concentrated on making as much money as possible to travel. First I visited Asian countries, and then spending several years in the continent of Americas, while working. Suddenly in my mind, the question arose about continuing traveling. I noticed that the place was not so important but what I do could be more important. I met a monk who lives in the neighboring town next to the town in northeast. He taught me Zazen. I continued Zazen, after moving to Nagoya.

The area where I started to dwell in is Higashiyama, which means East Mountain. There is a temple of Nittaiji, which has bone of Shakyamuni, in the next hill, Ifve visited often, but I couldnft find a place for sitting. For a while looking for a place, I encountered a place for practice for nuns. Once a month, they hold open class of Zazen for those who want to sit. In the begging, my object to sit was looking for quietness, but they have Dharma talks in the morning and afternoon. To tell the truth, I didnft want talks. While listening to the talks, I spent time to writing my diary or taking a nap.

After attending the class more than one and half years, slowly my ears had changed. Also I found that I lose my attachment to my belongings, and my prejudices, slowly. Recently I realized that there are sounds or talks with opening my mind. For example I could not hear the voice of birds while I was thinking. I started to understand how is Buddha way while listening to the Dharma talks of Aoyama Roshi, and I couldnft satisfy myself with Zazen once a month. Later I started to attend Sesshin there, and I wanted to know about other places for practice.

The desire to sit continued to grow up, and the idea, that I wanted to be in a sangha with way seekers mind, dominates me slowly. I attended a Chinese poem class, in the Aichi Senmon Nisodo (a place of practice for nuns), I bought the teachersf book about her story. I met a description about Antaiji in her book, so I decided to visit to Antaiji. Ifve been here more than two month. (At January)

(Yohei Araki)

[prev] [next]