Monthly Archives: June 2019

Talk on the Gyoji chapter of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (Japanese & English), June 30th 2019

Our Ancestor Dōkai of Mount Fuyō manifested a pure wellspring of ceaseless practice. When the ruler of the nation tried to bestow upon him the title of Meditation Master Jōshō along with a purple kesa, our Ancestor would not accept them and wrote a letter to the emperor politely declining his offer. Although the ruler of the nation censured him for this, the Master, to the end, did not accept them. His rice broth has passed down to us the taste of the Dharma. When he built his hermitage on Mount Fuyō, the monks and laity streamed to his refuge by the hundreds. Because he served them only one bowl of gruel as a day’s rations, many of them left. The Master, upon a vow, did not partake of any meals offered by donors. One day he pointed out the Matter to his assembly, saying the following:
To begin with, those who have left home behind to become monks have a distaste for the dust and troubles stirred up by defiling passions and seek to rise above birth and death. And they do so in order to give their hearts and minds a rest, to abandon discriminatory thinking, and to eradicate entanglements, which is why it is called ‘leaving home’. So, how can it possibly be all right for monks to indulge in conventional ways of living by being neglectful and greedy?
Straight off, you should discard all dualistic notions and let neutral ones drop off as well. Then, whenever you encounter any sights or sounds, it will be as if you were trying to plant a flower atop a stone, and whenever you encounter gain or fame, it will resemble […]

Around the hall, June 27th 2019

My Teacher’s House (9) & Rutenkai, June 22nd & 23rd 2019

My Teacher’s House

Shinyu Miyaura and the History of Antaiji in Hyogo According to Muho Noelke
(by Edward Moore)

IV – Protector of Antaiji (2)

Edward: How would you describe Miyaura compared to the other abbots?

Muho: He was someone very loyal to his cause; somebody who follows through on things. What Watanabe did here 40 years ago, move Antaiji from Kyoto, my teacher would never have done. Miyaura disliked change. He was very conservative. He devoted his life to protecting the place. He wasn’t a very intellectual guy either.

For instance, he would only give one teisho a year. And when he gave a talk, it was usually the same. It was never like, wow this is something I couldn’t find in the Uchiyama or Sawaki books; this is a revelation.

On the intellectual side, he wasn’t overwhelming. But he would always give me an example of how to do things. One thing I remember when I first came here was that I was put in charge of the goats. There was this female goat, which needed to be milked. And there was a male goat that was only here to fertilize the female goat so she could produce the milk. The female would be kept in the shed, while the male would often run wild and break free from the rope. The male goat was called Taro. The female was called Yuki, she was nice. Taro was kind of aggressive. If he escaped he wouldn’t allow people to catch him. If he got tangled in something and you tried to catch him, he would attack you.

One day, Yuki got free this time. Between the two rice fields there used to be a pond, and […]

Is “every” day a fine day? Give me a break! There is only ONE day that is a fine day, all the other days suck! June 19th 2019

Suppose there are two worlds, “World A” and “World B”. Both worlds look exactly the same. The same persons live in both worlds, say and do and think the same things. Muho is also the same Muho in both worlds. There is only one difference: In “World A” Muho is me, in “World B” Muho is NOT me (you should replace “Muho” for the name of the person who reads this, of course).
Except for myself, nobody could tell “World A” and “World B” apart. They are exactly identical. Even Muho could not tell the difference. Although I do know that I am Muho, Muho has no idea that he is me.
Do I know which world I am living in, A or B? Yes of course, I know it must be “World A”! If this was “World B”, I would not be here (only Muho would be here). For me, only “World A” exists. If I see the world through Muho”s eyes (and I do!), it must be “World A”.

Now I ask myself the first question: Why am I Muho? Muho is the name I carry in “World A”, but I am not really Muho. Muho is not me in “World B”, and I could be anybody else over there (the one who is reading these lines for example).

And now comes the second question: The moment I ask myself why I am Muho, I realize that the question is asked by Muho! But Muho would ask the same question in “World B” as well, although he is not “me” over there! How does Muho know that he is me? How can HE ask the question that is really MY question?

So […]

My Teacher’s House (8), June 10th 2019

My Teacher’s House

Shinyu Miyaura and the History of Antaiji in Hyogo According to Muho Noelke
(by Edward Moore)

IV – Protector of Antaiji (1)

While there were powerful figures like Kodo Sawaki and Koho Watanabe, and reserved intellectuals like Kosho Uchiyama and Muho Noelke, Shinyu Miyaura was in a category of his own. Unlike his predecessor Watanabe, he was neither a visionary nor a charismatic leader, but someone who simply valued the importance of Antaiji above all else. Miyaura never made changes to the original schedule, nor took on any major projects like those during Watanabe’s time – bar the building of the zendo. To him, everything was fine just as it was. But during his abbacy, Antaiji struggled with a shortage of people and Watanabe’s criticisms began to flood in. This even culminated with the former abbot forcing Miyaura to step down, not long before his death in 2002. As someone who took on the role of Antaiji’s protector, this mounting pressure eventually got the better of him. (Edward Moore)

Edward: When was Miyaura born?

Muho: In 1948.

Edward: What part of Japan did he grow up in?

Muho: Tokushima, on Shikoku.

Edward: Did he have a standard childhood?

Muho: Maybe for where he grew up it was kind of standard. But after the war, the first 10 years or so, Japan was poor, and he was the youngest out of seven children. Quite unusual for that time in Japan. He felt that because of the area he grew up and with so many siblings, he didn’t have the same chances if he were born in a smaller household in the city.

Miyaura went to high school but not university. It never occurred […]

Rutenkai (Sunday zazen in Osaka Castle Park), June 9th 2019

My Teacher’s House (7), June 6th 2019

My Teacher’s House

Shinyu Miyaura and the History of Antaiji in Hyogo According to Muho Noelke
(by Edward Moore)

III – The Money Problem (3)

Edward: Were they living extravagantly during Watanabe’s time?

Muho: They were certainly buying lots of stuff where you might ask, do you really need that? The bulldozer is nice but does a Zen temple really need it? When I became abbot, the only vehicle we had was this two-ton truck. But at Watanabe’s time, they had this kind of SUV, an unusual vehicle for Japan, and they were drunk-driving and drove it into the valley. There was also another barn that got burned down because someone brought ash with some hot coals and put it in a cardboard box. Things like that were happening.

So, would I call it an extravagant life? Hm. One thing they spent some money on was sake and stuff like that. In Buddhism, you’re not supposed to drink in the first place and if you do have money, the first thing you shouldn’t spend it on is sake.

Edward: Did Miyaura carry on the drinking as a sort of tradition?

Muho: Yeah, they were drinking on a daily basis but I don’t think my teacher thought he was carrying on a tradition or something. It’s a bit of a Japanese thing, like salarymen who work together and are obliged to go drinking – even if your wife and kids are waiting for you back home. At Antaiji, you would say it was part of the practice.

Edward: Do you think this money-making thing was a teaching from Miyaura?

Muho: You could say that Miyaura gave us a koan when he said: We need money, but you must not do […]

Rutenkai (Sunday zazen in Osaka Castle Park), June 2nd 2019