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 she was running around it. When I went one way, she went the other way. She didn’t let me catch her and it was getting late – I needed to get into the ofuro. I tried every direction and she ran away, and decided it doesn’t make any sense.
Miyaura saw me from above the road and saw me trying to figure it out. He said something like, Zen is not theory; just run and grab her. He was this kind of guy. It was just about doing the thing you had to do. While I was more the kind of guy who thought of what was the best way. Like in the autumn, there’s these kaki trees and I’m worried about climbing them because the branches might fall off. So I think maybe we should use a bamboo stick to break them or attach a small sickle to cut them off. And when my teacher saw me looking at the kaki tree, he would just jump on the branch and get them like a monkey.
In a way, he was a little bit like Eko. He wouldn’t talk theory, he was just about the attitude with which you do it. You just had to be fully there.
Edward: Was Miyaura a reserved guy? When I see pictures of the drinking parties and hear about the gun, I imagine him to be this crazy eccentric.
Muho: He was not really an eccentric. When I was here, there was drinking every night. And he would enjoy it. He would come out of his house and take part. If we had sake, he would drink it. If there was none, he would bring his own.
He liked to do that but he wasn’t really good with the people in Kutoyama or Hamasaka. He didn’t enjoy meeting visitors. He wasn’t an introvert but he didn’t enjoy striking up new relations with people. He liked to drink his sake with people he knew well.
But if you had to classify him, he was a conservative. In England, you have people who go to the pub and they always talk about the same topics – this kind of guy.
Edward: This idea of him being a protector. What did he want to protect?
Muho: The schedule, the self-sufficient life. There were almost no changes that he made from the time Watanabe was the abbot, except that he had to make do with much less people.
They say that with Watanabe, at the beginning, there were 30 people. But on the pictures you see a good dozen. I never actually saw 30 people. But even if you have 15 people here, you can do a lot. But if you have to do the same with six people, it gets much more intense. Most of the days we couldn’t finish samu. It would go on until 5pm or 6pm. So we had to move dinner.
Miyaura was very serious about doing stuff. But if you look at the old diaries, when Watanabe was abbot, they were flexible with things, like cancelling sesshin and moving things around. In Miyaura’s time, work would be extended, dinner would be moved and zazen would be cancelled. Apart from that, other things would never be moved around.
Edward: Did Miyaura have favourites, like Watanabe?
Muho: Probably everyone has people whom it is easier to relate to. It’s like a chemical reaction that either takes place or not.
What sort of people was he drawn to?
Muho: If somebody had a pure heart, if they were innocent. Although he was different from Watanabe, he would appreciate those who would trust him and look up to him like an older brother or father. Rather than someone who was sceptical or cynical, who would question him as a teacher. Watanabe also wouldn’t like being questioned.
Edward: Was Miyaura a kind and patient person?
Muho: He could be very patient sometimes but not always. Just as now, there were lots of people who didn’t fit in with society and came to Antaiji for that. He wouldn’t refuse these people. He was welcoming them. He wasn’t impatient because they were weak or incapable in that sense. But, if he had the feeling that people weren’t serious, with their whole heart, he didn’t like that.
Also, the same as Watanabe, he wanted people to be loyal to him. If he had the feeling people were doing things behind his back or were somehow not loyal to him, that he didn’t like at all.
Edward: Were there people like that?
Muho: I wouldn’t say so. It was just that he was very suspicious. Although all the people that stayed with him were loyal to him, often he had the suspicion they weren’t.
It was an insecurity of his?
Muho: I would say there was a certain insecurity there.
Edward: Was he living in Watanabe’s shadow?
Muho: You could say that.