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

My Teacher’s House (6), May 26th 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 (2)

Edward: At this point, were you having one-to-one discussions with Watanabe?

Muho: Yeah that started at that time. That thing about the fishes in the pond is something he told me directly. But I don’t know if he triggered this whole thing, the “no more takuhatsu” policy.

I could imagine him saying such a thing but, at his time, Antaiji was never really self-sufficient. They lived off the resources they had when they sold Antaiji in Kyoto. They tried selling vegetables in the beginning but never really succeeded at it. They never made a profit but they still had the idea the were living self-sufficiently and said it was successful. I’ve never seen any proof though. If you look at the books keeping of the time, there was no substantial profits made. They actually lost money through farming.

Edward: Were you the most senior person at this time?

Muho: For the first year of this no-takuhatsu thing, I had a senpai. He was the one who had the idea with the cows – which met resistance with the person that was actually responsible – then he came up with the charcoal idea. In the end, he never even built a firepit for the charcoal.

The first guy who was a student of Miyaura donated $2000 towards this charcoal thing. But nothing came of it. In Kutoyama, people were also making charcoal and selling it in Hamasaka or maybe even in Tottori. There was a small boom to burn your own charcoal. After the charcoal thing failed, the first monk left, and then I […]

My Teacher’s House (5), May 26th 2019

My Teacher’s House

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

II – A Delicate Flower and the Trump of Zen (4)

Edward: How did Miyaura get along with Watanabe? Did he look up to him?

Muho: I think in the beginning it was ok. It could be that he was looking up to him but that there was an unspoken stress as well. He was one of the original Watanabe students who made it easy for him to deal with Uchiyama’s people. The new students were unconditionally loyal, while the old ones would resist.

Edward: Was he particularly close to Watanabe?

Muho: I have the feeling he was not the very closest. There was another guy who was probably the closest. He was like a cult follower. He left after seven or eight years because there was a priest in Hiroshima who was building a new temple and needed a priest. He asked Watanabe if he could have one of Antaiji’s monks. So Watanabe said, of course choose whoever you want. He picked the top guy, the one closest to Watanabe. Watanabe let him go. For whatever reason, I don’t know.

If this guy hadn’t left, I’m sure he would have made him abbot because that was the person he trusted the most. He was also involved in Watanabe’s conflict with Miyaura much later on. He was often used by Watanabe as a communicator to Miyaura. He was my teacher’s senpai but age-wise and practice-wise they were not so far from each other. He wasn’t a super smart guy but he had a university education and could read books. He was a bit more intellectual than Miyaura.

Edward: How […]

Talk on the Gyoji chapter of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (Japanese & English), May 24th 2019

Calmly imagine the ceaseless practice that was happening on Mount Isan long ago. What I mean by ‘imagine’ means thinking about how it would be for us today if we were residing on Mount Isan. The sound of the rain deep in the night was probably not just of water washing over the moss, for the rain would certainly have had the strength to bore through boulders. On the snowy nights in the dead of winter, the birds and beasts must have been scarce indeed, and how much less would there have been smoke from man-made fires to acknowledge human existence! It was a way of living that could not have been tolerated, were it not for the Master’s ceaseless practice in which he made light of his life whilst stressing the Dharma. He was in no hurry to cut down the undergrowth, nor did he engage in cutting down trees to clear the land for building. He just continued his ceaseless practice and simply did his utmost to practice the Way. What a pity that an
authentic Ancestor who had Transmitted, and kept to, the True Dharma came to undergo such hardships in such precipitous mountains! It is said that Mount Isan had many ponds and running water, so there must have been thick ice and dense banks of fog. Most people could not have tolerated such a secluded life,
nevertheless Isan transformed it into the Buddha’s Way and explored Its innermost purpose. Today, we are able to learn of his expressions of the Way and Its purpose because of the ceaseless practice that he did. Even though we may not be listening with a casual attitude, we still need […]

Around the hall, May 23rd 2019

My Teacher’s House (4), May 19th 2019

My Teacher’s House

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

II – A Delicate Flower and the Trump of Zen (3)

Edward: How many people were there when Watanabe moved Antaiji?
Muho: In the beginning there were 30. But I never saw a picture with 30 people. Probably at the time when Uchiyama retired there were 30 people or more. During sesshin there could have been 50 or 60.

I heard from Watanabe that it was a pain in the ass to have to deal with Uchiyama’s students. Age-wise, a good number of them were older than him. Watanabe was around 32 when he became the abbot in 1975. He was six years older than Miyaura.

So when Watanabe became the abbot, Uchiyama’s students didn’t think of him as their teacher. They thought of him as a dharma brother. They all had their own opinions about how Antaiji should be run and how it should look like once it moves up there.

But Watanabe was this strong character and this Trump-like personality that doesn’t tolerate other opinions. He wants people that follow his orders and do what he expects them to do. I can imagine that Watanabe treasured those people that didn’t have a strong connection with Uchiyama. Miyaura was one of the few of those. But then there were also the monks who had already spent a number of years with Uchiyama in Kyoto but then went to continue to practice at the new Antaiji here.

In the beginning, there were quite a lot of people who didn’t look up to Watanabe as abbot but still had Uchiyama as the teacher in their minds. Whenever Watanabe […]