What do I (did I) expected from Antaiji
Straith on the first page of Antaiji website we can read:
…Zazen without gain, Zazen which is one with enlightenment, is what is put into practice
Strong words. So when coming here I had some expectations to be honest. I
expected sangha of devoted and advanced practitioners, for example. And I
expected balanced approach to the practice and farm work where apart from
focused and controlling attitude towards the body and surrounding nature
would be also emphasized sensitivity and humble surrender to them.
Well, I haven’t found it here. But I am not disappointed. I haven’t got my
expectations fulfilled but instead of it, as it often happens, I got exactly what I
I have come here as to a hospital. And my sickness to cure was my greed and
pride, and attachment to action: to the creative energy itself. And yes, I should
not forget about my stomach neither which, due to an excess of all these things in
me, recently developed an illness of chronicle gastritis. Too much desire, stress,
anger and work has damaged my stomach linen. I came here now to finally give a
proper healing attention to my body and mind.
So Antaiji is my hospital. Sangha is a group of nurses and Zazen the main doctor.
And they all together are giving me just the right remedies for my sicknesses. I
haven’t found perfect sangha here, not at all, but the imperfections of the people
here greatly reflect my own weaknesses so I can see them and work on them.
Watching all the rush and even stress around when people hunt their
obligations and free time activities makes me actually slow down and detach
from my workaholic tendencies. Seeing others grabbing and pushing into mouth
big quantities of food whenever there is an opportunity, helps me a lot to control
my own greedy appetite. And what can be better treatment for one’s own pride
than receiving orders from younger and (or) less experienced and self-aware
brothers? I can’t complain about anything…
And as far as the dominant masculine attitude towards nature, other living
creatures around and even to one’s own body is concerned, I learned to
understand it as a part of Antaiji’s training program. Yes, in real, Antaiji is a
school. School for a development of a human individual. And the first lesson one
needs to pass in this subject is concentration and self-control: Gathering one’s
own powers and focus them in one direction. Together with developing self-
awareness through dozens of daily rituals, rules and little responsibilities, a
student is getting basic equipment to get further. But until he gets these basic
skills there is not much space for sensitivity and surrender. When one is not able
to grab oneself properly, there is no way to drop it.
So I needed to learn to see Antaiji as an elementary school and forget my
expectation about college. But again, no disappointment. Such places are so
much needed in modern world! And to me, it at least helped me to see my recent
past clearly and make a dot behind my previous period of life which was even far
more dominant and insensitive.
And how is my stomach going with the local food full of oil, sugar, meat, white
flower and even chemicals, much less “healthy“ than what I am recently used to?
Isn’t my illness actually getting worse here? Well, surprisingly, I have to say: no.
It is not getting worse. Rather I even feel I am really curing myself here. And I
have to approve the ancient and simple fact that all suffering eventually comes
In Antaiji I found again the wisdom of an old Maori proverb which says: “Bad
food will not change a good man, a good man will change the bad food.” Good, in
this context, means acceptive, humble and grateful, I would say, and I have to
confirm that whenever I accept the food in this attitude, even a bowl of white
spaghetti coming from “only God knows where”, swimming in a thick layer of red
meaty oil, cause me no harm. But, on the other hand, even a small bowl of
innocent miso soup taken in greedy manner without proper thanks, can bring
one hour of annoying pain.
So keep being surprised like this and getting new and new understandings, I
think I removed all my previous expectations to Antaiji. I have none now. And
anyway, I don’t count at all. So what are such expectations for? This place will be
here and keep it’s direction whether I am here or not. I enjoy it as it is, having no
ambition to change anything. And I am grateful that I can be here as a real
patient who is taken care of. How easing it is when somebody else takes care of
your schedule, of your meals, of your time for practice and when they give you
good physical work outside to keep you fit while doing most of decisions for you
and carrying the heavy weight of responsibilities. You just follow, but
Thank you Antaiji, thank you sangha, I am really resting here and appreciating
the rare opportunity to rest and heal while staying always a bit aside.
But, on the other hand, it is true that I create Antaiji. For someone who looks
from outside and sees me working here, eating here and sitting Zazen with
everybody else, I am certainly part of Antaiji and I am giving it it’s shape and
content. So eventually I have responsibilities. And together with them there goes
some expectations. Expectations on myself in and as Antaiji. Let’s see what are
I expect myself to never consider this place MY place.
I expect myself to not teach others and give advices unless I am asked or unless
the conditions and hearts are open enough.
I expect myself to stay aside the group paralysis which is a bit going on here but
at the same time to keep following the local rules, styles and rituals, and stay
open to others.
I expect myself to not feed my criticizing mind but also not to be silent when
something constantly or strongly annoys me and disturbs my practice.
I expect myself to tell unpleasant things to others in respectful manner with
regards to their own benefit.
I expect myself to be focused and fast but not to hurry and loose care and
I expect myself to not cherish idle talks and speak bad about others.
I expect myself that I will not get an extra bowl of food during and after proper
meal time unless I am really hungry.
I expect myself to not get an extra bowl of food before most of others take theirs.
I expect myself to not identify with the selfs of others but at the same time grow
empathy and compassion. I expect myself to learn to love others and cure their
sicknesses while not getting infected myself.
I expect myself to keep remembering that my feet are like hands and while
walking always keep searching the connection with Earth space here and now.
I expect myself to sit with awareness and not only for myself. I expect myself to
sit for others.
I expect myself to bring my everyday work and interactions with others to my
Zazen and to bring my Zazen into work and communication.
I expect myself to keep weakening the border separating my Zazen practice and
I will try my best to fulfill these expectation. And that whether I am part of
Antaiji or not. Thank you for this opportunity, time and space.
Ondrej(31), Czech Republic