This year I have experienced both Zen practice and what’s remaining from my wordly life. Around March I proclaimed that religion is a waste of time and a bug of thinking process and left Antaiji. This statement was loud enough to be made via Hyogo-ken’s NHK program, but was not firm enough to keep me away from Antaiji even for half a year. Eventually, I’ve returned to Antaiji in September. During my stay in my homecountry, I’ve realized something: I ended up being a person which sticks to religion due to the fact that there’s no group he can go with otherwise, due to the absence of identity and place to go, features which stem from inability to trust other people.
Now my position is that religion could be useful or useless, good or bad, lead to liberation or be just an excuse to avoid more complex social life. But now I have no agency to proclaim any of these due to moral inferiority. In other words the problem is not religion and not even conditions of human existence in general, but me. And by “me” I mean「me」– a social dimension of myself, which by this moment has a negative value for almost anyone I’ve ever interacted with: to be precise, my nonexistence after I left society would save more then ten thousand dollars of expenditures to my family and university I was studying in, used for the sake of my health, scholarship and trips (distributed more or less equally between these areas). None of these investments ended up being fruitful in terms of gains. Economically speaking, that’s alternative costs of my life – a price for it: if I wouldn’t be alive, people would save and use these money more productively. Not to mention sunk costs of efforts and care which are hard to estimate and way more harder to repay.
NHK crew concluded that I feel inferior due to a minor disease, but that’s an understatement: by now I’m not just inferior, but a thing with a negative value, which is possible to calculate. And I see no acceptable way to fix this or prevent the value from getting bigger by module if I stay in society – it doesn’t mean that monastery is a solution for the problem, but by staying in it and following its regulations I can liberate other people (both in Antaiji and outside of it) from the burden of my existence and my uncarefulness in what I say and what I do since my decisions here are limited to solving technical problems on low level of responsibility.
The most of my more general decisions were bad up to this point and there is no ground to believe that the future ones will be any better, so – although I still have a part in me which considers Zen practice to be an investment with a certain expected gains – the only solution for this problem now is to “entrust my life to the Way completely” – just like its written in those sermons Dogen were giving to his disciples. Why? Since utilizing my existence any other way would be too painful for me and people around me. Fortunately or not, I am afraid of dying – and even more of not dying eventually – which keeps me away from suicide. Whether it’s good or bad, I feel that I still have a certain moral responsibility in what I say and what I do since it also influences what other people think, say and do, which – combined with my fear of social rejection, of course – keeps me away from alcoholism, addictions of every kind and even more parasitic ways to live than staying in monastery and abusing other people’s kindness and generosity.
The claim about moral responsibility is especially relevant for the last year of my life: for a period of less than a several months I downgraded from being a certain moral reference point for my family and some people I know to something opposite: an example of how you shouldn’t behave. And certain steps in this degeneracy were achieved even before I left Antaiji – just publishing my last yearbook made one of my acquaintances, which occasionally found it on Antaiji website, looking for a contact with me via my family and asking what the Hell does it mean. Not to mention, that Buddhadharma is not a reliable thing for the most of people I know by now, since the main reference they have for it now is me. Not surprising that the first thing about my decision to return I’ve heard after coming to my homecity was “After I knew you’d left I was wondering if there is anything at all you can finish and do in a proper way?” and although the second phrase was “But then I realized that there is no more Zen thing than leaving Zen temple…” the general message was not misleading: you are a waste, I can find you a number of excuses for this, but you’re a waste.
Upon reentering Antaiji, for the whole autumn season I was pondering what should I write about in this yearbook – at times I felt like it’s the only content of my practice and life. My thoughts were revolving around two themes. Trust and death. I was wondering what should I focus on in this essay, how I should I title it and what approach to use, but ended up deciding to summarize my doubts in an equanimous way: without making an ideology from one or another. I feel that it would be more relatable text than just passionate assertion of any single side.
As for my last year’s yearbook’s content, I believe I’ve found how to approach to the question “Why Dogen stopped trying to explain how practice and being naturally enlightened from the onset could coexist?” To make it short, after a certain point one has no way to distinguish between practice and not-practice, enlightened and disillusionment due to the intensity of experience – intensity of pain. When your head is burning, words have no meaning anymore: you’re beyond resolving philosophical questions. That’s not an answer, but what I actually feel is happening with my life now.
The death thoughts are not surprising for someone involved in studying Buddhism and – occasionally or not – thrown away from the usual society. This autumn ones was primed by reading a short article on antinatalism, which could be summarized in formula more general than what I wrote about myself in the introduction: “human life has a negative value” – human body is a ticking bomb, so it’s better not to be born at all. Because of diseases, old age and death. Because of other people. Because of general negativism in one’s estimation of gains and losses, which is described well enough by cognitive economists in relation to S-curve for gain-loss expected value. Optimism cures this to an extent, but leads to making bad decisions and having even worse outcomes. Having birth in one list with diseases, old age and death is not random in Buddhism – if you would decide rationally you would probably prefer not to be born at all, the only reason you are is that your parents were not careful enough, had some economical expectations from you or were mislead by some prophet’s or philosopher’s mumbling about this world being a good place to live.
As a conclusion for these thoughts I’ve found a proper distinction to follow: there is a difference between a jail and a monastery – slavery and service. Both could be very demanding, but in the second case one can leave theoretically (in my case – practically as well) just by deciding to leave. It could be expensive, but at least it’s possible, while the ideal confinement implies: there’s no way out. I’ve left both usual society and Antaiji for a number of times and if I don’t get emotional I can say: if this distinction is real I haven’t experienced a lot of confinement – mainly due to young age, luck and having enough of opportunities and help from others to go where I wanted to go. But depending on one’s ambitions and opportunities one can constantly feel like he lives in a jail with no way out of it.
In my life it could be represented by dreams and expectations I couldn’t actualize: I did and still do believe that scientific and technoloical progress should be the top priority task for humanity and wanted to contribute to it significantly. Unfortunately, at a certain point I’ve got ‘7 out of 10’ as a grade and ended semester worse than I expected, which ended up in giving everything up and running away. This could be considered as a minor occasion, but if you want to have outstanding result, you have to be above standard grades. It worked for me until that ‘7’, which in combination with the fact that I haven’t get any significant discoveries or even published anything useful by the time I’ve got it was depressive enough. One person I was talking from time to time then summarized (gloatingly, I believe): “Sometimes you just have seven. That’s how life works.” “If that’s how life works, I refuse to participate in it. I was not born to be a mediocrity fighting for a better grades.” – I thought for a moment. It sounds funny, but that moment – more than any of my experiments with meditation, diet and religious practices – defined my life afterwards.
By the age I was then, Galois was dead for a couple of years while being one of the most significant mathematicians of his century. Which made my worries look even more ridiculous. Whenever I lift my standards high enough for trying to overcome all these people of the past and present, I can feel nothing by being confined by my abilities, my weaknesses, my opportunities, my reputation, my origin and so on – with no place for optimism and hope left. That’s a pure jail with no way out – even if I’m just overtly critical about myself, from the point of view of these (actually not so high) standards I’ve still lost too much time to cure the damage from my bad decisions and improper personality traits during this lifetime, which is presumably the only I have. As a good scientist I’m dead, as a usual one I don’t want to be alive.
When I think in this way there is a way out – which is just letting go, but this option is usually considered to be an act of betrayal: if I do tenzo as a practice, I don’t solve my problems by saying they’re not problems and don’t refrain from cooking because it’s useless eventually. So, why should I do it here? There are recommendations to cope stressful situations and bad trips by making oneself calmer via breathing slowly and focusing on one’s surrounding: unfortunately, for me it doesn’t really work, because if situation is really demanding I end up thinking “Well, if I try to breath slowly and focus it means I cannot solve my problem without help of some practices, which means I’m lacking in my abilities and not only the situation I have is really, really bad, but I am the problem.” Which only increases panic and despair – at least on the level of thinking. That generalizes to religious practice as well: how bad should I be if for the sake of achieving state of mind usual people have, I have to do seemingly meaningless things? This makes the loop unsurpassable – there is no way out, except for dying.
And that’s exactly what I think about in times like this. I mean not a mere suicude – I can complain much, but I know that I don’t have enough of determination to just end my life by some painful and not 100%-trustworthy method – but the modification of social order. Something to change the world for those with inadequately high standards from being a jail to being a monastery – the way out.
Institutionalized suicide facilities with warranty to deliver their product not only for people dying because of incurable diseases, but for anyone who feels that it’s impossible to live up to the values he or she holds – hopefully with no stain on his or his relatives’ reputation. Something similar is already exists in the job market: innovative companies propose a plan for those who fit their requirements, but don’t feel they’re interested and loyal enough to work after a trial is over – company just pays a multiplied amount of month salary to a person which quits after a trial, which keeps both employee and employer comfortable, while keeping staff free from random people. Something similar – maybe a payment to the family of the person decided to quit – could be proposed. Even if it’s not an option, paying for a peaceful and certain death could work for many people. Considering suicide and depression rates in the World, this could be a successful enterprise, especially if a system of reusing body parts of program participants would work properly. It would solve way more problems than adjusting almost any existing law: if death is delivered painlessly and certainly, a huge amount of pension, healthcare and social care money could be redistributed. With the only problem of corruption still present – but this problem is not that significant in developed countries. Thus legalizing death would only require a creation of a proper social and bureaucratic ways for it to be employed. Which seems to be a good price for removing those who consider themselves to be defective from the game created for optimistic and hopeful people by optimistic and hopeful people.
At a times I was going in my fantasies high enough to believe that changing social order towards accepting and proposing death is the meaning of life for me, that I should go and start doing something about it right now. By certain time I was sure that the yearbook will have ‘Against human’ title, proposing genocide and pure extinction of any life to be the highest value, explain why human existence with no extra entities (like meaning of life, practice, progress or whatever else) considered to be something deficient by religion, philosophy and common sense, comparing legalizing suicide to more trendy things like protecting minorities’ rights, legalizing substances and the rise of freedom and individualism in general. The conclusion would be something like: “although my life was a mistake, I still can use it to help those with their games lost to avoid experience of being alive while being not worth living”.
Fortunately or not, I have no way to put all of these into practice, nor I feel like it for 100% of the time. When you’re in touch with actual death, it’s hard to believe that there will be a lot of volunteers to die physically instead of letting go ‘highest values’ they cannot live up to. When you see a corpse of human or animal, you feel something which makes this scenario hard to propose, due to how contradictory it is to daily human existence and social reality.
Moreover, I’m not that much of Boddhisatva to stay in this world if it proposes nothing, but suffering, instead of leaving it using the resources I have already – if this world is that bad it’s better to leave it now. Moreover, if saying that Dogen was wrong, religion is a joke and practice is a waste of time could be concluded in leaving Antaiji and starting my modern atheistic life anew, making suicide legal seems to be way less attainable than making a significant scientific discovery, getting a brilliant career, leading a communist revolution or whatever else people usually consider to be their aim, since it goes against social order and human nature up to the level of being illegal in certain countries and completely unacceptable for the most of the people in any social strata.
Not to mention that however rational the idea sounds like, it mainly represents my unhappiness about my own role and possible outcomes. So, even if this scenario is a future of humanity, I’d rather let someone else be a revolutionary and make it real. I was not able to die properly when I had a chance to do so, choosing religious practice instead. So, why would I expect other people to do otherwise? Additionally, neither suicide, nor its attempts are considered to be a crime, so modern society is relatively open to those deciding to leave it even without further modifications. The only problem is certainly, but even perfectly designed procedure wouldn’t stop people from believing in transmigration, redemption or whatever else they do believe to avoid thinking about inevitability of physical death. However tasty these thoughts are, by now they seem to be a mere toy for someone failed to become anything and wants the whole world to disappear out of his own pain and resentment. Thoughts with a negative value.
This occasion seems to be even more obvious than the previous one in relation o me and, whether it’s being produced by some kind of religion brainwashing towards slave morality or is sincere and authentic in its essence, could be spoken about with a loud voice in any society, which existed long enough to admit its importance – punk groups and new age cults have relatively low life expectancy mainly because of not stressing trust and responsibility enough.
Unfortunately, here I have a way weaker standpoint than in the previous case. Living as a 25 years old man with zero experience in earning money, accepting any kind of social credit or having long-term relationships with anyone could be considered to be a good starting point to talk about suicide. Good enough for some people around me during my pause in Antaiji practice being sincerely interested on why I haven’t killed myself yet, considering the fact I’m lacking in ability to interact with people and don’t have especially promising future as a member of society. Talking about trust here smells being inconsistency or even hypocrisy: by the same age of 25 years I’ve betrayed science and relevant institutions by giving it up, betrayed my family by leaving it and going to monastery, betrayed sangha by running away from a monastery and betrayed an amount of people which is hard to count by not keeping any contact with them, being not responsible enough or not answering their hopes.
Sometimes with breaking some kind of social contract, sometimes without it, but I don’t think that it felt that different from perspectives of those who invested their time and energy into me. That’s not like I was going against saint people, which had no interests, except for helping me disentangle the knot of my problems – sometimes it could be even opposite, if we talk about interests of sides involved; that’s not like people were necessary in a huge pain due to my inconsistency – the most of them didn’t really care, I believe. But there’s something more important behind it than just going against someone’s interests for the sake of rescuing oneself or even someone except for oneself. Which is betraying social order when it’s convenient to do so, while using it when it’s more convenient to use it. Worse than being an animal in the worst meaning of this word: animals don’t have an invisible world of trust – at least not to an extent people have.
Even killing a saint person could be understandable if we’re talking about just doing one’s work, which equally admitted by both Christianity and Buddhism: not brahmans or romans considered to be the worst people however bad they are, but a person committed a transgression of very specific kind – in case of Buddhism it didn’t even damage Shakyamuni directly. Of course, there is a rational explanation to this, if we want to go against religion as a form of tribe spirit up to the end: cults just value loyalty over anything else and want to get as much as possible from their followers. And that’s true. But there’s something more than just this in not breaking social contract, especially if this contract was signed explicitly and being broken intentionally. Namely, here we go a bit further than religion with supernatural entities – whether it’s God and demons or here-and-now and suchness – goes and, let sin and practitioner aside, talk about crime and society.
Just like it was said in my last yearbook and my winter report, any supernatural entity practically maintains only social needs. God is whatever society wants from you, Buddha and Dharma are no more than a skillful means for managing Sangha efficiently. If we read Zen stories or consider how Shakyamuni lived, we might think that they contradict the previous statement, but when we see how practice works, it becomes harder and harder to disagree with it. I can think about two explanations here. First, it could be just a tool to indoctrinate people and a marketing strategy: for the most of the people the image of a rockstar is more attractive than this of a saint, since there are more things to relate to in it. For this reason when we read about Sixth Patriarch, Ikkyu, Kodo Sawaki or Shakyamuni himself, we usually are more interested in their passions and irregularities, not in how and when they did just what they had to do – like running temples, maintaining Sangha and sharing knowledge they had. Second, it could work in an opposite way: just like a payment from company for not staying in it, the measure could help to sort out those who stay from those who leave without making leaving to painful. “There’s no more Zen thing than leaving Zen temple” is just ridiculous for those who are determined in their practice, but if I would like to really leave a temple or if I will be forced to do so by temple administration, government regulations or some other unsurpassable obstacle, it will be what I would have to say to save my reputation. That’s as much as it’s possible to write about doubtful interpretation of “killing Buddha” as not caring about the amount of trust you get from people around and about letting go as doing however you feel like.
But, the opposite occasion – the amount of trust other people can get from me – has even bigger emphasis in my case. Because for almost every occasion of giving up something, I had more problems with trusting to other people than getting enough of trust and loyalty from them. Especially if both sides of having not enough trust to others and not getting enough of it from them were equally present and the fact that you’re not being entrusted with enough responsibility strengthen the feeling that you shouldn’t trust people around you, which leads to losing even those responsibilities you’ve already had. Namely, I’m speaking about a certain edition of the prisoner dilemma: complying and being loyal to the other side is the best option overall, but if the other side won’t comply, you will end with getting the most damage, so it’s safer to betray in the first place and minimize the value of damage you expect to get.
There are two points in addition to the dilemma itself if it stays as a model for daily interactions between people. First, it’s iterative – you don’t end up with one decision in relation to one person/institution in the most cases. Second, it’s unclear what you should consider to be a cooperation and what is betrayal. If you go radical enough than you end up with considering anything that differs from what you expect to be a perfect behavior to be an act of violence towards you. Which ends up in iterative punishing people for not fitting your expectations even if there is zero malevolence or negligence on their side.
For a while I had a very experienced and significant physicist as my scientific advisor. Unfortunately during that time I was relatively deep in religious practices in their worst – abstaining from this and from that, trying to keep my mind clean and so on – which led me (not consciously, of course) to considering the fact that that person had bad habits and even family to be an argument against doing the science in general. This was not the turning point, but contributed to the fact that I gave up the science significantly. The same generalizes for people around me during that time – if they are so imperfect that they have to drink alcohol, use substances or antidepressant pills just to keep going, why would I consider staying in society like this as an option at all?
Since the last October I was considering leaving Antaiji, which ended up with my March escape. For a couple of months before October everything was just perfect: I felt like I’m good enough with responsibilities I had by that moment and everything goes perfectly. But in the very beginning of October we had a Houyou ceremony with a lot of guests and a lot of things to do. It ended up that I had not so much of responsibilities given to me – I had no hard things to cook and was mainly maintaining things which are difficult to fail – like ofuro, jikido, rice and so on. While even people who came after me had something more interesting and difficult to do. If I look back I don’t think that the amount of work we had was that different, but back then it felt like it’s an insult both to my loyalty to the community and intellectual capacity. This led up to a significant change of perspective: from then I knew, people around don’t trust me – so I also was struggling with trusting anyone around. This state of feeling reciprocial hostility was present for almost half a year, led me to sticking to a certain interpretations of human interactions and social life, giving a number of rinkos, the content of which could be summarized in saying that Zen is a brainwashing by institutions of power, the general idea of practice is to break any will to leave the concentration camp you live in by accepting its regulations, and the only content of any human interaction is maximizing expected gain with no notion to moral, principles or whatever else. Which is not completely wrong, but even the most radical ethologist would not agree with these points completely: for one example, having a high moral principles and acting for the sake of others could be beneficial for the spread of one genes (sometimes not only when these others have the genes), so however cynical I’d want to be, I cannot go as far as I did only on the basis of natural selection or whatever else is being utilized to explain human behavior by reducing it to something simple.
My negativism towards Zen practice was significantly inspired by reading books by Steven Pinker, but this thread has also came to its end this summer: while being reasonably skeptical towards religion, Pinker in his book “The better angels of our nature” starting from very darwinian worldview emphasizes the significance of cooperation and letting go as losing. Up to the level of having a worldview closer to Christian or even Confucian ones than that you would expect stereotypical individualist to hold. By that point it was also obvious that I should not expect anything significant from returning to physics, so I just stopped there and decided that if even the most consistent and straightforward liberals can only propose me giving up and turn the other cheek, there is no need to search for something especially different from what I can have in Antaiji.
Yet, even with all of that being said, my return to Antaiji was excessive in a way: I could just do what I have to do in usual society. So, why? Although Pinker proposes to lose to an extent and accept a certain amount of aggression and lack of trust from other people and even says that going on with a risky option in prisoners dilemma is a characteristic of people with higher IQ, it’s easier to say than done this way. Namely, I’ve failed to trust other people and believe that they have any expectation from me at all. After a couple of jokes about how doing Zen practice ended up in losing a years of my life and only led to becoming a housewife instead of getting satori or whatever else, a number of discussions where the point that religion is the fail route was pronounced not by me and several situations where the general atmosphere of hostility towards my past decisions felt real for me, I couldn’t help but answer fire with fire. “If modern secular society can only let me back in as an example of bad behavior and waste of a human potential then let this society live without me – I’m not okay with this contract,” – I thought instead of just focusing on doing something insignificant and worth ridicule.
This fact of perceiving hostility from others during several situations being extrapolated for the whole life leads to very unpleasant outcomes. I don’t want to work just for money – I can end up, because that’s life – but as far as possible, I would prefer not to. What I have left as an option is returning to science: but this would end in me being significantly handicapped in my potential achievements in comparison to people I usually interact with. First, my friends (although they do humanities) will end getting their PhDs in a couple of years, while I’d have to wait for five years at least, while being an object for a jokes for the whole time before and probably after, since after you get your PhD you still have an H-index and age making you feel miserable, while doing science without comparing oneself with other people is close to impossible. Second, people I will have to study and work with will be almost definitely younger than me since the most of them never left their career for the sake of “spiritual development”. Third, the fact that I was in the monastery is a stain on my reputation of a scientist per se: a number of statements by me could be easily destroyed just by pointing on this fact. Not to mention that there are also domains other than career: artistic interests, romantic affairs, hobbies and so on – and I fail on every of them way more than I do on science and have no grounds to expect that I would be spared from being judged on the basis of these domains by more successful people as well. One of attacks on me after my return from Antaiji is a perfect example of it – one of my friends said “I had a dream today, you went out of the forest and said ‘I was in the forest so long that now I would fuck anything – a girl, a boy, a dog, whatever'” – and that’s as much of interpretation I can get for my decision – I had left not for the sake of getting something more significant than whatever I could get by just sitting, I did it to stick my dick into something. If I assume unrealistically that people around me would be less aggressive, I could end up with another conclusion: but I definitely am lacking on ability to do a leaps of faith and entrust other people with my back. Mainly because I’m not free from sadistic inclinations myself and probably I would not refrain from criticizing other people decisions the same way they criticize mine. Moreover, I don’t think it’s even wrong to do so – so the only thing I can expect is a life full of shame and regrets. Instead of this contract I would rather take a social death of religious practice.
I am wondering if reflecting all of these is anyhow helpful or Antaiji community is that different from all other communities I could end in for me to be able to trust it enough. But for now there are two points of difference I consider to be significant. Firstly, in case of Antaiji it’s about survival – both in physical and social terms. We get our food and have to cooperate which makes entrusting others inevitable. While staying here is also the last resort for me in terms of social game: I don’t do it to gain a career in Zen, of course, but the fact I live as a practitioner and not as a hikikomori or a person which exchanges his time for money is significant enough to keep me going for the most of time. Secondly, I know that I’ve failed already: during Housenshiki this autumn I’ve got even less responsibilities than the last year – but that’s reasonable for a betrayer to be deficient in trust from other people, so at least I don’t have to worry about why nobody trusts me: I know why and I know that it was me who was bad – receiving punishment is emotionally easier than being stabbed in the back, even if anyone except for me do not consider this to be a stabbing. Maybe this itself is a good starting point where just being born considered to be a sinful act – if it’s not then the world is too cruel to tolerate it.
Hopefully, I will overcome this wall of being hostile to others by default at least in such simplified conditions. If not, it’s always possible to make Zen practice into funeral Zen practice: use it to destroy mine identity for the sake of maintaining the identity of religious group. This outcome is equally satisfying.
With all that being said, there is one point to mention in relation to my way of putting it out: conceding defeat is a polemical tool. I would like to say that everything I confessed above with a certain amount of hatred towards myself and admitting I was wrong somehow justifies my existence, but it’s not. Even telling the truth could be just a convenient device to maintain one’s identity. Even perfect losing – an act of suicide in its purest – always have some kind of hidden intention behind it. People are nothing in comparison to ideas they live up to, emotions they are being led to, images they follow and things they sense.
The most dangerous part here is that I don’t really know what I’m being led by. Internally and now externally I’ve accepted my fails for a number of times, announced that I had nothing to say or propose to the world and gave up my desire to gain any significance. But when it goes up to the level of practice I have a storm inside of me every time people around me use something except keigo to address each other and myself, I readily lie without even having an explicit intention of doing so and by no condition feel that I’m wrong here and now: I can concede the sins of my past and even say that people should live anyway but the way I did, but while doing so I don’t feel like I have to worry about what I do right now and think that saying that I’m wrong is an act of profound dignity even without any additions.
Like any other person, I have enough of stories to rationalize why here and now I’m not wrong – one is a very Zen in its essence: maybe there’s just nothing to gain, so then I’ll just focus on gaining nothing. But there is a number of different explanations as well – it’s easy to see how it works if you see how people are described above: none of them said or done anything good to me and even if I was wrong, they were not perfect either. It seems like I am the only victim in here and everything else just works against me: I’ve got a bad mark – but I do not focus on whether it was justified or not (it was), I’ll just described how I overreacted to it; someone joked on me – I wouldn’t see it as a joke, but make it into an act of aggression and dominance (even if I definitely see that’s a joke even on the spot); I had a hard time in monastery due to lack of trust, lack of skills or whatever else – I wouldn’t say that it was hard, but focus on how it was different from my expectations, how meaningless practice is and so on.
I never mentioned that I did promise explicitly to stay at least until the end of this year, but left in March. I never mentioned how I had one of the best birthday parties in Antaiji, but sent a documents to recover in University I was studying before half an hour after it was over. I never mentioned that my “7 out of 10” was more like “5” due to the low requirements of the program I was studying at. I never mentioned that my application for recovery was declined. I never wrote about threatening my mother by saying that I either go to monastery or end up in mental institution the first time I left society. I never admit I was just to lazy to prepare to exams for reenrollment, but not lazy enough to not invent an excuse for returning to Antaiji. I never claimed that my determination was good enough to leave mountains, but not to leave my ID card in airport by saying that I’m not going to return to Japan. And you can only imagine what else could I rewrite above or write here additionally, if I wouldn’t be stopped by my desire to pretend that my face is at least a bit less dirty than it really is. No need to doubt: people around me are usual people with usual worries, which don’t especially care about my existence and just sing their songs of life, but due to the act of compilation by my narrative mind, it seems like I had nothing but a bad experience while I was in Antaiji, outside of it or wherever else. And this confabulation process never works against me.
I had enough of help and support, but when I describe my path it seems that everyone around me are just sadists with no compassion at all. And although I accept my own flaws and mistakes, they seem to be way less significant than those of the world around me. The section on death is the best: without saying it directly I say “Being alive is an act of disgrace from my side, but, you know, this world is just too bad – it doesn’t provide me with a way out!” And if you stop once and consider any of arguments given, you’ll notice: they are flawed and biased, but I still hope you won’t do it since I don’t want to be wrong. I cannot be wrong. And even this section works the same way: instead of looking for a good way to live, I look for a good way to assert that the way I do live is not good without changing it by admitting as much of mistakes as possible. With all of these being said I can write what was originally supposed to be under the section “And yet…”, can allow myself to be a little bit optimistic although with citation marks being put on this optimism.
“However pessimistic the approach to life above is, there is still something more in leaving society and joining Antaiji anew than just being a waste of a human material. I could return to the University not this year, but the next year or later. I could find a job, a girlfriend or any other meaning of life and means to live. I do understand that 25 years old is not a perfect age to aim for the title of a genius, but good enough to start a career in almost any sphere. But I don’t want to start it. One of explanations is that I am just afraid of the opinions of people around me, but anyone knows me personally probably wouldn’t assume so easily. I do believe that there’s more than just a desire to run away from problems in going to mountains and doing Zen practice. And I don’t talk about a huge merit you cannot fathom – just doing things, practice itself has enough of value for a person like me and even people around me, since it is the shortest way to the reality of daily actions and decisions, whether significant or not. Except for “learned helplessness” there is a “learned industriousness” thing – so, yeah, being a good tenzo generalizes to daily decisions and one’s life outside of tenzo practice, the same goes for zazen and so on. I don’t have a lot of expectations from myself in the world, but at least I can bring a fragment of Buddhist practice in its best to other people. There’re not much things I can get from Zen or zazen, but by no condition I feel that I waste my time by sitting sesshins, cooking food or cooperating with other people in Antaiji. And I want for this feeling of not wasting my time to be transmitted to as much people as possible. However critical I am about what I’ve done, I don’t feel like I cannot do anything at all. And while I still feel opposite from time to time, there is no need for suicide boxes system or any evidence of trust for me. Just functioning here and now is self-sufficient enough.
There is two ways to see one’s fails and mistakes. One is often-used in Rinzai temples analogy of shitting and wiping one’s ass. The other one is from the dialogue between Bodhidharma and Eka – having one’s arm cut off, myth says he cut it off himself, historians believe it ware some unnamed bandits, but the eventual state of being reduced in one’s abilities is more important here. In the first case it’s very easy to fix: you just have to wipe your ass, in the second it’s impossible – you can only admit that there is no you (or maybe that there is an eternal you), there’s no problem to solve in the first place. The question here is whether the condition is irreversible or not. But there’s a trap here, which is overgeneralizing: this question is about a certain problems, not about life in general.
Believing that it’s not like this is believing that there are good endings and bad endings in one’s life and you’ve already reached one of them. Even if there are why would we care about ending only ignoring the way to it in the first place? In interactive movies and visual novels there is usually a number of bifurcation points and a number of plot corridors – some of them have no more bifurcation, just an end, which is either good or bad. One of the biggest mistakes I tend to make is trying to figure out whether I’m on my way to the good ending or to one of the bad ones. Everyone knows it already but: there’s no routes in life and no way to distinguish between one and another, and even if there are there’s more to this life than just ending points. Shitting and cutting one’s arm off are good analogies for going to a monastery, saying something or cooking, but not for life as a whole: the best way to say whether life is irreversible or not is to remind oneself that there’s no such a thing as life in general. No story to be told until someone invents a story. And the biggest relief I have by the end of this year except for being able to return to Antaiji is realizing that it is neither Pure Land, nor a concentration camp. The same goes for any other place. I had to pay a huge price – losing trust and destroying my reputation both in Antaiji and outside of it, a significant amount of money to get tickets from and to Japan, a year of formal practice in Antaiji and potentially a capacity to continue it at all (since “Cultural Activities” visa criteria get more strict since the third extension and I’ve already taken the second one without even becoming a monk). A price for letting go the question of whether I’m on my way to a good ending or a bad one, but it feels like it’s worth it when I write about it. At least that’s as much as I can say without getting caught in the loop of being not mistaken by admitting my mistakes and vice versa. Let the simple part of Yearbook end like this. This life is not a railway and you can go any direction.”