Monk’n around Nara


 
Ever since I started studying Shakuhachi and found out there was a Zen sect that was developed around it, and it was a off shoot of my own Lin Chi sect, I have had an interest in knowing more about the practice, the philosophy, history, etc.
(My English lit teacher would not have like that sentence too long) 
I was introduced to a real life Komuso monk via another on-line acquaintance. The internet has real value on bringing stranger together. We had a few messages via on-line and finally I got the chance to meet in person in Nara.
 
I had a day scheduled for the trip, there was supposed to be two other meeting up with us,but it turned out to be only one other a student of hIs and she was late. It was a good day to visit Nara, the weather was good, for our 6 mile walk around the hills and by-ways of the town.
 
I got to listen to listen to some things about, my new acquaintance and Zen Brother lets call hIm “J-monk” practice. He is pretty much the local face of Kumoso around Nara. Playing a begging around the town on a regular bases. This is his connection to the community, this is his bring his Zen practice to the people. It is a live practice, not just sitting in the mountains. I found that most interesting. Another interesting I found is that he is on the bad side of his Sensei, perhaps for being too “out there” too much in touch with the community. Not in a bad way, but a good way. To the point he gets praised and his sensei get jealous. That says a lot about the weakness of his Sensei’s practice. It hits home with me being someone I thought was my friend, who is also considered a “Zen” master also has a big weakness as a person in his practice. Labels are just words, when one does not have the heart fill the reality of the meanings. It shows, in another sense, people are just people and no man “walks on water”.
 
It would also seem from what I was hearing is that a large amount of the Komuso only are active for public displays. Ceremonies, parades, that sort of thing. Also it seems , the already small number of monks is in decline, because the senior monks are not really active in taking new students.
This is just generally speaking from what I heard, and not to be taken as gospel.
 
The Komuso also from what I gathered do other Renzai type training as well, chanting, zazen, the like, but the main focus is the Shakuhachi. J-monk had said he has found that it more about the breathing that gives one the meditative state than the music it self. Which goes along with my thoughts, and research from other paths and studies. Including input from another Zen teacher of mine on doing Zazen, using breathing techniques before Zazen to put one in the correct state to be respective.
 
So we walked around Nara, took in some sights of old temples and shrine. Even walked a bit in the woods off the main trails. All the while J-Monk’s student collected Pokimon-Go monsters around town.
 
We hd a great veggie lunch at a place that is off times too crowded to get service at times. We just happen to hit it right.
nara-lunch
 
It was a good and interesting day around Nara. I took my serious camera along, really I lugged it around but only used my phone camera. So I had a sore back and knee afterwards for nothing. Oh well, it was a good thought, but not a day for taking serious photos. More of a smartphone shot kind of day.
 
I also had my Shakuhachi with me, but did not play or even take it out. The spirit did not hit me. A good point would have been at the Golden Buddha where J-Monk, burned incense and put some smoke over his Shakuhachi, a blessing, cleansing sort of thing. I did not have incense so I miss that unexpected moment. But I did photo catch in in the process.
shakuhachi-blessing
He also blew a few notes at a couple of different spots. Being used to playing in public and on his home turf made him fully at ease. Me and his student on the other hand, were quite self-conscience about drawing attention. I did mention to her she should play something. Beside being shy she said, “I only know two notes”. I said it is not how many noted you know, it is how you play them that matters. My Sensei still after over 35 yrs of playing says he many time just plays one note. Seeking the purity of sound. Sort of like doing a shot in Kyudo, the masters are not seeking just to hit, but the purity of the shot. She said she felt better hearing about my Sensei, on her own practice of just the couple of notes.
 
While at another place she reminded J-Monk and I of our practice when we three were debating who was going to pay for lunch, we all wanted to cover the tab. She says, Are jot you guys as Priests suppose to gratefully accept the heart felt gifts from someone making an offering… We could only smile.
 
I will be returning, for part two of the Monk’n around Nara Komuso experience.
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