The Bamboo path
The Classical Shakuhachi Society
I went to the Dojo again today. It was not planned, I needed to go past the stop on the train, so I figured I might as well make use of the trip. It turned into a rainy day shoot. I love rainy days when I am inside. It is rare for me to go two or three times a week when not working. However, I felt I needed to and since I was “going nearby” there I should make use of it. It was only a couple of yen extra to make the stop and pay the dojo fee.
The Kaicho was there today along with a few others I had not seen in a while, so it was good. I was reminded of an upcoming TaiKai at the end of the month and informed of a few details like we will start with Kimonos then changed to Dogi after the opening due to the heat of the day expected. It should be interesting. Sounds like several dojos will attend.
I did a few shots, on my own just to review what I had been told the other day. I had meh results. I asked the Kaicho to check me out. He gives me detailed explanations, I do not understand it all, but he tries to explain in a way I can get it. I asked him about my back and shoulders. To place his hand on them as I shot and say which was correct. He says arch and it does indeed mean arch. It is impossible to round my back as I thought I was told the other day and to arch at the same time. I surmised that I was leaning too far back and not staying centered was what I was doing wrong. Support with the “bones” he said, do not use muscle strength. To be sure after he told me that I showed him the word “bones” in Japanese he said, yes that is it. he also went over a few other things I asked about just so I was clear. My left hand Tenouchi, and right Tenouchi, my release. Another thing from the other day was the space between my forearm and bicep. I had been under the impression that once my elbow was in place it was only my body that expanded. This caused the gap, the “v in my arm to be too small. It is ok to open up a small amount so that my right hand is not so near to my head in Kai.
He also said more about keeping everything in line of my arrow line. So I am making more of an effort to point the right elbow at the target. A few times he said yes, that is just right, even when I did not hit. I always find that weird. How can it be right if I do not hit? However, I am growing to accept that. I told Kaicho my brain was tired with Kyudo. It is so complex, so many small details, that are a big deal! He said, little by little, small steps advance.
I was asked several times by others when I was doing the next Shinsa. I said it is a long way off before I am ready. I need a lot of practice and training still. We laughed.
My overall score for the day was low again, however it did not matter. I have a clearer idea of what to work on at the Makiwara…I hope.
I am getting a new smart phone tomorrow. I will finally be able to use my translation app. Hopefully, this will help when I need something explained…hopefully. Kyudo is difficult enough as it is, but throw in fully not understanding the explanations, that doubles the difficulty. My sometimes solace is that there are others still struggling at the same plateau as me. Misery loves company 🙂
It is interesting the impact Chozenji has had on my thoughts, ideas. Re-evaluating ideas, goals, training. Before going I was hoping for a deep impact. Afterward, I was unsure I had any and if so it was small, little by little it surfaced. In my meditation, in my Budo training, Shakuhachi. yeah, it was a deep experience. However subtle. Afterward, due to my expectations a little bitter.
Now after some time has passed I have a more positive outlook. It is still doubtful if I would plan to return. I say doubtful because sometimes, many times, in fact, the Universe has different plans from mine. Man plans, Heaven ordains, something like that is the saying.
I had pretty much though let the thoughts pass. Even after my dearest friend’s comment on my post and her agreement “manners” should have been better from them. Anyway, suddenly a letter shows up in my email box. A reply to the letter I sent after my return. I was surprised.
An apology for the delay in reply. Also an apology for the Roshi being out of town. “No one here is on “payroll” so sometimes things come up which need to be attended to, sometimes travel is needed.” “And in general, we are geared more towards local students who are training long term or folks living in for an extended time.” Yes, as I surmised afterward. Lastly thanks for the referral to others seeking zen practice. Which I had done in a couple of places, as I thought overall it was a worth while place of study, depending on one’s goals. Fair enough I felt much more compassionate after reading and time has passed. I appreciated the writing intent.
Lastly, the question I had asked was about why the hand position. I reader and friend replied privately to me he was aware of that style of hand mantra from other Rinzai sects. The explanation I received from Chozenji: the hand position in zazen — it is a yang position that builds strength. Many other hand positions are more receiving, yielding and yin in their energetic effect.
Ok, now I know more. I understand it is more fitting with the overall philosophy of the temple, “Kiai first”. Building that Yang energy, Ki. It fits their sect.
So now I can close the chapter on the Chozenji Pilgrimage.
It is that time of the year for planting here at Osaka Lohan Buddhist Hermitage.
I am actually almost done. Having tested things for the last several years I know what I can grow and plant according. Kale, Tomatoes, basil, Shiso, peppers, lettuce, are the main crops. With a few herbs here and there. I am also keeping it down to 1 plant per pot this year mostly. The multi in one pot did not seem to work well. Therefore growing several plants of the same in different containers is my next step. Hopefully, that will increase my harvest. Another thing I am doing different this year is by using chicken manure instead of fish emulsion. In just a couple of weeks, a couple of the plants have really taken off.
There is a simple pleasure and peace about growing one’s own foods, even if just a small amount. Care for the plants, nurturing them. It’s all very Zen. Of course, everything is Chan. It is everyday life. Even though I am working on a tiny balcony garden, I feel like I am in my mountain field. Just outside the temple grounds doing my Zen work practice for the day. I can for certain can feel a connection to the earth and nature when doing gardening. We are all part of the same source-ness. It is that same type of feeling form doing ceramic working with clay. I understand how the Late Roshi at Chozenji would include that as part of their curriculum. If I had such a Place I would have. Chan ding ( Zazen), Ceramics, Gardening, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Shakuhachi, Tea. It was a dream at one time to have such a retreat on an island in Japan.
I never dreamed when I was a child on my grandparent’s farm helping in the garden behind the house, I would be in Japan growing in my little home garden. Life is interesting, things we carry from Childhood into another time. I was just getting started at that time in life and now I am putting the wraps on it. Interesting.
A Garden is one thing I found to be missing from Chozenji grounds. Unlike Sonoma Mountian Zen center which has their own garden and most of the vegetable dishes are prepared from that.
Anywho…the Hermitage garden is off to a good start. Soon the bug wars will start…not fun.
Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind
Since I have returned from my pilgrimage to ChoZenji I have been piecing together the value, the lessons of the Hawaiian Shugyo. More thought to my Practice, the parts and whole. In recalling some of the words of those I was in contact with during the visit come from the late master Tanouye Tenshin.
After reading his book Ten Shin Myo, I have come to understand more of his path, his philosophy. I think purchasing the book was the next best thing to getting the classes I wanted. Perhaps in someways better. I first saw this book and thought it looked interesting, but was not going really buy it, based on what I just glanced at. I am glad I asked the “Resident Priest”, the young one who I thought was … well never mind. He told me the book was a new release and was the life story of the Roshi and how ChoZenji came to be now. Ok, I thought it could be a good read. I was not really expecting alot from it, but, I was wrong…
After I read the book a lot more made sense about the Center. and words the instructors used. One of the things, were Posture, Breath, Focus. These things were part of the core of the Roshi teachings. Also after reading the Ten Shin Myo book I re-read the book by his student, Kenneth Kusher who runs the Wisconsen Chozen archery program. The book called “One Arrow, One Life”. It was the book that got me interested in Chozen. It had been so long, I had forgotten. In re-reading the book, I recalled the desire to study there. It was kind of sad to understand having been there, that part of the study there is gone. Although if one is looking for this Zen/Budo/fine Art training via Kendo or another Art other than Kyudo, I say go for it!
The is no real place other than the Wisconsen for this type of Zen training in Kyudo. At least on a live in bases. There are good programs and teachers around. Such as Sensei Rick Beal out of Ca. Who holds workshops and seminars around the globe. He is a Zen Priest, a Martial Artist, and a Kyudo Sensei. If he was a musician it would be perfect, but no! 🙂
A far as Hawaii Chozen, and the book “One Arrow One Life”. A lot of things said in the arrow book made much more sense now. Not only because of having been there, read the master’s thoughts, but my own Cha’n and Kyudo growth.
I had gone to Chozen with the hope of improving my Kyudo. Then with the off chance hope of making some connection with Kyudo, Shakuhachi and Zen. Other than my own mental theories which I could not quite put into words.
Unexpectedly I was able to find that link in training. The thread of spirit that runs through them. It is partly in the statement of Posture, Breath and Focus, a good training focus for everything, but it goes deeper than that. As the Roshi said “Kiai first”, with that in the front, Zazen, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi, Sword, Ceramics, Tea are all linked tightly. All are expressions of one’s CHI. How you tap into that is via, Posture, Breath, Focus.
In Kyudo when I focus on drawing, opening the Bow only… my muscles are used. I can feel my power balance high. When I focus on Tan Tien and expanding that, my muscles are more relaxed power is lower, expanding is a full body experience not just a muscular, balance is more stable. It is said in the Kyudo handbook that proper breath within the moves of Kyudo brings life to all the movements and shooting.
With Shakuhachi, breath is stronger, but more controlled, note has life, is stable.
In Kung Fu/Tai Chi, Movements have more power, spirit when used with the breath, center is lower, stances are more stable.
The Arrow, the Music Note, the punch, the kick, the clay bowl, the grouping of flowers, the brush stroke, the pouring of Tea, all are outward expressions of our Chi. The stronger our Chi, the better our control of it, the better, clearer, more accurate, sublime, colorful is it’s expression. The core of understanding, tapping into, controlling that is meditation.
Another unexpected meal of knowledge from the books came in the form of the Roshi’s speaking on Sound, vibrations, and connecting with people. He spoke of touching their spirit with sound, with the vibration of the sound. He was also a musician, so his understanding of it was in depth. His referrals to sound were in his thoughts on chanting. He felt not enough focus was given to chanting to older people, beyond the age of starting a hardcore physical Shugyo. or even as a “DO/Tao” !
Although aimed at chanting as a “Tao/Do”, Shado, Kendo, etc. All he was saying to my mind also related to Shakuhachi playing or SuiZen. The sound as was something I had thought of about when doing Komuso practice, a wordless transmission of dharma. However I had not thought of it in terms of vibrations as a label. I had thought of tone effecting Chakras, and healing, but of course that would be in the realm of vibrations. Some tones vibrate the head more than others. Bass is a low vibrations, earthy, one feels it in your body. This is how one touches people with sound, matching their vibrations. We are walking electric patterns and vibrations.
When doing Komuso Takuhatshu something ( the vibe, sound, note) “touches” people, something harmonized with their spirit, personal vibe enough, they feel moved to donate. Even if not the sound pleasure, vibe, was their gift for that moment. Maybe some vibration was given to them that was helpful, up-lifting in some way. Some songs can do that even without having words. It is the cords, the tones, the vibes of that/those tones. That is the Modern Komuso Takuhatsu, we give, without asking for anything. It is the Buddhist giving to humanity, being engaged, through sound. Abiding in the Law of Cause and Effect, engaging the Six Paramitas. The Komuso Takuhatsu is also our Shugyo.
According to Tanouye Tenshin enlightenment is not limited to a mental experience. It can be via physical as well. Once one goes into the “field” or Mindset of Samadhi via whatever the means, meditation Sitting, motion, picking weeds, doing Kung Fu, washing the dishes, the break through comes because you are in a receiving state of mind.
So in a final wrap ChoZenji was a worthwhile pilgrimage. I did receive some enlightening insight from it all. However not the Sensei for Kyudo I hoped to find in the flesh.
Another good note from Kyudo acquired from the trip is I did receive some helpful advise from a Senior. What he told me about the thumb pressure I would not have been able to understand in Japanese. It may not be a big game changer for getting to Yondan, however little things add up. So I ended up with something for the outside and inside to work on to improve my Kyudo.
For the Kung Fu efforts in Hawaii. I was able to get a vid of a Sihing doing a form I wanted to relearn. It was done slow enough that I could follow and review. Some parts are a little different from my Shifu. but it is ok. Reactivating this set, will help fill out my personal training “Tao”.
I do feel more reactivated myself for training since the trip. So it was good to get me re-energized with training.
So although not as I had planned, the Pilgrimage was successful. It just took me until now to figure out just how it effected me. While I do not recommend Chozenji for everyone. To all those doing any form of Budo, Art and Zen, I do recommend their book:
Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind.
The Way of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin
“Zen is to transcend life and death (all dualism), to truly realize that the entire universe is the “True Human Body”, through the discipline of ‘mind and body in oneness’. Miyamoto Niten (Musashi) called it iwo no mi (body of a huge boulder-going through life rolling and turning like a huge boulder), Yagyu Sekishusai named it Marobashi no michi* (a bridge round like a ball- being in accord with the myriad changes of life). Besides this actual realization, there is nothing else.”
Zen without the accompanying physical experience is nothing but empty discussion. Martial ways without truly realizing the “Mind” is nothing but beastly behavior. We agree to undertake all of this as the essence of our training.”*
…Omori Sogen Roshi
I have been back in Japan for two weeks now. I have had really mix feelings about the trip as it all digested.
Honolulu left me kind of sad. So many homeless and poor living on the street, yet so much money all around. I had not noticed it so much when I was living there, or even on return visits. Did my eyes open more or there is just more of it…
I did get to see some examples of the Aloha spirit. Also most of the people I encounter were nice.
The visit to Hsu Yun temple was positive. Also relaxing in a different kind of way. The temple was impressive. It felt good to get some prayer time in and honor my elders. I would have like to have found a spot to just sit Zazen. They do not have a park just the temples. I could have sat there in the lower level, but I was too self-consequence at the time.
The Kyudokai people were great! I enjoyed shooting with them. If I ever go back I will take up the invite to return and shoot with them. That was fun. Nice folks, felt welcome.
As for Chozenji the main part of the visit. Hmmmm. Very mixed feelings. The instructors that I encountered were kind, friendly and helpful…The staff…hmmm…
hmmm. I had told the young woman I first met up with that I had been trying for 10 years to come there and train. I told her on the first email contact, I was interested in Kyudo, Tai Chi, Ceramics, beside the Zazen which I had experience in all of them. Then I asked if there was a shakuhachi person there as I had seen/heard shakuhachi in their pictures/video. I also played that and was interested in speaking to the teacher. I was really looking forward to practice there. To find a Sensei who did, Zen, Kyudo and Shakuhachi and spoke English was like a dream come true..
I had also told her I had a background in teaching Zazen and yet she stuck to the rule of having everyone attend the intro to meditation class before anything. Even when there was a just Zazen session I could have attended to put in part of my quota for admission to classes. This Intro class was supposed to be an hour. I received a tour of the grounds and some background on Chozenji. We talked, I thought we had a connection. After the tour, it took her 10-15 min to explain a very few formalities to their sittings. We sat for maybe another 10-15, then we joined the main group as it started. There were two of us in the intro class, her and me…
I was told during our email conversation that after my orientation we would talk and discuss what path(s) would be available for me there. However, after orientation I was simply asked when I wanted to return and dismissed, kendo class was starting. The talk never happen, I never knew what I could do. I had to just rolled with it…
I asked to be allowed to just hang out and practice on my own for one day between classes. I was told no, by the Young manager priest. We have rules, he says. Not a good idea he says…
There is a story I heard about the founder. He had studied many Marital Arts. On one of his trips to Japan he wanted to study Hojo a form of Kendo a two person form. He asked the master for lessons. He was told, you do not have time in your three-day visit. Come back when you have three years! He requested since he had come from Hawaii to learn could he at least be shown some basics. The master agreed, bending a Japanese rule, which is rare. The story goes he learned so well and fast that in the three days he completed the training, then returned to Hawaii to add that to his other training styles. Japan is the land of sticking to the rules. However the master gave Tanouye Tenshin some slack because he had travelled far. So therefore taught him. Yet, I travelled from Japan to Hawaii to learn, I was unable to attend the classes I wanted, but would not even be given permission to practice on my own, instead of spending hours riding the bus back and forth…
Perhaps that too was a form of training, and I was/am too young to understand…
Maybe it was the three times asking test and I failed…
I upon my return to Japan I wrote a thank you letter to the person I contacted at first. I thanked her for allowing me to visit. I said, although I was sad I could not get the training I wanted or speak with the person I wanted, I still learned somethings. Even some were indirectly that I could relate to my Shakuhachi. I was grateful for that experience. I said also appreciated the contact I had with certain Sensei(s) even though limited. I then asked a question about why at that school they sit with their hands in a certain position, holding the left thumb with the right hand. Which is completely different from other Buddhist hand positions, I have encountered. I also apologized for any disharmony I may have cause unintentionally. This was almost two weeks ago, I have received no reply…
No replies to polite sincere questions always irks me…
One of their motto’s is “Kiai first” where does manners come in?
It is common practice in the Buddhist community at least and/or perhaps more so in Japan when someone Gassho bows to you, the bow is returned. Even just a head nod. This is a Renzai Japanese Buddhist Sect, I did not receive any such respect from the Young Priest who seemed to be acting head Priest or maybe just some type of managing staff priest. Certainly not an elder. Ok, perhaps it was just a cultural thing. Once he just walked by like I was invisible, after I bowed…rude. Although a few of the young monks in training there did return the gesture. So what’s the deal…
The more I reflect on these things, as I also reflect on the lessons learned, the more irked and saddened I become. Would I return…hmmm
That maybe a moot point, once/if they ever come across and read my blog. I may not be allowed back…LoL, banned for life. I have gotten in hot water before for speaking my mind on my blog. LoL. Oh well, my experience, my thoughts, my truth, my blog.
If I lived on the island yes, it is the place to go for Zen and Budo training, more so since the fee is by donation. The donation is not pushed at all, one has to ask about making a donation. That is admirable and unusual. They get points for that. It is mostly all about sharing their path, more points. People can volunteer work effort as well as money.
Would I recommend it…if one is coming to Honolulu and has the interest in having that experience, Yes. In fact I already have to an old friend.
If one is going to fly there with the solo purpose of training there, NO…
but that is depending…on your background and desires. Just because it was lacking for me does not mean it will be for someone else.
Would I return there, doubtful, unless I have another reason to be on Honolulu, NO!
If I could return and do a sesshin with the base of actual Kyudo and/or Tai Chi, as the focus of the marital training, Yes!
However their Tai Chi is not a Martial Art base style. So that will not happen. Their Kyudo, is not Kyudo any more. I was told they still do Kyudo, but that is not often. A seminar maybe 2 times a year.
Also a week of a diet filled with hot dogs, other meat, and junk food for substance does not appeal to my basic Buddhist Philosophy. Or my personal “Tao”…
The philosophy of everything, all arts, everything is Zen, there is no duality between movement Zen and sitting Zen. All is Zen, Zen is both mind and body this Philosophy at Chozenji is pure and good.
However it stops are what you put into the body???
At Sonoma Mtn Zen Center they grow their own veggies. The week of Kyudo Sisshen/Shugyo spent there was great.
I had before going there some dream of this being a place I could go to train advance levels of Kyudo! Then finding out there was also a shakuhachi master, who did kyudo. I thought gold mine. Zen training, Kyudo and Shakuhachi in English, a pot of gold. The ceramics, Tai Chi and Aikido were icing. I was disappointed with the truth/reality. However truth is sometimes, perhaps many times like that…Disappointing! Truth is truth, regardless of our perception or vision or desire of it. It is what it is, and our perception of it gets shattered, is our suffering. However I would still recommend the experience to a beginner who lives on the Island.
I am currently reading a book I purchased there at Chozenji. I will be near finished when I post this. It is called Ten Shin Myo. It is basically the story of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin and the development of Chozenji. I believe at one time Chozenji was a wonderful place to make the pilgrimage to for Zen and Budo training in America. In a way it still is, as it is a unique place. One should hold no vision of what it is or should be. A blank sheet, a mound of clay. Be water going into that place.
However for me, from my brief visit there, it is a ghost, a shadow of what it once was…or could be. However to be fair my involvement was sadly limited. Perhaps if I was able to have more contact with some of the elders I would have a different opinion. There is another Chozenji it is in Wisconsin. I have no feeling, no draw to there, so for me to go there seeking training is worthless. However perhaps for another it will be enlightening. I wonder about their Kyudo though. To me Hawaii had a special draw. The Chi of the Island, the native people are special…
Another thing I was drawn to about Chozenji is the founder Tanouye Tenshin. I heard great things about him. A native Hawaiian, a man of color. A Zen Master of color, who established a Zen society and did wonderful things. Like my late Abbot also a man of Color, of Native American and Mexican blood. I am finishing up reading Tanouye Tenshin story and the story of Chozenji. Wow, a musician, a healer, a Zen master, a visionary, respected by many and all he encountered. I read some about him in the Kyudo book. One Arrow, One Life. I wanted to experience some Kyudo at this placed called Chozenji. Kyudo beyond belts and rank, with focus on the Zen aspect.
I started to re-read the book that got me interested in Chozenji, “One Arrow, One Life”. Yeah, sad how it has changed so much since then, the master Passed away, a Wonderful Kyudojo going to waste. There is something I find interesting…the current head of the Archery has a background in Kyudo, but I was told he prefers shooting multiple arrows in the time it takes to shoot a couple of kyudo arrows. More is better, however this “head” is also a shakuhachi teacher , and tells his students, at least one I spoke to , that one can spend thier whole life playing just one note to get it right. Shakuhachi is a Zen tool not an musical instrument. Hmmm So how is it different with Kyudo and The philosophy One Arrow, one Life…SuiZen: One note, Enlightenment…
A friend of mine also visited Chozenji, he had a week of intensive training. He is a Kyudoka, priest and Karateka. His experience was different, and this was many years in the past under different leaders and teachers. Things change it the way of life.
Chozenji Hawaii, If one is there, or going there to Honolulu it is worth the effort to visit, take a few classes, sit with them to form your own opinion. Mine is neither fully positive nor negative. I am of both minds. Zen is about finding one’s own “understanding ” of truth, not blindly accepting another’s view, vision, understanding. Not Buddha’s, not mine. Buddha said question everything and find your own answer. One must experience truth to fully understand it.
All of this is just my opinion and perhaps is just full of broken illusions and I am still grasping attachments which are shadows. Silly me, perhaps I need a smack…
It was here, seems like it came too soon. I got done only a few of the things I wanted. Mostly things were outside of Chozenji. I had no control over missing out on things at Chozenji. Really I have no control over anything, except how I react to things I have no control over. However with keeping a grateful mind and heart I did get somethings some things experienced there and some is better than none. I remember, and I meditated on, do not be attached to even goals. It is better to be grateful for everything than be in sorrow for what was not. With that, everyday is a good day and a blessing! Monday was to be a somewhat busy day. I had planned on a morning class at Chozenji. It was called, ”
It was not on my original list of things to attend, however since I was there and had few choices (none) I accepted what the Universe offered.
“There are times we can not get what we want, but are given what we need…” Brown Buddha
Other than the name of the class I knew nothing of what to expect besides what Les had told me. It was a class for older people, I was told. Some self-massage and things. Not sure what the things were to be, but I was open. Since I had not gotten what I planned for the trip there I needed to remain open to what the universe was giving me.
The class started at 9:30am. There was an earlier meditation class @ 5:30am, but seem silly to attend then need to go somewhere to hang out for a few hours and then return, then leave and return again. I arrived at 8:45am. The class started at 9:00 unlike the other classes, this one had the class first then ended with the meditation.
The class leader was an Aikido Sensei. He seemed nice, I liked him. Friendly and polite. About my age, maybe older. Others showed up, all about my age, older folks. Everyone was nice. Les was there I was surprised to see him. I thought he was only coming to the evening Tai Chi class. When the class started he went up to the front with the sensei to help run things. I made note that the Sensei called him Sensei also. I felt comfortable and settled in.
The class started with how to fall and roll, sort of, and the importance of maintaining one’s center and how to roll when one lost balance. These were not really full how to roll lessons. Rolling from a standing position, but more of how you should be if you are bent over, and how one should pickup stuff so not to fall. Also, it taught how to do self-massage, that was really more of the focus On the legs and foot with the foot and other leg. I could not figure out why it was being shown with using the opposite leg, foot to massage when it could be done with the hands easier for the most part. I did not ask, I just rolled with it to learn what I could. I emptied my cup to taste the master’s tea. I did not question anything. I just accepted and opened my mind to the lessons. So we lay down and did massage on our legs with the other leg and foot. Also did some twisting drills to help align the spine. I thought they were all super easy, however, I could see where it may be a problem for some. On one exercise, the sensei came to me and said are you ok? Not hurting too much. I said I do not feel anything! He said ohh, you are in good shape, you must be able to sit full lotus. I said yes. He asked my age and then said keep up the good work. I liked him. I would have like to have spent some time in his Aikido class… but time was not on my side, unlike the Rolling Stones song :-).
We finished up the class with 30 min of Zazen. It was an ok class. Mostly a stretching class massage class. I would not have picked it, but it was all there was.
After class, I returned to the community room to gather my stuff to go to the hotel, since I could not hang out and practice. The young priest ( I figured out later, he is not a head priest just a young priest on the staff) was there. He said ohh’ We missed you in meditation class this morning. Referring to the 5:30a.m. Zazen. I just lightly smiled and said, I am here now, and will return tonight. However, my inner thoughts were not so polite. I let it go at that, gathered my stuff and left. I took the bus back to the hotel an hour away. I suppose an hour bus ride is not really a big deal, it is not, but I could have been doing something more productive, like practicing. If I had a little compassion shown…Anyway, yeah moving on.
That evening I returned. I arrived sort of early, there was a zazen session going on in the main hall. For a quick moment flash I thought oh no, I am late! However no, but I did not know just what to do, so I walked up the mount to take some photos and wait. it should be ending soon. While I was there the clapper was rung. I did not know what it meant other than there would be started another sitting soon. I came down off the hill and went to the Loo to get ready for the sitting. I returned, there was already one person sitting, I entered a bit late from the sense of things. Being I did not enter with the person and he was already sitting, I felt off, but they had not started. I grabbed my cushions and entered. I was directed on where to walk and what cushion to take. Since I started out wrong and did not know things were in a different order than what I was told how where to sit. Ok, no biggie, I thought, wrongly!
I sat and was told how to align myself with the other person. Something I had not heard before. My knees were off the cushion and not on the edge of the cushion. This is Les leading the class now. I felt a bit off as I was not used to the whole format. Anyway, I just did what I was told and adjusted.
We sat for the 45 min. At the end the other person there left, it was just Les and myself for the class. He had said this was possible in the morning session. I got a lecture on how to enter the room and join the group, also on my timing on when to enter and when others were leaving. I had no idea before, so I just listened, with no excuses.
He spoke to me of many things, about how people should learn from watching others, not just being told. That was part of Zen training. Not in an angry way, he spoke, but just informing me how things have changed and what was the “way”. I needed to learn that. He spoke of some of his history with the group and how things were expected to be done and how it has changed from when the seniors were there. How a serious student would, could and should, learn things without being told, but just by being aware after coming several times and common sense. That was also part of the training, watching and learning! I recall Nogami Sensei saying the same about Kyudo
He spoke things about the old ways and the new leader’s way. Things that were lacking or had been slacked off on from when the old master was there. I listened.
Next he showed me a tool he was using to help his balance, strength and center. He had me try it. It was heavy. he said it worked one sense of balance and timing. How to become “one” with something to get the effect wanted no to “power” one’s way through something. Swing this weight, feel when the empty spot is to switch hands. Move it maintain your center.
He and I were the only ones in class. This was the Tai Chi Class. The other person who was there during the sitting had left. So it was just the two of us for the Tai Chi session. Mostly we spoke of this balancing tool he had and keeping one’s center and how it would aid in training. We also spoke of breath and chanting. He spoke of how the old master and many others were also musicians, how it tied into breath, timing, and awareness of nature, rhythm. He told me a few stories about the old master, the founder, who was a music teacher at a local school. I told him I played Shakuhachi as part of my Buddhist practice. He thought that was good, another one of the Roshi there was also a Shakuhachi player, he said. I knew that part of my reason for coming. He said the young priest was coming along as a player. He told me oh how his chanting had made a big difference in his breath. Chanting was a large part of training there. especially for the older students who could not do the heavy physical training of Kendo and the like. I was also told about the Sesshin they hold a couple of times a year. Something I may want to consider doing.
This continued for a while. I listened much more than spoke, wanting to learn about the way there, not talk about myself. It was a good conversation. I learned much of small things. I reconfirmed ideas of my own. He was not much older than me but had experience with the founder. He said this, connecting with the founder left a lasting impression. He spoke of him with great respect.
Then he asked about what kind of drills I do in my system and about Pushing hands. I showed him Tai Chi push Hands and some Chi gong drills along with one Mantis sensitivity drill. Which dealt with blocking trap and punch. We shared info, talk, and a little practice. He said he is unable to do push hand drills as he has no one to practice with. He then wanted to do Tai Chi with me. He would follow best he could he said. he had learned Yang 36. I did Yang 24, which I thought would be easier for him to follow instead of Chen style. I felt I was teaching not learning from the class. It was cool though. There is a saying one teaches, two learn. He also told me at one point his greatest pleasure came from doing volunteer work at an old folks home, teaching them simple Tai Chi. There were grateful for anything. Even if they could not do much even a small whatever they could do was helpful for them. I had been giving some thought to doing some sort of free Tai Chi/English class in my community.
We continued like this through class time. Speaking on things Zen related and Budo, of students doing the outer form of Tai Chi but not understanding the inner in a rush to complete the form. This was the same with those doing Aikido, Kendo, etc.
Then we prepared to leave. The final class was over. I felt like I had not taken a class, but learned anyway. Of course just everyday living is a class, when one’s eyes, heart and mind are open.
I thanked him after we closed and went to the office to gather my stuff and pay for a book. I could hear him chanting in the dojo as I was walking to the community room. Chanting is a big things there at Chozenji. The person I first dealt with at Chozenji was the one handling the purchases. I was getting some weird vibes from her. I noticed it earlier when I asked if would she be there after class so I could purchase a book. I wrote it off as she was perhaps in some weird mood, perhaps because of her boyfriend the young priest, and it nothing to do with me, I should just ignore it.
I had a little issue with the purchase. We had run out of money on the debit card. I had to pay with MasterCard from Japan. Ok not a big deal.
I was asked when I am leaving and did I get what I wanted out of the visit? I said tomorrow morning. No, I did not get what I wanted, I said. I was disappointed not to meet the Kyudo/shakuhachi sensei. She said, sorry when you told me in the beginning you played Shakuhachi I did not put you in touch with Honda Roshi. Hmmm I thought. However, somethings cannot be helped, this was one of them. I guess it will happen another time if it is meant to be, it will be. I said when one looks at things from a mind of gratitude, everything is all good.
I thanked her and left. It was over!
Next up final thoughts…Epilogue
Ok, so the explaining went on, finally another Japanese woman said to Ai-Chan it was getting late they should start the training…Ai-chan was energetic about talking.
Having no bow, I just stayed off to the side in front of the mirror and practice with my imaginary Yumi. Watching my shoulders. Feeling my alignment, making the best of the time…yup, rolling with it!
That evening went out with my wife to a restaurant and did the happy hour thing with her. The PuPu ( small meal, snacks) there was pretty good, we enjoyed those with a drink.
So day 4 and 5 were Pau ( Done/finished in Hawaiian).