Monday, May 20, 2019

Shūgyō no Dōjō (v1)

As we enter Kōchi Prefecture, i remind myself of what i wrote twenty years ago:


Shūgyō no Dōjō
The Dōjō of Religious Discipline
(Temples 24 to 39)

By now, whether you intended it or not, you are awake. By the time you reach the border of Kōchi Prefecture you are aware that something is happening to you. You are more aware of what you are doing. More aware of the people you are meeting. More aware of living. Not just existing, not just being. But living. And this awareness is probably making a difference in your life.

The Dōjō of Religious Discipline. It is a little hard to imagine what the holy men and women of old went through as they walked this trail if you stay in a warm and dry room every night. If you are guaranteed dinner each night and breakfast each morning. It is hard to imagine as you put on the high-tech rain suit each time the rain starts to fall. Hard to imagine as you stop in another coffee shop just to get out of the weather or cold.

But, even with all of the luxury it is possible to discipline yourself. Some important and interesting changes have occurred in your mind as you walked from temple to temple over the past week. By now you realize that you are alive. Maybe you have come to realize that, just like there is more to this pilgrimage than just walking from temple to temple, there is more to life than just getting from day to day. Being alive isn't what life is about — living is what life is about.

You now have an entire prefecture to walk through while you contemplate this, and several weeks to reinforce what you have realized.


Practice. Like it or not, everything in life comes down to this one simple truth — if you want to get good at something you have to practice. If you want to master something you have to practice that something A LOT. And Buddhism is no different. It's not good enough to simply read book after book about Buddhism. It's not good enough to simply go listen to teachers babble on about the subject. The books and teachers can only tell you about their experience of the path and pass on what their teachers told them.

But to actually walk the path, to actually make your life the path, to someday come to the understanding that your life is nothing but the path......then you need to practice. You need the Dōjō of Religious Discipline.

It doesn't matter if you start with the Buddhist Precepts, the Yoga Yamas and Niyamas, or any other school's admonitions, but by this point of our walk we understand that we are not isolated individuals, moving around the island encapsulated in shells that no one can penetrate. We are part and parcel of everyone we meet and everything we see. Our pilgrimage isn't just the physical walk around the island, but that plus all the experiences we have from moment to moment, with everyone we meet day after day. And to facilitate the smoothness of our constant interactions with this whole, we practice non-violence, truthfulness, and the other admonitions.

We now see that just existing was never a satisfying way to lead a life. Living is what this game is about. Even if you lock yourself in a monastery and meditate half of every day, your main goal is still living. If you think enlightenment or liberations is other than that, then, well,......i hope you have a huge store of good zafu, because you're going to be sitting there for a long time until you figure it out. Living is the activity we are trying to perfect, not sitting.

There is one quote in Minoru Kiyota's Shingon Buddhism that i have always loved. At first blush it seems too simple to even highlight, so obvious that you read right over it without a single notice. But when completely understood and integrated, it changes the way you practice. "...[W]e must remind ourselves that though practice...specifically refers to the practice to eliminate one's own klesa, the elimination of klesa (e.g. hate) cannot be accomplished only through a realization of a new conceptual horizon (e.g. non-hate). Mental state does indeed shape action but action in turn shapes mental state. The perfection of a state of non-hate requires not only the elimination of the notion of hate but also the practice of non-hate."
(my underline)

That's what this prefecture is for: advancing past the intellectual ideas about our practice and into the non-intellectual arena of practice itself. This means working with the mind, and as we spend more and more time coming to an understanding of what our mind is and how it works, there will come a day when the buddha-state will manifest itself in your life.

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