Monday, December 13, 2010

Flea's Extremities Redux

Whoaaaa... Lao, slow down a bit, would 'ya.

What is it now, Dave?

I mean, listen, you're jumping all over the place here lately. One minute your talking about the size of a flea's... well, certain extremities, and comparing me to a fungus, and then your talking about openness unfolding. I'm just not sure i see any continuity anymore.

I haven't heard anybody else complain. Maybe it's just you?

Lao, i admit i'm no roket sciantest, and that i have a hard time reading those philosophical books like Curious George, but i can't be the only one.

OK, let's back up and run through part of it again.

Great! And slowly, OK?

So i ask you, what is a henro?

Someone who walks...


A person who goes to...


Jesus, Lao, give me a chance.

I did. Twice. And you blew it both times. A henro isn't a person, whether on Shikoku or not; whether walking or not. A person strives to become the henro, a person opens to being included in the henro, but that person alone is not the henro.


Suppose you bought an airplane ticket and flew to Shikoku tomorrow. Went to Temple One, bought all your fancy henro clothes and gear, and then walked up to the sanmon. Who is the person standing in front of that gate?

Me, as a henro.

No. You, yes. Henro, no. It's definitely you, with a thousand thoughts running through your head each minute as you try and anticipate the entire "henro experience" even before setting one foot on the trail. You're sole focus is one thing: you. How you got there, what you hope to do and see, wondering if you made the right choice in coming, wondering if you'll be a better person for having done so, wondering if you brought that snack for later, and where you're going to find lunch, wondering this, wondering that, wondering a million things — all related to you and you alone. That's not a henro.

But all that stuff you just mentioned is part of the henro's daily life. Isn't it?

Some of it, but not most. So you're standing there getting ready to start your walk. How many sections is the trail divided into? Do you remember?


And they are...?


No. That's the name of the prefectures. What are the names of the four sections of the henro trail?

Ah. Hosshin no Dōjō, Shūgyō no Dōjō, Bōdai no Dōjō, and Nehan no Dōjō.

Right. So as you start on day one you're starting in Hosshin no Dōjō. The dōjō of Hosshin, the Training Place of Hosshin. What does that mean to you? Hosshin?

Awakening Faith. The Dōjō of Awakening Faith.

That's really not a great translation and i've been meaning to tell you to change it on your website. Someday you need to do that. But, anyway, Hosshin is the Aspiration to develop Bōdaishin, or, an Awakened Mind, a Bodhisattva's Mind. It is the aspiration to become a bodhisattva. That's what you're committing to as you take your first steps in the first section of the henro trail.

I committed to that???

Yep, and according to the oldest traditions, you committed to committing suicide if you don't complete the journey.

No way!

You started this, don't blame me. So what does it take to make that kind of commitment, extremities the size of a flee or the size of a superman?

They have to be enormous!

That's right. So if you want to become a henro you can't simply walk the trail, you have to accept the enormous obligation of aspiring to open yourself 100% to bōdaishin. Aspiring to work towards complete enlightenment, to do whatever it takes, WHATEVER it takes, to become enlightened. Not for your sake, that's irrelevant, but for the sake of all sentient beings. Every last one of them.

Lao, that's a pretty big obligation.

Dōgen describes it this way in his Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki:

You should consider things only for the sake of the flourishing of the dharma and the benefit of living beings, all the time and in whatever situation. Speak after making careful consideration; act after giving attentive thought; do not act rashly. Ponder over what is reasonable in whatever situation you encounter. Our life changes moment by moment, it flows by swiftly day by day. Everything is impermanent and changing rapidly. This is the reality before our eyes. You do not need to wait for the teaching of masters or sutras to see it. In every moment, do not expect tomorrow will come. Think only of this day and this moment. Since the future is very much uncertain, and you cannot foresee what will happen, you should resolve to follow the Buddha-Way, if only for today, while you are alive. To follow the Buddha-Way is to give up your bodily life and act so as to enable the dharma to flourish and, to bring benefit to living beings.

So let's stop here for now, Dave. Think about that and we'll start again tomorrow. OK?


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