Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Going To A Striptease!

Dave, you're back.

Of course, i said i would be. But, you know.... i've been thinking about that 'committing to commit suicide if i don't succeed' thing. Are you serious about that?

Of course. Why do you think you wear white while walking the trail? White symbolizes death, it's your death clothing so, if you die while on the trail, naturally or by your own hand, all people have to do is bury you where they found you. As you start the walk, you are committing to finish the process or die trying.

In a way, though, you're lucky. The marathon monks of Mt. Hiei who walk 1000 days of pilgrimage over 7 years have to carry a knife and a rope with them each day. This takes the symbolism one step further; they are actually carrying the weapons in case they need them. Shikoku henro don't have to go this far. Fortunately or unfortunately.

OK, i get that; it's sort of creepy, but i get it. I was also wondering about the aspiration part you were talking about. If i aspire to become a bodhisattva, how do i do that?

'You' don't, the henro does; so as you walk, as the henro begins to appear, the aspiration begins to take hold. As you set out, the conditioned person that you are is still in the forefront, still predominant in everything you say, think, and do. What you see is still largely decided by what you expect to see. The types of people you meet is still largely determined by the types of people you expect to meet. The experiences you have are still mostly evaluated against how you expect to experience the trail.

It takes time to chip away at these stories and beliefs, conditioning has buried the real you under a great many thick layers and it's not easy to dig through those. But, as you follow the very simple daily routine of getting up, walking, and going to bed, day after day, week after week a change slowly takes place.

That sounds too simple.

Yes and no, it's both simple and difficult. It's simple in the sense that it takes no effort other than a willingness to try and the determination to persist. It's difficult because it goes against everything that you've ever been taught; it turns everything you've been taught about yourself and the world on it's head.

How's that?

The main task of the walk through the first section of the trail is to slowly work 'you' out of your system, to remove your stories about yourself from the definition of who you are. In your case, even after a few days the person taking each step on the henro trail is still 'Dave,' a white, older, educated, athletic, unemployed, male, American who likes to read, travel, run, and ride his bicycle, among dozens and dozens of other identities we could dredge up if we took the time, and some of which aren't all that pretty.

Those aren't stories, those are who i am. I didn't make them up, they're obvious.

No, they seem obvious, but they aren't really who you are. The task in the Hosshin no Dōjō is to see those identities as the fictitious stories that they are. To see them as layers of clothing that have been given to you ever since you were born and that you willingly agreed to put on, because they felt comfortable, because they helped you blend in with everyone else, because they helped you feel safe, because they fit the image you were already building for yourself, or any number of other reasons.

Once on the trail, though, you begin a slow striptease, taking off one layer at a time until you finally get down to the clothes you were born in. That's the hard part i talked about, willingly letting go of who you think you are, even letting go of what you think are your good points, letting go even of everything you think is valuable and worth holding on to. Stripping down to the bare essentials so that in the other three sections of the trail you can put on more appropriate clothing.

It sounds like you're asking me to become a zombie. I'm a person, i have an identity. Everyone has an identity.

True, but only to a point and i'll come back to that. But, as you progress along the henro trail you will come to see that there isn't a person walking the trail, there is just walking the trail, there is just an experience unfolding, continuously, and the walker is no more and no less than a part of that experience.

As you progress through the first section of the trail you'll get glimpses of that truth, but most of the time you'll still go to bed at night firmly entrenched in the person you were at Temple One, the person you like, the person you're comfortable with. After a few weeks, though, you'll begin to spend more and more time near the border between both worlds, between who you think you are and an experience. Once you can stay on that side of the line where the walker and the experience are one and the same, then, and only then, do you leave the hiking trail and enter the henro trail. And that's when you enter the Shūgyō no Dōjō.

But what....

No, enough for today. Go mull this over until tomorrow and then ask me your question.

No comments: