Monday, February 27, 2012

Henroroku 3

遍路録 3


The Prologue
The foundation stone is now in place.

It couldn't be any closer. You and I will never, ever, see it, but it is seen at all times by one and all.

The Main Case
"You're a monk walking the henro trail, i'm a farmer clearing weeds. Where is the confusion?" "Everything is my family." At first puzzled, slowly Mōsō's eyes opened wider.

"Could it..." he started to ask himself, then stopped.

Rushing back to the rice field he found the old woman still at work on the edge of her field. "What did you mean when you said..." he started...

Cutting him off in mid-sentence, the old woman shot her question at him, "Have you seen the Daishi at Tairyūji?"

Startled into silence, Mōsō replied, "Yes, I saw him."

"Then walk to Byōdōji," the woman replied and turned around to continue working.

Suddenly, Mōsō saw the opening. Bowing almost to the ground as tears of gratitude ran from his eyes, he also turned around, and started walking to Temple 22.

The Capping Verse
Ready for picking
The fruit drops with just a touch
The right time is now


Mōsō (妄想) wanted this so, so badly. Maybe too badly. He was willing to look anywhere for the answers to the questions that Master Chie (知恵) asked him continuously, ever since he had become his disciple many years ago.

There were days where he could almost taste it, as if there was a hint of a flavor on the tip of his tongue, daring him to open his mouth and swallow, but when he looked, he saw nothing new, nothing different.

"STOP!," his master would shout at him. "Stop looking for something new, something different. Stop looking for something! Just open your mouth and swallow." But he wasn't able to do that, and he ached inside from the desire to see.

Then, coming down from Tairyūji, he met the old woman in the rice field and something about the way she looked at him brought that taste to his mouth. She didn't look at him as much as she seemed to look right through him, as if she was seeing something in him that even he didn't see.

"You're a monk walking the henro trail, i'm a farmer clearing weeds. Where is the confusion?" That's what she had said. Where was his confusion?, he thought. Where? Then he remembered her other words, "Everyone in town is my family. Every henro that passes by is my family. The birds on the mountain you just descended are my family. This rice paddy is my family. What isn't my family?"

"What isn't my family?" "You're a monk, i'm a farmer."

And then that taste grew stronger. It was there, so strong it made his mouth water. He could see that the answer was there and he needed to ask the old woman one more question.

Rushing back to the rice field he found the old woman still at work on the edge of her field. "What did you mean when you said..." he started...

But the woman didn't let him finish, she shot out, straight for his jugular. Cutting him off in mid-sentence, she asked him, "Have you seen the Daishi at Tairyūji?"

Startled, Mōsō's head went silent. Everything just came to a stop. "Yes, I saw him," he replied without even thinking. He wasn't bewildered, just open, completely open. Her sudden question had shut him up and ripped his heart wide open.

Seeing that her first shot had just skinned the surface, she shot a second arrow. Ripping skin wasn't what he needed, he needed a deep flesh wound. "Then walk to Byōdōji." And with that, she had done all she could. She had inflicted the wound, it was now up to the monk to inspect the wound. With that, she went back to work.

And the second shot had, in fact, hit the mark. Mōsō had taken the arrow right in the chest and his legs wobbled. The old woman had shaken him awake, or at least shaken his eyes open. It was only a glimpse, but he had seen. I'm a monk, she's a farmer, what isn't my family. Oh so clear.

And with that, Mōsō did the only thing he could do, the only thing he should do: he turned around and began the walk to Byōdōji.

And there is the million dollar question, what had Mōsō seen? What had become "oh so clear?" He had finally been able to swallow, yet it hadn't been done with his mouth. Or his eyes. Or his ears or nose. It had been done, but not by any particular sense. In fact, nothing had been done... yet something was accomplished.

As a hint, there are two ways to look at the old woman's final, fatal shot, "Then walk to Byōdōji." Walking is our practice on the henro trail. We visit one temple and then move on and walk to the next. After worshiping at Tairyūji the natural and obvious thing to do is to begin walking to Byōdōji. Don't think about it, don't analyze it, don't look forward to it or dread it; just do it, with no further thought. That's our practice as henro. Just walk.

However, "Just walk" is also all there is to the buddhadharma. That's it. Just walk. When you stop at the convenience store to buy your bento for lunch, just buy. Open your can of Aquarius and then just drink. That's it: “Just.” Everything is included, nothing is left out. The entirety of your life is nothing but “just walk.” That is all there is to the Buddha's teachings, visiting Tairyūji, walking, eating, talking, sleeping. That's it. That's everything and nothing, but it's the entire story.

The Journey, like this walk of 1,400 km, is not about finding something, it's about letting go of everything so you can see clearly what you already are. And, to accomplish that requires a new level of acceptance that most people aren't used to. Acceptance of yourself as you are, acceptance of "what is," as it is, and acceptance of the daily routine of “just walking” day in, day out, day after day, with no though of reward or accomplishment. No thought of pain or pleasure, No thought of gain or loss, No though of fame or slander. Just walking.

Nothing happens without acceptance as your first offering. Offer you opinions, beliefs, preconceived notions, ideologies, religion, and politics. Offer everything you ever believed yourself to be, everything you ever believed everything else to be. Offer everything you have and everything you are. Offer your belief in dualities and accept nothing in return. Only then, as Mōsō found out, are you open enough to receive that nothing, which you will do, believe it or not, with open arms and a broad smile.

There is nothing to be found on this walk, nothing that can be revealed, because there is nothing hidden. Open your eyes and see, but stop looking for something! See that nothing.

As Mōsō continued his walk to Byōdōji, and then on to Yakuōji and Bangai 4, Saba Daishi, his world was different. Now out of the mountains the walk was easy. Along the beaches life was pleasant. Now he realized there never had been any mountains, there aren't any beaches. There is no highway, no henro, no temples. There was no old woman any more than there was a monk. How could he not have seen that before?

Without putting words to it, Mōsō now knew that "Reality" was nothing but a projection of his thoughts. The world, in the grandest sense of that word, has no meaning outside of his mind's experience and interpretation of it. He understood that if he changed the meaning he assigned to anything he changed the experience of it. And by changing the experience, he actually changed reality, he changed the world.

Mōsō "saw" that of the millions and millions of sights that appeared to his eyes throughout the day, he had been mentally selecting only those that had, for whatever reason, interested him and thus forced him to acknowledge and record them. And the same with the millions of sounds that reached his ears, smells and tastes that accosted his nose and tongue, and the millions of tactile sensations that touched his body, whether the touch of his shirt and pants, his back pack, the wind, the heat of the sun or the chill of the shade, a bug, an itch. He continuously received sensations yet was selecting which one's to acknowledge based on the filters that he had built in his mind over the years.

Mōsō had come to realize that the world was completely his construction — his and his alone. Everyone he talked to, everything he said, everything he did, everything he thought, … everything... was of his making. There were no exceptions. And each and everyone of us does the same, in our own way, with our own thoughts, driven by our own beliefs, produced by our own experiences from the moment we were born. Each and every one of us inhabits a different world.

And yet, and yet, we all inhabit the same world. Or, a little more accurately, we don't. No one inhabits anything because there is only this and we are that, each and every one of us. There is no world, there is no me that inhabits it, nor is there a you. There is no world. There is just this. And for us henro, that this is the Henro Trail.

Once you commit to walking the trail, as Mōsō did, you do so with that attitude of acceptance. And while acceptance is the first step, this must be accompanied by internal generosity. External generosity, the willingness to share, to give, to offer what you once might have considered as yours, is the the opposite of selfishness The opposite of internal generosity, though, is self-centeredness, or self-cherishing. It is for this reason that attaining the stage where you can be generous to yourself is such a liberating feeling — you are allowing yourself freedom; free to be all that you can be, free to exceed any previous limitations you put on your own potential, free to be anything, free to be everything. Free to Be, which is what you really are at the deepest level, at the very core of you. External generosity is a freedom to give of yourself.; internal generosity is a freedom to be yourself. Do you see the difference? Even selfish people have the freedom to give, anyone can do that. But, very few people realize the freedom to Be. The freedom to let go and become everything. The freedom to blossom as a cherry blossom in the spring and to enchant people's lives as the multi-colored momiji in the hills of Arashiyama in the fall.

This is why the Perfection of Generosity is one of the most important of the paramitas. Without generosity, both external and internal, the path is blocked. So, once on the henro trail you first open your heart to external generosity, sharing yourself with everyone you meet. With just a little time, though, you begin to be generous with yourself, allowing yourself to be yourself, allowing yourself to be what you are, with all the bumps and wrinkles that includes.

Which brings us back to Mōsō. In his new world, he was no longer a henro and special. Everyone was a henro. There were no more difficult sections of the trail to walk. No more easy sections to walk. There was no trail or not-trail. There was just walking. There was no more farmer in her field or monk walking. And as he continued walking through the last of this first prefecture, tears filled his eyes in gratitude to his teacher and that old woman in the field.

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