Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nehan no Dōjō (v1)

And finally, the last 20 year rememberance...

Nehan no Dōjō
The Dōjō of Nirvana
(Temples 66 to 88)

If you find yourself spending any time as you enter this last prefecture thinking about nehan and whether or not you're about there, then you had better just get on a bus, go back to Temple 1, and start all over again.

Remember those blisters back in the first few weeks? Nehan. Remember those freezing mornings in Tokushima-ken? Nehan. Remember those trucks that almost ran you off the road? Or, those long, polluted, and noisy tunnels you had to walk through? Nehan. By the same token, you were also there when you visited with that wonderful minshuku owner late into the night over tea, and when that lady on the side of the road gave you oranges as settai, and when that man offered you a ride while it was raining, and when that shop owner didn't charge you for the ramen you had for lunch. Nehan, nehan, and more nehan. Stop searching and wondering. Stop trying to put it in a place. Stop trying to make it something.

Kagawa Prefecture has been three prefectures in one for me on several occasions. As i enter the prefecture on the way down from Temple 66, it is exciting — i'm finally nearing the end; i'm about to succeed in this huge goal. Then on the other hand, as i leave Temple 87, it starts to sink in that at the next temple this journey will be over. Yes, of course i have to walk back to Temple 1 to complete the circle, but the journey to all 88 temples will very soon be finished.

Finally, during the day and a half walk back to Temple 1, all becomes intensely quiet inside. Even more quiet than on the best days on the rest of the walk. I attribute this to the fact that that planning, organizing, and comparing corner of my mind no longer has a job to do; temporarily it is completely out of a job, so it simply shuts down; goes to sleep. And my world gets very beautifully quiet. There's nothing i need to plan, nothing i need to prepare for, nothing i need to think about or analyze, no schedule to look at, no maps to pour over, no temples to get to. There is absolutely nothing to do except walk and my body can do that on autopilot.

This is a beautiful way to be. I find it more alluring than 'being' on my zafu. On the cushion, life is reduced to nothing more than Life, Being in its most basic aspect. But in my hiking boots i can find that same place, while at the same time being fully aware that i am alive, fully aware that that part of me called Dave (or Lao Bendan, if you will) isn't an accidental afterthought — he is also a part of who i am.

I think that is the lesson i want people to take away from this fourth dōjō: This search for emptiness that we will look at as we make the turn at Temple 1 and begin again doesn't mean, or entail, giving up that personality that brought you to the island in the first place. In other places i have talked about tucking that personality in your back pocket as you begin the walk, not throwing it away, or leaving it behind. You'll need that personality to function as you make your way around the island, you'll need that personality to successfully interact with everyone you meet. But, you can easily pull it out of your back pocket whenever you need it, and then stick it back in when you are done using it.

When we get back to Temple 1, take some time to celebrate, grab a cold beer at dinner wherever you spend the night. Revel your peers and hosts with stories of everything you've done and seen while doing the walk. Enjoy the accomplishment. Then get a good nights sleep.

But keep in mind everything we talked about as we made the first circuit. This is a walk of the mind. In fact, what we just finished could be called Mind Control 101; now we move up to Mind Control 201. This is a walk where we are learning to control our mind and how we use it. Is the thinking, labeling, judging mind relentlessly spinning, churning out useless nonsense? Or, have you learned to notice what it is up to and made some progress in letting it settle down. Letting it settle into stillness.

As we make that final final stretch back to the starting point, take some time to look inside. Pull that ego out of your back pocket and look long and hard at it. Is it something permanent, always abiding? Or, is it something that only comes into existence when you act, think, or speak? And if you perform no actions (doing, thinking, or speaking) is that ego anywhere to be found? If you look long and hard enough you will see that with no actions there is nothing you can call a mind, and with no mind, there is no ego, no you anywhere to be found.

That doesn't mean you'll disappear, or fall over dead, but it does mean that the you that brought you here isn't the you that has to do this walk. Once you see that, stick it back in your pocket, smile at the sun, and head down the trail.

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