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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 39 AS SHE POURED TEA one evening after zazen, Oku-sama overheard me saying I was making plans to return to Hawaii, and she commented, “Hawaii is very beautiful, but if you want to study Zen, Japan is the place for it.” Yamada Roshi sat in his favorite chair listening to Beethoven and said nothing to contradict her, so I assumed he agreed. I then told them that I would be coming back to Japan within the year, something I really had no intention of doing. I had gradually become burnt out from the stress of living in such a foreign foreign country. I also felt like an imposter after my “small but promising” kensho, in that I didn’t feel I really understood anything, but I certainly didn’t want anyone, let alone Yamada Roshi, to know this. That night I had settled into an extra serene two hours of samadhi in the zendo. But as I now sipped my tea in the Yamadas’ house, I began to feel the dreaded and familiar sensation of my “I” slipping away that I felt so often after sama- dhi. Yamada Roshi mentioned something about renewing my visa, and I heard his words as if they were both magnified a thousand times and also somehow echoing across a wide and distant chasm. I felt the world closing in, my breathing becoming more and more labored, my pulse now pounding in my ears. Every fear and anxiety I had ever felt about my existence had formed into a fiery, molten ball that threatened to explode all over the living room walls. It was the polar opposite of the big bang of Great Enlightenment I had long hoped for. I got up and rushed outside, drenched in sweat. I had just had a full-blown panic attack in my teacher’s living room, and this presented a genu- ine crisis in my continued practice with him—that ➤ continued page 81