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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 31 |spring 2006 life of zazen and takuhatsu – takuhatsu being the Japanese Zen term for the begging rounds that a monk undertakes to sustain himself and his mon- astery. He was a Soto Zen priest, but an iconoclast within that school who cared only for practicing and transmitting true dharma. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Uchiyama Roshi no longer needed to do takuhatsu. He became the abbot of Antaiji and led a practice of intensive zazen and sesshins, and he lectured and wrote extensively. In his later years, after retiring from Antaiji, he continued to write, more poetry than prose, as he explored what it was like to be at the farthest reaches of a long life. Through his long and distinguished life, Uchiyama Roshi was a true man of Zen, who guided and inspired a great many people. According to him, the religious life was the most refined and distilled practice of life for human beings. He felt it was imperative to bring this understanding to the United States, both because we need it badly here and because he thought we would be recep- tive to it. The following is an excerpt from an essay Uchiyama Roshi wrote in the late 1960’s on his life of mendicancy in Kyoto. He called it Nakiwarai no Takuhatsu, “The Takuhatsu of Laughter Through the Tears.” Roshi said that one reason he wrote Laughter Through the Tears was to thank all the people in Kyoto who had supported him during those difficult postwar years of his practice. Uchiyama Roshi suffered from the effects of tuberculosis throughout his life. On March 13, 1998, at the age of eighty-six, he passed away qui- etly at his home at Noke-in Hermitage, in Kohata, a suburb of Kyoto. He is much missed, but his wisdom and great heart live on. — Daitsu Tom Wright & Jisho Warner The famous Japanese Zen monk Ryokan lived by takuhatsu and wrote about it in his poems. Picture a warm spring day, the flowers in full bloom, the warblers singing away, and beautiful butterflies flitting here and there. That surely must have been the setting for Ryokan’s walks through country villages from one farmhouse to the next. Children ran in delight to greet their familiar play- mate. Ryokan, always happy to see the chil- dren, would put down his bowl and join in the children’s games. Poor Ryokan, the day would pass quickly while he was absorbed in the games with the chil- dren, completely unaware that all his rice was being eaten by the sparrows. The deep resonating sound of a nearby temple bell would announce the end of the day. The light of the early evening moon shone brightly after all the children had gone home. Ryokan would feel a tinge of loneliness and head toward his own grass hut. Suddenly, he’d turn and run back to the vil- lage where he vaguely remembered having left his bowl hours before. Just picturing Ryokan all flustered and return- ing to the village to fetch the bowl can’t help but bring a smile to my face. Of course, I would have liked my takuhatsu to have been that sort of idyllic, simple kind, too. Unfortunately, the reality of my life of takuhatsu was anything but that. In fact, it was the extreme opposite of the idyllic, simple takuhatsu lifestyle. If you go out on takuhatsu and can do so with the attitude of “Well, if people put something in my bowl, that’s fine, and if they don’t that’s okay, too,” then you can say that your takuhatsu is ideal with no complications. However, I was unable to do that. I was dead serious about it, and I couldn’t hide my feelings. As long as I was going out, I felt I just had to bring home a certain amount of money – I had my quota to fill. Not only that, I felt I had to do it in the most efficient way, because I needed to get back to the temple as quickly as pos- sible. So my story becomes even more pathetic. It wasn’t because I wanted to take a rest that I desired to get right back to the temple. Rather, besides takuhatsu, I had a lot of other work to do that made my going out all the more impor- tant. Knowing how much work was waiting for me at the temple, there was no way I could ever feel that what I was doing was in any way “spiri- tually uplifting.” But everyone in the world has Daitsu tom Wright anD Jisho Warner co-translateD Kosho uchiyama roshi’s memoir, the taKuhatsu of laughter through the tears, Which is excerpteD here. Wright Was orDaineD by uchiyama roshi in 1974 anD is a professor of english at ryuKoKu university in Kyoto, Japan. Warner is heaD teacher at the soto creeK Zen center in sebastopol, california. donfarber Kosho Uchiyama Roshi at age 86, shortly before he died.