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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 55 rooms; the big weekend service is held in an elemen- tary school cafeteria. The funeral home will have to do. Saturday. Timelessness. A beautiful autumn day, hot and clear. I walk up a butte with two of my clos- est friends to stand under the blue sky in the golden grass. Wildfire smoke trickles through the air to the east. He was a guide at first; he became indispens- able. Then, slowly and without words, he taught me to live without him. I want to ask him how he knew. Sunday morning, more than a hundred people fill the school cafeteria for zazen and a short ser- vice. Then we hold a silent shosan ceremony, the traditional public questioning of the teacher. On the other side of the bowing mat, instead of my teacher of thirty-one years sits his photograph, his whisk laid in front. One by one, each person walks up and asks a question with the ritual opening, “Kyogen, hear!” His answers are silent. Many say a simple thank you and others whisper; a few are angry, many are confused. And some are satisfied with their answer and others are not and step aside only with reluctance, waiting for the words that will not come. At the funeral home, a team swarms the meeting room to set up an elaborate altar and a wall of pho- tographs and carry in the big taiko drum. David, the funeral director, is a patient, quiet man who meets our every request with grace. He wheels a gurney with the body into a small room where I wait with Kakumyo, Gyokuko, and Jyoshin, one of Kyogen’s monastic disciples and the current head trainee. Kyogen is dressed in a plastic coverall suit; the tissue service took his long bones and a lot of skin and the heart valves, and his body is not the same. We have to dress him in the white kimono over the coverall, rolling and pulling and tugging; the body gurgles and sighs, and the room fills with an odd smell. His skin feels like damp wax and his fingers are wrinkled and shrunken and won’t hold the mala right. Do not look away. I think of our long line of ancestors, name after name; I imagine them gurgling and loosening their hold just like this, the skandhas unwinding like a braid. I imagine grieving disciples preparing them for the fire. For a moment, I feel one with every broken human being consigned DaviDrobinson Students of Kyogen Carlson and visiting teachers perform prostrations at the crematorium ➤ continued page 82