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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 33 |spring 2006 tobacco in long, reedlike pipes – pretty despicable, I admit. In those days, Antaiji looked gruesome. The tatami in my room were completely torn up, with straw popping out of them here and there. And the floor joists supporting the tatami were as soft as cushions. Twice I fell right through the floor. I just took a couple of orange crates that were lying around and used them to prop up the joists. The normally white-papered shoji looked like a patchwork quilt with slips of paper pasted over the holes. But what could I do? I had neither the money nor the time to make any proper repairs. Antaiji was truly a dreary and desolate place in those days. This made it imperative that I put all my energy into takuhatsu. Although it would seem to be nothing more than walking around shouting, “Ho~~~!” when you go out on takuhatsu, you are risking your life. One little mistake in judgment and you’re liable to find yourself sprawled out on the street, having been hit by a car, with one-yen coins scattered all around. Moreover, the emotional burden is incredible. When an able-bodied male is just walking around begging for money, people look at him with con- tempt. enduring that look is far more difficult than enduring some half-baked job. And in the end, the amount received is barely a pittance. Besides that, while the monk on takuhatsu is the very last person to receive any material benefits when times are good, he is the very first to feel any economic downturn. By the mid-1950’s, people mostly thought the war was completely behind them, but for people like us, the war was barely over. Occasionally, on late autumn days, Sodo and I would trudge back to the temple as the sun was going down and see a praying mantis clinging to the shoji along the west side of the building. The mantises, themselves yellowish brown in color, looked like withered leaves. They would be warm- ing themselves in the last rays of the day. The man- tis finishes laying its eggs in late September, and from then until about the middle of November, it seems to search out a warm spot, sitting there through chilling winds and showers as though just waiting for the end to come. I always got a lump in my throat when I came across a praying mantis in the late fall. With all worldly connections cut off, just living the whole of its life by itself, breathing in and out and cling- ing there, not moving, waiting for death – somehow the image of that mantis at a dilapidated temple at the end of autumn was equally a picture of us. Sodo, too, must have been deeply moved by this, because he composed the following verse: Autumn mantis clinging to the white paper I glued to the shoji where did it come from and where did it go? These sad and lonely thoughts came and went in our hearts, but it isn’t really right to use the plural “in our hearts” here. each of us had to bear his own life, in his own heart. Sodo was living out his life, and I was living out mine. We were side by side in this life at Antaiji, and at the same time, each of us was completely alone. Such thoughts came and went for each of us. They were part of the scenery of Sodo’s life of shikantaza, just as they were for me. Precisely because takuhatsu was a part of our overall life, which centered around sitting zazen, it was a life of entrusting our lives to the bowl completely. If there had been no zazen and only begging, my life would have been nothing more than a pitiable life of poverty. KyOTO’S OTHeR MeNdICANTS Many of the major Rinzai training monasteries in Japan, like daitokuji, Myoshinji, and Nanzenji are located in Kyoto. The monks go out on taku- hatsu through the streets of the city, all of them carrying bags around their necks with the name of the monastery clearly written on the front of them. Occasionally, when I stopped in front of a shop, some woman would come out and ask politely, “Oh, are you from Myoshinji?” “No,” I would reply, “I’m from Antaiji.” Suddenly, the bright, friendly smile would disappear from her face, and with a very skeptical eye, she would look me up and down and deftly place a one-yen coin in my bowl instead of the ten-yen coin she had been preparing to give me. At times like that, Once you start down the path of poverty, there seems to be no limit to how far down you can go. If there had been no zazen and only begging, my life would have been nothing more than a pitiable life of poverty. donfarber