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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
spring 2006| 36 |buddhadharma nothing being dropped into my bowl. This kind of takuhatsu neurosis continued for about a year. Although this may seem like an overblown way of putting it, to get over my neurosis regarding takuhatsu, it was necessary for me to become per- sonally aware of my religious mission to society as a mendicant priest. even during that period when I was personally depressed and feeling terribly intimidated and there was so little coming into my bowl, the people of Kyoto did donate something to support me, despite the fact that in those days most people would look around for the cheapest place to buy an eggplant, even just to save one sen. during my entire life of practice, I was supported entirely by the people of Kyoto, although it used to puzzle me what motivated the local folk to put money in the bowl of a monk out on takuhatsu in the first place. One day I was taking a lunch break in the con- fines of Toji Temple. As we always had rice gruel for breakfast at Antaiji, it was not practical to prepare a lunch of leftover breakfast, so I usually bought a couple of rolls. I often ate on the grounds of a temple or shrine, or in a temple cemetery. Nowadays, the grounds at Toji are all fenced off, and they charge money just to get in. But in those days, there were no fences or places that collected entrance fees, and Toji was an ideal place to rest and eat a roll or two. Pigeons would approach, and I’d break off a little of the bread I was eating and share it with them. Watching them eat the few crumbs I tossed somehow cheered me up, particu- larly during the period when I was so depressed about going out in the first place. At some point, if I knew I would be stopping off at Toji, I got into the habit of buying an extra roll to share with the pigeons. As I was feeding the pigeons one day, I realized that I, too, was one of the pigeons of Kyoto. When the pigeons came around, people would want to feed them if they had any bread leftover, simply out of human sentiment. In the same way, if some monk happens to stop in front of your house, you might think that another one of those pigeons has come around, and you open the door and toss one or two yen into his bowl, just as you would toss bread to the birds. I realized that in a sense, I had to behave and appear attractive just like one of those Toji pigeons. ONe WAve AT A TIMe It’s a fairy tale to think that once we have attained deep faith, or have had some great enlighten- ment experience, our whole life will be one joy- ous delight after another and all sadness will be swept away, so that all we can see is paradise. Living a life of true reality, experiencing an ongo- ing restlessness with alternate moments of joy and sadness, there has to be a settling into one’s life in a much deeper place, where you face whatever comes up. Likewise, true religious teaching is not a denial of our day-to-day predicaments; it is not cleverly glossing over reality, or feigning happi- ness. On the contrary, true religious teaching has to be able to show us how we can swim through one wave at a time – that is, those waves of laugh- ter, tears, prosperity, or adversity. Studying and practicing the buddhadharma is neither a kind of academic exercise to be carried out only after your livelihood has been secured, nor some sort of zazen performed when circum- stances are favorable. I was forced to search out what true religion is when I was not unlike a stray dog, always badgered by anxieties over daily life, having to pick up whatever scraps I could. As long as we are alive, there will always be fortunate things and unfortunate things happen- ing in our lives. Inevitably, we go through times of utter collapse as well. Frequently during that period prior to throwing off my takuhatsu neuro- sis, there were days when one person after another would tell me to go away. When we settle in the attitude that whichever way our life falls we feel grateful, we can feel the varying textures of fortune and misfortune in terms of joy and bitterness during the day’s walk. If we look at humankind from a long view of bil- lions of years, this animal called Homo sapiens is nothing more than a single existence that suddenly appeared in this universe and will leave it without a trace. A single day in the life of this very small human species is just one tiny joy, one minute of bitterness. Without an attitude that whatever hap- pens is OK, we are going to wind up neurotic. Still, even though whatever may happen is OK, if you do not apply any businesslike principle to your activities, even to one like takuhatsu, you will end up a fool. Going the Middle Way between the neurotic and the fool is precisely what doing takuhatsu is about. WHy GO OUT ON TAKUHATSU? Most of the stories I have related here about taku- hatsu don’t sound very religious, so I would like to close on a slightly more serious note about why takuhatsu is a vital activity for a person who chooses to live out genuine religious teachings. during all the years I went out on takuhatsu, this was always a fundamental question: Why go out? As I’ve said before, takuhatsu is a kind of donation collection. There is no merchandise, no product or gift to offset the donation. It is just walking around accepting charity. Because of that, if I had been unable to totally accept myself as a beggar, I would have continued to suffer emotionally. Many times, especially when I was neurotic about it, I thought how much easier it When an able-bodied male is just walking around begging for money, people look at him with contempt. Enduring that look is far more difficult than enduring some half-baked job.