The following article was first published in the Journal of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and is reproduced here with some edits.
In early April I’ll be high above the Canadian Rockies and a few days later, after a brief stop in Vancouver, I’ll land at Tokyo, Narita. There Iain Robinson, a British lay minister who lives in Japan, will meet me. This will mark the start of a two-month pilgrimage to Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. Iain will accompany me in Japan and China. Points of call will include Dharma relatives and temples associated with our tradition in these countries. I’ll be arriving back at London Heathrow in early June on route for Throssel. The underlying question is, “Why do this? Why leave the comfort of the known?” For anybody who is poised on the brink of a next step, small or large, this sort of questioning can often be part of the process of taking it. Here is my story, so far.
The original inspiration came from a simple welling up of gratitude towards the Ancestors of our tradition. Looking closer, I found a reservoir of gratitude associated with being joined to the line of ancestors and having a proven path to follow. What a gift! At that time I saw myself offering incense and making bows at Keidō Chisan Kohō Zenji’s grave at Sōjiji, Japan. That was four years ago and thoughts of following through with the incense offering have come and gone within the ebb and flow of daily life. The thought of travelling to Japan was essentially filed under, ‘maybe one day’. Now, however, all conditions seem to have ripened on their own, unbidden, and this is the time to take to the sky.
For me, the essence of practice is to point forwards and answer the call of the day, do the very best one can, and know contentment in that. There is a sufficiency in this that does not require more. However, we all know that while this may sound simple, training is not easy. On the practical level just preparing for this journey is no easy matter, as would be the case for anybody to carve out two empty months. On a deeper level, the preparations present constant challenges to dive beyond the arising fears. I am in no doubt that this pilgrimage is an act of exercising faith, every step of the way.
While there are a number of known reasons for this journey, in essence, the fundamental purpose of taking it remains a mystery. For me, this is not a problem. At heart, facing life is every person’s unspoken story, a life journey of moving from the known to ‘unknowing’.
I currently do not have a permanent home temple; however, you are welcome to visit my personal web site Jade Mountains where you will find articles chronicling my progress as well as details of my schedule while I am travelling for the next five months.
If you are encouraged and inspired by what you read here, that is good. If you are poised at the brink of a next step, as I am, then raise your foot and the road will appear before you. Be willing to not know where that step will lead.