You may have read in the news that there was a serious train crash in Japan in which 50 people died. Thankfully Iain and I arrived back safely to be met at the station by Edera who had come in the car to pick us up. While we were traveling these past 9 days Edera has been invaluable, if not essential, to the smooth flowing of our travels. Many thanks Edera, we could not have done it without you.
It is good to be back to daily life in the Robinson household where Edera teaches English to school children in the living room, which is converted to a school room when the youngsters are here. Tonight three teenage boys were sharpening their English skills on me, “where do you come from?”, “who do you most admire?”, “what is your favourate food”? etc. Ordinary life in this home is a good counterpoint to the encounters of the past days where we have been sitting drinking tea and eating cake in awe inspiring circumstances. Not in my wildest imaginings did I think there would be such a wonderful welcome given in temples and by senior monks in the Soto Zen School. Not to mention the individuals, lay and monastic, who showed such kindness in so many practical ways.
I will not write much more now as it is time to take a bath and get a good nights sleep.
During the day as I get on and off buses, walk round temples, eat meals etc. small events catch my attention and I think ‘now that would be good to write about’, however now faced with the blank screen…my mind goes blank!
Being in the presence of 1001 statues of Kanzeon and about that many school children was interesting and memorable. The power of that many images of Kanzeon completely over-took everything else going on in the hall. It was deeply moving.
Sitting gazing out across raked gravel and rocks at Ryoanji’s famous zen rock garden was equally moving. There is no explaining it, I could have sat there all day even with the crowds rising and falling around me.
You might want to go and read one of the comments attached to the posting titled Eiko. Edera, Iains wife, kindly translated a posting Eiko had put on her blog around the time we had lunch at her place. Eiko is a cook we might want to take example from in terms of her attitude of mind as well as her wonderful ability to make food that feeds not only the body.
While the destination(s) each day are significant in that they are temples where my spiritual ancestors took important steps in their lives, the journey there holds or contains important steps in my life. Today was no exception.
We pointed ourselves at Mt Hiei rising 4000 ft. out of the valley where Kyoto spreads itself. Dogen Zenji was ordained on this mountain at Enrakuji as a boy of about 12. We saw the ordination platform where this took place, it being perhaps the oldest building on the mountain. There were a vast number of buildings, many steps up and down, all the while a huge bell was being rung by devout pilgrims. Sitting by the ordination platform one got a sense of our tradition stretching back into distant time, to China and India where the Buddha taught over 2500 years ago. Yes, certainly a deep sense of continuity shown, or connected with, on todays journeying.
One thinks of a mountain of that size as being bare at the top with rock outcrops, not so with Mt. Hiei. We took a somewhat unusual route by bus and train and then two separate cable car rides. And then…no temples! There are several temples scattered in the heavily forested hill side, but we had come in via the ‘back door’. Following a party of pilgrims we found ourselves at the very top of the mountain scrambling on uneven ground, nothing dangerous by the way. Eventually we caught up with the party and since they knew the way we walked into the first temple via the ancestors grave yard, very impressive.
Later in town we went to Kennin-ji, a Rinzai temple near the centre of Kyoto, where Dogen departed from to travel to China with Myozen when he was 21. While we were on the tour a young monk ran after us saying “Dragon ceiling” and proceeded to escort us to the hall where indeed there were dragons painted on the ceiling, very impressive. It was the first time we encountered Zen gardens and I must say I really like them! Watch out for pictures when we get a chance to publish them next week.