I recently traveled to
Japan to visit Hokyoji Monastery where I trained for many years under my
teacher, Dochosan (Shinkai TanakaRoshi).
I had not been back for eight years.
Time has flown by like a dream.
Returning to the monastery where so much had happened was filled with
poignancy. We have all had this type of
experience: perhaps returning to the
town where you grew up or attending a reunion, maybe meeting an old lover, or
returning to the old house where long ago children merrily ran about.
Our present moments so
often pass us by unappreciated as we strive to keep up with the activities of
our busy lives. Often the days go by
without our awareness of how fleeting time really is. All our current situations will be gone with
time, the people with whom we share our life will be gone, and we will be gone.
Our life is really a very short time, even if we live to be 100 years old.
It was wonderful to be
present at this Hokyoji reunion with my brother monks with whom I had shared
such a wealth of experience. For these
brief few days my brother monks returned to our home monastery in order to
attend and prepare a very important ceremony for our teacher. In some moments it almost felt like no time
had passed at all. We knew each other so
well that we could readily function together in all the preparations. But, at the same time there was also in the
background the awareness that we were here for only a day or two and that we
might never be together in this way again.
It was a revisit to our past, a heartfelt embrace of all that had
happened at Hokyoji and what it meant to train under such a teacher as our
Dochosan. It felt like a parting embrace
for this time in my life; so well loved and known so intimately. So it was a mix of celebration and deep
bowing in appreciation. A tender
Shinjo (l) and Rev. Taihaku (r) with their teacher Rev.
Shinkai Tanaka (c)
Life is this. It is this tender transient river of
experience. But when our days pass in
much the same routine day to day with no big changes, it is easy to lose sight
of this perspective. So, I take away
from my visit to Japan a renewed appreciation for the moment that is now, for
those with whom I share the life of Shao Shan, for those who share my
life. When you realize it is short and
passing, the value of what is in front of you becomes evident.
My dear teacher, Dochosan,
is giving me these tender teachings through his own example. With gusto and delight he whole-heartedly
practices even within the decline of body and mind. Structure and form fall away and the spirit of
full life shines forth. A tender mind
arises naturally when we appreciate the transient nature of the time-stream in
which we are all carried along. Tears
and laughter combine in a deep bow of gratitude.
Rev. Taihaku at Hokyoji where
This article was
written for the Fall, 2017 Shao Shan Temple Newsletter.
Click here to view the Newsletter in its entirety.