Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Taihaku's Japan Trip - Newsletter Article

The Trip of a Lifetime
By Rev. Taihaku Priest,
Abbot, Shao Shan Temple

I recently traveled to Japan to visit Hokyoji Monastery where I trained for many years under my teacher, Dochosan (Shinkai Tanaka  Roshi).  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 parting. 

Rev. 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 she trained

This article was written for the Fall, 2017 Shao Shan Temple Newsletter.

Click here to view the Newsletter in its entirety.