EkiZen - Newsletter from the Sangha of Shinnyo-ji
Autumn 2012 - n. 12 year III
In August, our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi returned to her Teacher, Abbot Reverend Ryushin Azuma Roshi, in the Daijo-ji Monastery in Kanazawa, Japan.
Picture taken the night before the departure for Italy.
Practicing at Daijō-ji and the trip to Japan
When I arrived in Japan, I saw a very similar world around me, however, at the same time, I noticed how it was different. I went out to the airport terrace and as soon as the sliding door opened, I felt overcome by a burst of intense hot and humid air, the sunlight was blinding, although it was early in the morning. I got off the plane and waited for the Teacher who was about to arrive.
Docho Roshi came to pick up the Teacher and I and as a welcoming gesture he let us enter the temple by going through the main entrance so I could se the Daijō-ji portal, from behind was the great monastery surrounded by a wide open woodsy garden. The Nyō are on guard at the entrance, after entering the portal you find the great bell while walking towards the Butsuden, I often heard it sounded by visitors. There are many wooden buildings in the temple, inside we walk with slippers or barefoot in areas covered by straw mats.
Our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi at the Fushi-Inari Temple
Once inside, we were led into a small room where Docho Roshi gave us a welcoming speech while offering us sweets and cold tea. Aida, a girl from Azerbaijan was there. She has lived in the monastery for several years to study and was a great help by translating from Japanese to English and for her affectionate presence and availability to help. At one point, they brought us an enormous watermelon; it really was unusually large and had sat at the altar for a week before the arrival of my Teacher Shinnyo at her belonging monastery. They offered the watermelon to us. It was fresh and sweet, it represented extreme kindness. I shyly gave my donation to the Abbot and left to room to be led to my bedroom while Shinnyo Roshi remain in a private talk with her Teacher Azuma Docho Roshi.
Walking along the Hatto room, we passed in front of the Patriarchal altar to arrive in a sort of guest bedroom. It was very simple and intimate; it had a window in the corner that gave a view of the garden. There was a tatami on the floor, a low table with a pillow to sit on, an extending futon to sleep on at night and a wardrobe. At the back of the room there was the bathroom. Every time I left the room and went somewhere, I passed in front of and bowed in front of the Patriarchal altar, they certainly protected and sustained me on this trip.
In the evening after dinner we practiced calligraphy. In a room with low desks where some monks were already sat in seiza, I received a brush and the calligraphy teacher asked me to write two kanji “heart of Buddha”. It was difficult, especially the Buddha kanji. It was lovely to write on thin sheets of paper, and I become fond of it, without worrying too much about the results that came out. Then they told me that I had to show my two best works to the Teacher and I was a little worried, I was no longer relaxed and nothing else good came out, rigid and clumsy looking signs. In the end, I sat in seiza near the Teacher with my two sheets; I was surprised to hear that he liked them. He commented on them but I didn’t understand since it was in Japanese. He then marked his sign. I went to bed happy.
Hattō, Sutra room at Daijō-ji
The next day was very difficult. I woke up at 3:50 a.m. because I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be late, Zazen began at 4:20 a.m. I was already ready to go before the monk walked by with the wake-up bell. I waited for the Teacher along with Aida and together in silence, while outside it was still dark, we entered the Sodo. The rectangular room had raised seating. At the center of the room, as the Teacher as said before, there is a black statue of the Buddha. At the front of the room sat Docho Roshi, immobile and passionate upon his high seat, already immersed in Zazen. We sat in our places, facing forward, and only after the passage of Dharma did we turn around and face the wall. The Zazen seemed very long, I didn’t expect it, and I found out later that the meditation lasted one hour. After the meditation, we went to the Hatto room to recite some Sutra. The room was wide; on the floor there was a tatami so we entered barefoot. At the center of the room, there was golden statue that represented the Bodhisattva Kannon. There were colorful drapes, golden lamps and ponderous instruments. We spent less time reciting the Sutra than usual because there were fewer monks present at Daijō-ji at that moment. I asked myself how I would have gotten through an even longer recitation, seeing how staying in seiza already hurt my ankles and feet.
￼Our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi officiates the Doshi role at Daijō-ji
Between the Sutra recitation and the following morning Samu, there were about 10-15 minutes, just enough time to change clothes and put on a Tenugui. That early morning the Teacher and I cleaned the wooden corridor floor in front of the Hatto that brings us to the area towards the Sodo on one end and to the Tenzo-ryo on the other. Cleaning Japanese-style was hard work and I could only do it piece by piece, it seemed silly to be in the exact situation shown in the calendar photos that we have at the Temple in Florence or in the videos that Gregorio sent us.
Breakfast was at 7:15 a.m. We had rice with broth, dressed with sesame along with soybeans and Umeboshi plums. Eating with chopsticks at the same speed as the Abbot and the monks was not easy, there were also other things to do according to certain rules that I didn’t always know, suck as the position of the eating tools or the bowls, cleaning the table at the end of the meal, putting things away and final cleaning. An obstacle course that created agitation and tension, I tried to watch the Teacher who was next to me while I was afraid of making a mistake.
At 8:15 a.m. Docho Roshi honored us with a lesson on the Hokyo Zanmai Sutra, it was very rare occasion. The lesson was not simple and was reserved for the Teacher, however, as a disciple I was allowed to attend, of course accompanied by the Aida’s much needed collaboration that worked hard on the difficult translation.
At 9:20 a.m., were had Samu in the garden. I went with the Teacher and Aida, armed with brooms, rakes, and containers to collect the leaves. We couldn’t forget the precious katorisenko, a container that held mosquito repellant that we turned on and attached to our sides to avoid being tormented by the mosquitoes and other insects. I really enjoyed working outdoors in the green, in the middle of nature and collecting leaves, even if it was hard work, it became a silent meditation that gave a sense of serenity. The garden was beautiful and in bloom, with many different varieties of plants and interesting statues.
Our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi officiates the Doshi role at Beinsen-ji, Genryu san’s family Temple
We had lunch around 11:15 it followed the same rhythms of breakfast. There was a lot of food, I was slow and didn’t know how to finish the enormous bowl of rice that stuck to the bottom of the bowl. The soup was very hot and there were also two bowls of vegetables. At the end, while we cleaned the bowls, I poured some water on the table and I was very nervous and depressed for not being capable of doing what was asked and finishing on time, soon after the Abbot. In fact, they sat there still and waiting for me, I’m not sure how I managed to finish everything.
Statue of Tettsu Gikai Zenji Founder of Daijō
After finishing putting everything away in the kitchen, there was a rest break, then at 1:30 p.m. we were did Samu again in the garden. The afternoon was very hot, luckily we finished at 3:00 p.m. and we had a break in the kitchen for some cold tea and a small snack. It was a much needed relaxing moment to cheer up and catch my breath.
Commemorative stones for the 700 years since the death of Gikai Zenji
Tettu Gikai Zenji’s tomb in the Daijō Cemetery
In late afternoon I could rest a bit, then the Teacher called me to take a shower. Showers were to be taken quickly, but for me this wasn’t a problem. Dinner was at 5:15 p.m. and was difficult like lunch.
After dinner and tidying up, I went back to my room. The monks had more work and assignments to do, but since I’m not a monk, I was excused. The Teacher came and spoke with me, she notice that I seemed a little unhappy. In reality I was. Everything seemed difficult, the place and rhythms were different compared to what I was used to, and I was alone, far from my friends and family. Although the Teacher looked for words to comfort me, I still felt sad, but I tried thinking about what she said to me.
I was sorry to feel beaten down. I felt sorry for the Teacher who brought me here and for the people who welcomed me, in particular Docho Roshi who gave me lovely gifts that very evening: A blue rakusu, a document holder made a pretty gold cloth, a place and chopsticks made by the traditional method to Kanazawa. I was very touched and moved. Before going to bed, I tried relaxing by reading “Crooked Cucumber”, a book about the like of Suzuki Roshi, that kept me company the previous nights.
In the following days, I slowly began to feel better; I tried to curb my negative thoughts that could drown me in a turbine of fear and insecurity by thinking about all that I have received thanks to the Teacher and my practice over the years.
￼Figure of Kannon Bosatsu at Daijō-ji
It wasn’t easy at the moment, but it was important to try and to continue the path that I began. I tried to concentrate and to pay attention as much attention as possible to learn how to do things properly, to not get in the way, and to try to be a good disciple, even in I didn’t always succeed in doing so.
I would have like to have been able to help more; the monks seemed very busy and tired, living examples of their commitment and constancy.
They were very helpful with me and they tried to explain everything with the English that they knew. Docho Roshi was very generous and kind in his actions, not only with the Teacher, but also with me, as a disciple.
The days at Daijō-ji were very similar to other things that I have done. When I woke up I was afraid of not being able to resist the hour -long meditation or falling asleep, I could often feel it in my eyes. I was surprised that I made it to the end everyday, but some Beings helped me. The Teacher was there next to me; I would feel her silent presence. There was always an eighty-year-old woman who came every morning, I was happy to see her and feel that she was sitting just a bit away from me.
I was comforted knowing that my Sangha companions were sitting in Zazen at the very same moment at Shinnyo-jo, when I felt sleepy, I thought of them to resist falling asleep. At times I even listened to the chirping of the cicadas, that at the beginning was quiet, but suddenly at a certain point, almost out of nowhere, at least it seemed, the sound became powerful and resonant, soon later joined the big Japanese cicadas that made a noise like mi, mi, mi, mi, mimiiiiiiiiiiii.
The meals become more manageable, also because the Teacher kindly requested to be served a little less food. Towards the end of the stay I even had some fun, being quick and eating without making a mess was a challenge, I just needed to be concentrated and most of all to keep control over the rice that compacted itself without losing grains here and there. I must say that once trained, one can eat very quickly with chopsticks.
The Samu was a constant help, as the Teacher says, “cleaning the mind”, in actuality it was true.
The day-to-day rhythm was interrupted on Sunday. Samu isn’t done on this day, if so, the early morning Samu. Zazen begins at one o’clock with people who come from outside the monastery: two regular sittings separated by Kin-hin. I was happy to see that there were many people that filled the Sodo, somewhere already experts, other needed assistance from the monks. After Zazen, there was a lesson on Buddhism; the first was done by Docho Roshi, the second one by another Teacher. Of course, the lessons were done in Japanese, so I could only listening patiently, without understanding. At the end of the lesson we enjoyed cold tea and a sweet.
There were particular events on other days as well. One evening Docho Roshi offered us a dinner in an Italian restaurant called “Amoretto”. We had a lovely evening eating delicious food together, even if it wasn’t one hundred percent Italian. We tasted spaghetti, quiche with vegetables, loves and even “Bagna cauda” one of our traditional dishes, it seemed very popular in Japan. The desserts at the end of the meal were served in small cups, Japanese style, so we could taste everything in small portions, they were delicious.
Other than offering us an Italian meal, the Abbot took us to see a marvelous sunset on Kanazawa city. We drove up a hill until reaching a café that had a terrace was we could admire the city’s panorama. It was silent; we could see a myriad of buildings that shined in the evening light with a thin slice of the moon, a sight that opened my heart. Inside the café we heard Italian music sang by the beautiful voice of Andrea Bocelli.
As always, thanks to the generosity of Docho Roshi, we visited a famous vineyard just outside of Kanazawa that produces grapes without seeds and very large grapes, a delicacy for the palate. They let us taste different types and colors of grapes, they were all extremely delicious. The woman who took care of the vineyard was truly an example of strength and health, she was over eighty-years old, she was small and had a lot of wrinkles, but her smile was very generous.
The day before our departure there was another surprise: a farewell dinner at Daijō-ji with many special things to eat. A woman who is a loyal follower of Daijō-ji came with her mother just to prepare the soba by hand, soba is a typical Japanese dish consisting of small spaghettis made by buckwheat grains that later are garnished by the condiment tsuyu using chopsticks. Other than soba we also had tempura and dumplings made of rice and fish. We were all joyous; it was not only a delicious dinner, by also very moving by how it was offered to us from the hearts of the people. The Teacher gave a thankful speech, I also had the chance to say something, and trying to thank the best I could, knowing that it wouldn’t be possible to express my thankfulness for everything I received.
During our stay in Japan, the Teacher and I also visited some temples at Nara and Kyoto, guided by a friend of the Teacher, Nomura Sensei and his mother, Koyukisamā, an eight-something year old woman who beyond her kindness, offered us a splendid dinner traditional to the Obon period, the time when they honor the dead. She demonstrated a great spirit and strength as she followed our long and quick steps throughout the hours of walking.
Before arriving at Nara, we stopped or a moment at Uji to visit Kosho-ji, a temple founded in 1233 by Dogen Zenji after his return from his journey in China. The temple is perched at the top of a brief hill; it is completely plastered in white and surrounded by a marvelous garden in which typical Japanese trees emit an intense shiny green. The garden also has a water spring with a small waterfall. Inside we saw the Sodo and we visited the Hatto were we found a statue of Kannon. In another room we found a wooden statue of Dogen with a serious and concentrated face, wearing black robes. The temple’s atmosphere was unique; it seemed to stand still in time, intense and clear light made it limpid and luminous.
Within the city of Nara, the ancient capital of Japan during the eighth century, we visited Kōfuku-ji, a Buddhist knight complex, comprising of various buildings including an octagonal pavilion, a three floors and five-floor pagoda. In a small sacred building, the Teacher recited the Hannya Shingyo, I recited along with her.
Around the many buildings, we saw free deer roaming and resting. These animals are the symbol of Nara, they are considered sacred and live undisturbed around the temples and are abundantly fed by the many tourists.
We later visited the Tōdai-ji temple, which literally means “Great Temple of the East”, which is accessed through an enormous portal, Nandaimon, the great door of the South watched by two huge and intimidating Nyō. Roben founded the temple, the leader of the Buddhist sect Kegon, inside the famous Daibutsu Buddha is found, it is a bronze 16-meter statue, and there is a photo of this statue at the entrance of Shinnyo-ji. Next to this statue are other golden, probably Bodhisattva statues, but the Buddha grabs all of the attention. The statue is so imposing that I couldn’t fit it in a photo and I left the room with an ache in my neck from staring upwards, admiring it for too long.
There was also an exhibition of statues from the Nara and Kamakura periods. In one room, there were wooden statues of disciples of Buddha, inferior divinities and a large salon with raised statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and Buddha Anitaba.
During our day in Kyoto we stopped at Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shintoist sanctuary found at the foot of a mountain. It has many buildings, all decorated in bright orange. The most striking characteristic that amazed me was the portals, they are typical to Shintoist temples and come one after another and form orange-tree shaped corridors. Each portal is sponsored by a donor. You follow the first corridor, and then exit in the woods that surround the buildings. A little farther ahead you enter another corridor and so it continues, there are many corridors and you climb the mountain following a long path, along this path you find many sacred buildings, small temples, sacred statues of wolves, jizō and other images. The ideal imagery is an infinite journey into the sacred in a magic and ancient atmosphere and setting.
In Kyoto, as soon as we left the big modern station whose steal and glass structure is striking, we admired the treasures of the Sanjūsangen-do temple. It is a Tendai temple with 1001 Bodhisattva statues. There is a small entrance room where we leave our shoes and enter this very long room with a wooden floor, were the thousand golden Bodhisattva statues with many arms are found, one after another. They are very close, one behind another, in multiple lines, four or five. At the beginning it seems like they will never end, they almost make you dizzy. At the center there is the biggest one that towers over the others.
In front of these Bodhisattvas, so static and fixed in their antiquity there is a line of bronze statues, with much more movements, the represent twenty-eight subordinate divinities. At the beginning and end you can see two extremely expressive statues that are very interesting from an artistic point of view, the god of the wind and the god of thunder. Together the entire room is filled with amazement. Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures.
That evening we went to the Mibudera temple to visit Reverend Shunkai Matsuura, a friend of Teacher Shinnyo. This person is an Abbot who donated the six stone Jizō statues found at Shinnyo-ji near the altar. We were very kindly welcomed, offered a tea, then later a splendid dinner. The temple was decorated for a celebration connected to Obon, the period in which men welcome the spirits of the dead that return to this world. A ceremony was celebrated to accompany the spirit of the dead on their journey to heaven. There were one thousand and one hundred lanterns stuck to the side of the temple, it created a very attractive atmosphere in the dark.
Our Teacher Shinnyo Roshi with the Rev. Matsura Roshi that officiated the Fire ceremony
Reverend Matsuura Roshi, along with his grandson, celebrated a religious ceremony reciting Sutra in front of a sacred fire, burning all of the “omamori”, the small wooden tables and sheets of paper upon which followers wrote requests for protection for their families and their homes throughout the year, some were sheets of calligraphy made by monks.
We also had the chance to attend, from the top of a building next to the temple, a traditional ceremony to Kyoto that is celebrated at the end of the Obon period. On the surrounding hills of the city, huge lights are illuminated forming five letters and images. The three letters are “Dai” great; “Myō” marvelous; "Hō" Dharma; and the two images are of a boat and a “torii", the temple’s portal. These lights signify the well wishes and support of the followers to the spirits of the dead that are returning to their home.
￼The Rev. Matsuura with his children and grandchild while celebrate the Ceremony.
Pictures of firecrackers from a local newspaper
As a finale they had a dance and tambourine show. The dancers were all very agile and played the tambourine quickly and very well, children joined as well. I admired them and their ability to join in and play without hesitation, quickly, precisely and with a smile.
I must say that the visit to these temples was a great learning experience and was very interesting; the beauty that I saw filled me with joy. The entire journey was full of good fortune and sacrifice, I can never be thankful enough.
I would like to the Teacher who brought me with her and allowed me to enjoy an important experience, thanks to all of the personal efforts; thanks for all of the words that helped me throughout new and unusual situations. Thanks to Docho Roshi for his generosity and precious welcoming and for the gifts that he gave me. Thanks to everyone who helped me at Daijō-ji and at Shinnyo-ji, in Japan and in Italy, supporting me with their actions and their thoughts.
DAIJO-JI DAYORI n. 112 del 10 july 2012
The fourth meeting of Genzō-e
On June 9 and 10 the fourth meeting of Genzō-e was held, it was a conference on the Shōbōgenzō with a Teishō by Azuma Roshi on the 44th chapter, on the Butsudō, the Way of the Buddha, using the ancient text of Teacher Manzan Dōhaku (1635-1715), carefully conserved in the Daijō-ji library.
Over forty monks and lay people participated in the event, they studied the Way of the Buddha together as transmitted from Dōgen Zenji. The Teachings of the First Patriarch are finally being taught and diffused in our School. From 3:00 p.m. on June 10th the fifth meeting was held on “The Way is One” including a speech by Abbot Ryushin Azuma Roshi in memory of the deceased Teacher Watanabe Gensō Zenji.
The Prof. Aldo Tollini presents Daijō-ji in his book ‘Zen’
In the book “Zen” Prof. Aldo Tollini from University Ca’ Foscari in Venice, invited to Daijō-ji by Shinnyo from the Shinnyo-ji Temple, Daijō-ji Betsuin in Italy, the temple Daijō-ji along with the temples Eihei-ji and Sōji-ji, both temples of the Sōtō School with other important temples of the Rinzai School in the cities Kamakura and Kyoto.
In his book he states about Shinnyo-ji:
Pg. 296 CZF follows the Sōtō tradition.
Einaudi Editors, Italy, published the book, the book has 524 pages and the news was sent from Ms. Nakajima Shinobu resident of Florence.
“Shinnyo-ji Zen Center of Florence, Florence, founded by Anna Maria Iten Shinnyo, disciple of Azuma Roshi from the famous temple Daijo-ji in Kanazawa, from which the temple is detached but always in contact with. This center also follows the Sōtō tradition.”
BY Nazım Hikmet born in Thessaloniki (currently Greece) in 1902, from an aristocratic Turkish family, diesd on June 3 1963 in Moscow.
I was born in 1902 and I never return to my city of birth I don’t like step backwards when I was three-years old I lived in Alep with my Pasha grandfather at 19 years of age I studied in Moscow at a Communist university and at 49 years of age I was at Moscow and again a guest at the central committee of the Communist Party and from age 14 I am a poet some are very familiar with the various species of plants and other of fish I know the separation of some recite by memory the names of the stars and I the nostalgias.
I slept in prison and also in luxury hotels I suffered from famine including the hunger strike and there is not a plate that I haven’t taste when I was thirty years-old I asked to be hanged at 48 and they proposed a Peace Prize and they gave it to me at 36 I passed six months the four meters squared of cement in solitary confinement at 59 I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours and I was a guard to Lenin’s casket in ’24 and the mausoleum that I visit are his books that have tried to rip me from my Party they haven’t succeeded and I remained crushed under falling idols in ’51 with a young comrade I walked towards love and in ’52 with a broken heart I awaited death for four months lying on my back I was crazy jealous of women that I loved I didn’t envy Charlot I fooled my women I didn’t speak poorly behind my friend’s backs I drank but I wasn’t a drinker I always earned my bread with the sweat of my brow what happiness I was ashamed for others and I lied I lied to not hurt others but I also lied without a reason I travelled by train in airplane by car but that’s all I could go by I went to the Opera no one goes anymore because they don’t know what it is and from ’21 I haven’t entered certain places I used to go like the mosques and the synagogue the church the temple the magicians the witches but I had my future read by the grains at the bottom of a coffee cup my poems are published in thirty or forty languages by in my Turkey in my language they are prohibited
The Cancer that I still haven’t had is not necessary that I get it I will not be the prime minister nevertheless I don’t want to and I didn’t go to war and I didn’t come out of recovery in the middle of the night and I didn’t walk the streets under nose-diving planes but toward sixty years I am in love in a word companions even if today in Berlin I was at the point of dying of sadness I can say that I have lived as a man and I will continue to live and how much longer no one knows.
I have recently realized that Zazen works, in fact, it always works, even through my non-understanding of the Zen Practice as a whole. The first few times I came to the Temple I didn’t want to participate I didn’t want to do the Sanpai, nor recite Sutra, nor do any of the things that I didn’t understand. I just wanted to watch; I wanted to understand first of all the theory, then practice. I now understand that understanding Zen derives from its practice, from the heart, mind and body together. Zazen works even when I feel like I’ve been restless with too many thoughts, it works even when I feel like I’ve done the worst meditation of all the centuries of meditation. Zazen works, you just have to continue practicing everyday.
Let the facts go, let them become a part of the immense joyous flow that is life.
In the terrible twisting whirl of the instances between millions of things, faces, places, words the world finally allows a quiet moment for rest, being calm and immobile breath respira calmo ed immobile, is all that there is.
In the disruption of the mind and the busy world around us, sitting upon the zafu for a little while can be a great relief. Silent breath and a calm mind give a taste of a great peace beyond confusion. Maybe there isn’t any confusion, maybe everything is fine.
I would like to thank our beloved Teacher Iten Shinnyo Roshi for her great efforts that bring us this profound peace. I would also like to express my profound gratitude for the Sangha if Shinnyo-ji for maintaining this compassionate spirit.
Ismo / Shin-kō
Keeping time, or rather, the beauty of the sounds
Ever since the beginning I have always wanted to keep time. It seemed beautiful and difficult and I never thought that I would be able to do it. Now I do it, I could certainly improve, I certainly stumble here and there, but I can do it.
The first time was terrible and marvelous at the same time. I didn’t even know how I was able to move on. At a certain point I wanted to say stop and give everything up to Yūshin, who was sitting next to me, telling myself that I couldn’t do it.
My heart was in my throat and my body vibrated with tension, emotion and fear. Instead I resisted, I continued and I arrived at the very bottom. I was happening to have made it.
I still get worked up every time and I often ask myself how I manage to do it, if I’m really myself, Ben shin, that is in front of the instruments and who plays them.
It seems so.
It’s incredible to succeed in finding the right moment, the exact moment when to play. The Teacher is bowing and in that moment you must do it, just a minimum hesitation, and it is not longer the right moment, even if it’s good enough, even if no one, maybe, notices. But you know that you alone made it happen. Rather in that moment there was everything, it was perfect. But there is also fear; the emotion and moment flee quickly. You must trust in yourself, let go. It’s very difficult. When you succeed, it feels like a sort of miracle, something amazes you. A drop of unity. It is also difficult to interrupt the silence. At a certain point, towards the end of the forty minutes of Zazen, it seems impossible to move, take the instrument and interrupt the meditation.
I watch the clock, the minutes have passed and I must do it. When, now? In a couple seconds? You must decide. Finally I move, I react, and I play: everyone moves. Incredible!
Zazenkai on Sunday July 15th
Every time I sound the bell my heart beats quickly and I would like to be somewhere else, but I am happy to do it. Fear holds me back, but my heart is ready, it beats but says yes.
Using my voice for the Sutra and Ekō is a great grace. You have the possibility to offer your own voice, to release it, towards the sky. It is a way of expressing yourself, but no just for yourself, for the others, for the ritual, for the good of all beings. You can give something from yourself and at the same time be in touch with those around you, with the whole Sangha and give life to a sort of song, choral, joyous, intense.
I received the Zazenkai program.
It will be disappointing not to be there with you.
I am sure that I will be where I need to be and this thought gives me a truce.
This feeling gives me peace and I feel your closeness Teacher.
Observing beyond naivety
At Shinnyo-ji I am learning to meditate along with other Sangha and at home, thanks to Ben shin who created a corner where I too can sit.
There are many changes in me throughout this years and I am learning to see them as transformations. I am meditation upon this: upon the reality exactly as it is.
I had the opportunity to watch “Alice in Wonderland” with my 9-year old niece. I recognized Zen from the very start of the movie. In one of the scenes there is a kind of compensation room between actual reality and the reality of Alice’s dream that in order to exit the only tiny narrow door that she has the key to she must find the right size for her body by drinking a liquid in a bottle that has a label inviting, “drink me” or by eating sweets from a box that says, “eat me”, without any father explanation. After trying many times, Alice manages to enter the Wonderland.
Practicing, as we know, is not easy, it takes the discovery of Wonderland Existence of Reality Wonderland here and now, only by letting it go and letting it be it works for those around us and ourselves, to “arrive at the other side”, when this happens it is a true Miracle, a Wonder. It is a Wonder to see and perceive reality from another point of view, how to transmit it to others, to all beings, practice, faith and letting go.
A caterpillar never knows what it will become, enclosed in its cocoon for transformation, perhaps it knows more than the world around it, so it will be able to fly with its multicolored wings, following the path to reach the other side as a butterfly.
I patiently follow this path, intending to reach the goals that I can foresee, although foggy, I continue to carefully follow the teaching and affectionate advice of the Teacher, I am thankful for this place, not just the physical place, but also that in which I make my steps along the Zen way.
A young mother, impatient with her little daughter, obtains to going to live with an aunt,
takes a piece of clothe, folds it, places it upon small dishes
and a doll, she wraps and knots it.
She puts the small package in the hands of her daughter, she takes her to the door and closes it behind her.
Sitting on the stairs she unhopefully cries: I don’t know where to go.
Essential movements followed according to the established sequence is the product of careful repetition.
To be in contact with many other hands in different places that make the same movement.
To draw your hands along the edge of a little napkin and loosen your thoughts.
To follow an opening direction, that refolds and recloses. To be distracted and make a mistake.
A cloth folded in a star-shape becomes a mandala. To show the present state taking out the bowls, chopsticks, spoon.
Remembering to offer, to give again.
Watching the hands that untie the knots, moving the cloth away, then bringing it back, moving the objects, between breaths, carefully.
To come closer and reunite. What reminded me of a mandala is a napkin to be knotted.
My mind clears up.
Measured simplicity: what I strive for.
Last month something terrible happened, the ending of something born a year ago. I have many jobs in my life, some rather interesting, some that others would want, like theater actor, but in 2006 I decided to make a big step and I invested everything I had (and even more than I had) into a healthcare project. I opened an important medical center. Over 40 doctors worked there. The project was ambitious: every kind of specialized visit: echography, blood test, resonance etc. Unfortunately I didn’t consider politics. A few months after its opening a regional law was approved (and soon after it became a national law) that prohibited hospital doctors to operate outside of public organizations. Having a staff of 90% hospital workers I lost, in a few weeks, my main resource. I later tried to reopen the medical center for people with eating disorders, but I didn’t know how to manage the political part and I couldn’t move forward.
From then on life was like a train without brakes, I progressively lost everything that I had. I went from being a well-off person with a beautiful car and a big villa in the countryside to having nothing. Absolutely nothing. The epilogue, as I said in the beginning, happened a week ago when I was forcefully evicted from my house that I had to sell on auction.
I asked myself many times where did I mistake and how did I mistake. How could I have lost everything?
If I think about how I was before and my history of man, I think that it was a sort of big picture. I come from a very wealthy family (even if today I’m no longer in contact with my old family) and I am a sort of “papa’s boy”. I can’t say that I was ever a bad person, I was certainly egoistic, egocentric, and had little awareness of other people’s problems, especially economic problems.
My first encounter with Zen (in 1988) didn’t change me much. Sure, I was more aware, but not in touch with other people’s pain.
It wasn’t until I met Shinnyo Roshi that I had a true interior revolution that found an echo and mirror in our personal relationship letting me completely emerge, without escape, in pain and impermanence.
Today I can say that I have the answer for why all of this happened to me. My wish to become a Bodhisattva and Monk (when the Teacher decides that I’m ready) is relative. Nothing happened in vain because thanks to my pain, I can understand the pain of others and I can use my full strength to fulfill my task as a person on the Way.
I am thankful for every tear that I shed because it watered the flower of hope. The same hope that I hope to transmit to whomever I will meet on my path and who will need comfort and support.
In this period, the light from my Teacher’s examples is teaching me that moving my attention upon the well being of others gives freedom.
Have a safe trip,
The moon has seen many smiles,
The moon has seen lots of pain,
but it never stops lighting the night.
of the autumn sky.
Ismo / Shin-kō
As the changing of the seasons, always a beginner, I find myself asking the same questions, with the same difficulties.
My practice slightly opens up, but its light, and every new clarity and every new depth allows me to move with a new strength and with another old and deep tangle.
The greatest of them all: attachments to the Samsara and its primitive needs.
Slowly this knot untangles, giving me space and new breath and a spirit less immersed in the river of what will happen, it comes on its own, it takes form, free from expectations and forcing itself, it is just how it is.
In this way, being of service is simpler, more natural.
But still my small mind takes a lot of time.
Just a few days before the Teacher’s departure for Japan I decided to ask to receive the Precept of the Bodhisattva. I made this decision after a long reflection of my practice of myself. I realized that I have already taken Refuge, without a ceremony. I am happy to take the next step in my practice, other than happiness; I feel a natural movement that merges my life with the Way.
August in the Temple
Once again this year, the Teacher has returned to spend some of the month of August in Japan.
Ben shin came with her to practice at the Daijō-ji Temple, from which our Shinnyo-ji temple was directly emanated.
An uninterrupted string unites the two Temples.
A Heart String and String of Practice unite the Teacher of my Teacher, Azuma Roshi, to her, and therefore also to us, the Sangha followers at Shinnyo-ji, to this ancient reality that come directly from our hearts to our bodies.
Practice at our Temple in Florence has been momentarily closed since the end of July, and will reopen at the beginning of September, but Shinnyo-ji is not deserted. Some followers and ordained followers donate their time to take care and oversee the Temple while the Teacher is not there, I have the honor of being amongst them.
In all, we accept our tasks from ourselves and from Roshi, trying to maintain a synchronized time for meditation at the Temple with that at in Japan, when the Teacher will be sitting at the crack of dawn.
In the tiredness of everyday life, I was a little worried about accepting a regular commitment at the Temple: my medical job is very intense throughout the summer, not to forget the heat and humidity, which makes everyone suffer.
There are so many things to do: the guest apartment has been reconstructed: dust and rubble need to be removed, clean and clean again, wardrobes and beds to set up, plan so that everything is tidy and in order when the Teacher returns and that everything is prepared for the Jukai Ceremony to be held at the beginning of September.
The garden with yard plants needs to be taken care of: there is little water in the city, water the flowers, collect the dry leaves and fallen rotten fruit, take away as many scars as possible that were caused by the reconstruction in course.
My own conditions are imperfect in this period: I’m tired, no vacation time, economic worries and family troubles, and I must admit, I feel a tinge of depression that frequently awakes me from the few hours of sleep I usually get: also, I feel that my body is getting older from the stress and hard work, I’m stiff and achy in my joints. A sigh and a tendency to complain after every moment.
Me, me me…
… I’ve seen myself this way for awhile now and it’s not nice: I go back and forth between wanting to admit to myself about my conditions and letting it go, and the tendency to react with typical Florentine sarcasm, going on despite everything.
With the good company of some of the Sangha, above all one of them, in pain and tired more than myself but determined not to give up, I am able to resist both smug remarks and angry sarcasm. I simply accept my feelings and work: I work at work, and I work at the Temple. The usual blessed Samu that gives me peace of mind, and my body is allowed to act. Samu: work and silence in few words: few words are exchanged at the end of a game. Every evening, almost every evening, sweaty and hot, cleaned up as much as possible, we sit in intimate Zazen with ourselves and with the Teacher and Ben shin in Japan. Thanks to the Teacher and Ben shin who are sitting amongst the Sangha at Daijō-ji. Thanks to their effort, and above all thanks to the indestructible Will of Shinnyo Docho Roshi, my companions in Florence and I sit along with the Sangha at Daijō-ji, in the shadow of her Teacher, the Lineage, and the Patriarchs.
A minor act of Samu, sustains itself: while the lawn retakes its form and the weeds are mowed, a heart breathes and a mind is reordered. I know that one shouldn’t dare make this kind of observation, nor give too much valor at the flick of serenity that one may feel, but if wherever the body feels it, something small is pulled our and even more, towards a step-by-step following, without stopping and judging with has just happened.
… But the Teacher, who humbly returns to her source, sustained everyone even more. And my small Samu, the small amount of work and care given, are just a small support given compared to what the Teacher has expressed for all of her years and is expressed on the Way of the Buddha.
Thank you Teacher, for letting us participate in some way, in the body and the heart of this Unity.
September 9th, 2012
Shinnyo Roshi celebrates the bond between Teacher and disciple with Lisa Ten-shin.
Shinnyo Roshi gives the Rakusu to Lisa Ten-shin.
Shinnyo Roshi with Lisa Ten-shin and the Sangha of Shinnyo-ji after the Jukai Ceremony.
THE BODHIDHARMA ZEN Chapter III – The Awakening Sermon
When you are deluded, you are on this shore. When you are aware, you are on the other shore. But as soon as you know that your mind is empty and you no longer see outwardness, you are beyond delusion and awareness. Once you are beyond delusion and awareness, the other shore no longer exists. The Tathagata isn’t on this shore or the other shore, or at the center of the current. The Arhats are at the center of the current and the mortals on this bank. On the other shore is Buddhahood.
The Buddhas have three bodies (73): a transformation body, a compensation body, and a real body.
The transformation body is also called the incarnation body. The transformation body appears when mortals do good deeds, the compensation body when they cultivate wisdom, the real body when they become aware of the Supreme. The transformation body is that which we see flying in all directions saving other when it can. The compensation body ends doubt. The true Great Illumination in Himalaya (74) suddenly becomes true. The real body doesn’t do and doesn’t say anything. It remains perfectly still. But in reality, there isn’t even a Buddha body, not even three. This discussion on the three bodies is simply based upon human understanding, which can be superficial, mediocre, or deep.
People who understand superficially imagine that they accumulate merit and confuse the transformation body with the Buddha. The people who somewhat understand imagine putting an end to all suffering and confuse the body of compensation with the Buddha. And people who deeply understand imagine that they are experiencing Buddhahood and confuse the real body with the Buddha. But the people with the deepest understanding look inside themselves, not distracted by anything. Since a clear mind is Buddha, it arrives at the understanding of the Buddha without using the mind. The three bodies, like everything else, are unreachable and indescribable. The mind without hindrances reaches the Way. The Sutra say: “The Buddhas cannot predict Dharma. They don’t liberate the mortals. They don’t experience Buddhahood.” This is what I mean to say.
Individuals generate Karma; Karma doesn’t generate individuals. Men create karma in this life and receive their compensation in the next. They cannot escape. Only a perfect being doesn’t generate any Karma in this life and doesn’t receive any compensation. The Sutras say: Whoever doesn’t generate Karma, receives Dharma.” It is not an empty expression. You can create Karma, but you cannot create a person. When you generate Karma, you disappear along with your Karma. Therefore, given that Karma depends on the individual and the individual depends on the Karma, if an individual doesn’t generate Karma, the Karma doesn’t have influence on him. In the same way: “A person can expand the Way. The Way cannot be expanded by a person.” (75)
Mortals continue to generate Karma and wrongly insist that there isn’t anything to compensate. But how can they deny suffering? Can they deny that the current metal state inseminates what the next mental state collects? How can they escape from it? But the current mental state doesn’t inseminate anything; the next mental state doesn’t collect anything. Don’t give yourself a mistaken idea of Karma. The Sutras say: “Even though they believe in Buddha, those who imagine that the Buddhas practice austerity are not Buddhists. The same is true for those who imagine that the Buddhas are subjects of retributions of wealth or poverty. They are icchantikas, unable to believe.”
Who understands the teaching of the wise is a wise person. Who understands the mortals is a mortal. A mortal who succeeds in abandoning the teachings of the mortals and following the teachings of the wise becomes wise. But the fools of this world prefer to look for far away wise men. The Sutra say: “Between the men that do not understand, do not pray this Sutra.” And the Sutra say: “The mind is teaching.” But people who do not understand do not believe in their mind or that understand this teaching could become wise.
They prefer to look for far-off knowledge and brag about material things, images of the Buddha, light, incense, and colors. They fall prey to the falseness and loose their minds in craziness.
The Sutra say: “When you see that all outwardness is not outwardness, you see the Tathagata.” The innumerable doors that lead to the truth arrive from your mind. When the outwardness of the mind is clear like space, they have disappeared.
Our infinite sufferings are the roots of illness. When mortals are alive, they worry about death. When they are satisfied, they are worried about hunger. They are the Great Uncertainty. But the wise do not consider the past. They don’t worried about the future. They don’t attach themselves to the present. Moment by moment they follow the way. If you haven’t awakened to this Great Truth, you should look for a Teacher in on the earth or in the sky. Do not worsen your faults.
Note (73) Three bodies. The nirmanakaya (Shakyamuni), the sambhogakaya (Amitabha), and the dharmakaya (Vairocana). (74) The true Great Illumination in the Himalayas. The Buddha’s Illumination did not happen in the Himalayas but rather in the ancient Indian region of Magadha, south of Nepal. In his previous existences, however, the Buddha did live in the Himalayas as an ascetic. Therefore, connecting the Buddha’s previous lives, the assertation is true. (75) A person can expand the Way. The Way cannot expand a person. An affirmation made by Confucius. (“The Dialogues”, Chapter 14)
Thanks to Fabio Dai shin for the photos he donated.
We’ll see you at the next edition of EkiZen.
Calendar for group Practice at the Sōtō Zen Temple Shinnyo-ji of Florence:
Every Monday evening from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Every Tuesday morning from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30
Every Friday evening from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30.
One Sunday per month from 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. The schedule for our retreats is available on our website.