Feb 062013

Excerpt from the Afterword written by Shodo Harada Roshi, abbot of Sogenji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Okayama, Japan and head of the worldwide One Drop Zen Buddhist Community:

“Feeling that the day was somehow unusually pleasant, I moved to the porch to enjoy the fresh air, the wafting breeze—the breeze that came across the porch, blowing through the white heavenly bamboo flowers. What a great feeling breeze! An indescribably wonderful feeling came to me, and a thought arose. In this weak, sickness-stricken body, I was struck by the question, ‘What is this wonderful breeze?’

“And then a thought occurred to me—I was so deeply struck, as if I had been hit with an iron bar! ‘This breeze! It is air!’ While this body was so ridden with sickness I could barely sit up straight, I became riveted to the thought ‘This breeze is air; there is always air!’ Everyone had abandoned me, but there is air, which never has left me alone, not even for a single second. And not just me, but everyone is held like this. We cannot live only by our own bodies; we are all embraced and given life by a huge power.

“Usually when we think of air, it is only an idea about air. This most precious air, without which we cannot live for even one minute—it is so important and yet we take it for granted! All day and all night without any break whatsoever, whether we are working or resting or sleeping or waking, we may forget it, but air has never ever forgotten us!”

Realizing this so deeply and totally and seeing how true it was, he wanted to shout it to the skies. A new energy and motivation rose up in him. Without even thinking about it, the words came out of his mouth,

Oh Great All Embracing Mind!
A clear realization,
Brought to me by this morning’s cool wafting breeze.

This is the writing of my teacher, Mumon Yamada Roshi, when he told about his own experience. These are his words that I am here putting into my own words. My teacher almost died from tuberculosis. He was on death’s edge for a long time; for years he lived with this threat. Then in this life of sickness, he discovered a deep truth he expressed in these words.

People are born, and then they live their whole life facing death. How many people are truly full of joy? Most people are melancholy and face the end of their life thinking that it is the end of everything. But life is not something melancholy. We each have received and are always receiving grace from so many others in order to stay alive—it is immeasurable.

At Enso House, grace is delivered by those people who help take care of guests nearing the end of their life. A professional doctor and nurse are on duty twenty-four hours a day. What is important there is that the caregivers and those who are dying are connected by prayer.

Zazen is prayer, and while it is sometimes done by crossing the legs, zazen is not our body sitting—it is our mind sitting. We are letting everything go except today’s life, being it completely and not looking away from it—not speaking, not doing, but seeing that with which we are born, our pure true nature—this is zazen.