'Zen' manifested in daily life

Article from 'Teshu no.69'

'Zen' manifested in daily life

Cameron Noble

  Zazen at Teshukai has appealed to me for its simplicity, unpretentiousness, and sincerity. The appearance of Kohoin itself is different to a typical Japanese Buddhist temple and well represents the Zazen practiced at Kohoin, namely simple, humble and austere. However, the atmosphere, while calm, is alive with an energy which you can feel when you walk in.


  I found Teshukai online soon after arriving in Tokyo in December 2020. It was one of the few places holding Zazen sessions during the Corona pandemic. I did try other temples offering Zazen sessions for the public, but Kohoin has always felt the most authentic and best suited to me. As well I had heard although there were temples that offered Zazen to the public, it was often hard to meet monks. At Kohoin, Kakisakai roshi and the other experienced lay practitioners are available and give guidance to all that come to learn Zazen.


  I first came to Japan 30 years ago and have lived here for more than ten of those years, so I feel comfortable with the language and culture. I’ve also been doing meditation for many years and still practice every morning and evening. However, I had had limited experience with Zazen. When I arrived for my current four-year stint in Tokyo, I wanted to both try Zazen and practice something quintessentially part of Japanese culture together with local people.


  Zen is the foundation of so much of Japanese culture, such as 茶道(Sado), 生花(Ikebana), 武道(Budo), and 書道(Shodo). But also I feel it manifests in many people’s ways of being and interacting with the world. Although I could have done any of these other cultural activities, I felt given my experience in meditation and interest in spiritual practices, Zazen was the best way to understand the essence of Zen and consequentially my understanding of Japan. Along the way, hopefully I could come to a better understanding of myself as well. 


  The first time I attended the Saturday morning 例会(Zazen session), I felt very much welcomed. I was given some basic instructions on sitting and then just started. Everyone has been patient even when I make mistakes such as entering the hall with my socks on. One thing I appreciate is not being treated differently because I’m a foreigner; I feel like just another practitioner. 


  Kakisakai Roshi has been especially kind. I enjoy his talks. They range from very practical observations of daily life and tips on how to live well, to highbrow explanations of Buddhist texts. While I understand most of the time, I admit I sometimes have trouble following the more philosophical points in Japanese. I do feel a little better on those occasions when my fellow practitioners also come out saying “Today’s talk was a tough one”. Even if I don’t always understand 100 per cent, I still feel I benefit greatly just from just being there and listening intently. 


  I keep returning to Kohoin because the Zazen is having a good affect on my life. I always leave after a session feeling present and fresh. Sometimes I like to walk the 10km home just to enjoy the feeling. 


  But there are also deeper understandings. Zazen at Tesshukai has helped me appreciate and enjoy the simple things. Whether it be just sitting and looking at the full moon from our garden (like I did last night), enjoying seasonal flowers, or just walking in the neighbourhood or in nature. My wife does 茶道(Sado,Tea) and 書道(Shodo, Calligraphy) and I feel that I am better able appreciate these arts through my practice at Kohoin. There is great but subtle joy in these acts when one draws from the experience of Zen. 


  It also helps with work. I have a busy and high-pressure job here in Tokyo. But my practice helps me not get caught up. The present moment is all there is and my state of mind can remain relatively calm no matter what is happening. I always do my best and work hard to achieve outcomes, but in the end, it is just work – nothing to take too seriously or personally. Sometimes no matter how much you try, you make a mistake or circumstances work against you. My sitting practice has allowed me to be energised about work but not become fixated on results. This allows me to remain relaxed, clear-headed, able to take action, and make decisions without hesitation. My daily practice and Zazen have contributed to building this attitude.


  When I return to Australia at the end of the year, Tesshukai will be one of the things I will miss. Catching the train to Nakano Sakaue and then doing Zazen, listening to a talk, doing 書道(Shodo), having tea, and finally 作務(Samu, work) is a wonderful part of the weekend and helps me throughout the week. 


  Before returning to Australia, I would like to do a接心(Sessin) to help me to deepen my practice. Roshi also told me my 書道(Shodo) is 素直(Sunao).  I try to put energy into my brush strokes from my 丹田(Tanden) and be in the moment, just doing each brush stroke, but I haven’t quite got it yet. I’ll work on this to get a better understanding drawing on the guidance of Roshi and the experienced lay practitioners.  


  For the rest of the year, I will continue to sit everyday and come to Teshukai often. When I return, the lessons I have learnt and the changes in my outlook on life brought about from the Zazen at Teshukai will hopefully remain. 


  I hope to live again in Japan through work or perhaps after retirement. If I can do this, I will again engage in Zazen at Teshukai. 


Write a comment

Comments: 0