Shike – Day 73 of 306

“Is there any news of my father?” Jebu asked roly-poly Abbot Weicho.

“The great Taitaro has left these Sacred Islands. He came to visit us here a year ago. His teachings on the Zinja way of life were incomparable. Unfortunately, though, he only stayed with us a few months. Then his Zinja insight told him that it was time for him to cross the great water. There are things to be learned in China, he said, that will be lost in another few years.”

“I have been thinking of making the voyage to China myself, holiness,” said Yukio.

Weicho nodded. “If Lord Yukio goes, Jebu, you must go with him. The Order has decreed that your task now is to accompany him, to serve, protect and fight for him.”

Yukio joined with pleasure in the daily routine of the monks. Moko was set to work repairing the monastery’s granary, which was old and about to fall down. He found occupation for his free time, he told Jebu with pride and pleasure, in the company of a woman of the village, who thought his tales of adventure more than adequate compensation for his odd appearance.

Jebu spent a day visiting with Nyosan. “I can’t understand why Taitaro does this to you,” he said to his mother. “This pursuit of insight without concern for others is a kind of spiritual greed.”

Nyosan patted Jebu’s hand. “I am pleased that you are indignant for me. But my life has given me three of the most splendid men I have ever known—my husband, Jamuga the barbarian, a giant of a man and a magnificent warrior, and my husband Taitaro, a giant of the spirit. And it has given me a son who combines the best of both. I am well content.”

“You may be content, Mother, but you have not got all you deserve.”

“If each of us got what we deserve we would have to be in both heaven and hell at the same time. The way things are makes more sense.”

One afternoon Abbot Weicho sent for Jebu and Yukio. They met in a cryptomeria-shaded grove at the base of the path leading to the peak overlooking the temple.

Weicho had a visitor with him, a round-faced, shaven-headed monk in a black robe. “Normally,” Weicho was saying to the visitor, “our temples are placed at the very tops of mountains. But here the peak is too sharp, so we built the temple down here and put a small hut for meditation up there instead.”

The visitor smiled and nodded. Since the Buddhists wore saffron, the Shinto monks white and the Zinja grey, Jebu wondered what way this black-robed man followed. His eyes, as he looked at Jebu and Yukio, were somehow at once warm and stern. He seemed an inconsequential fellow, just another monk in a land where there were tens of thousands until Jebu looked into his face. There was a rock-hard strength in the directness of his stare, the firmness of his lips and the set of his jaw. He looks at me as Taitaro did, thought Jebu.

“I am called Eisen. I bring a Buddhist teaching back from China. It is called Zen. In Chinese, Ch’an.”

Weicho chuckled. “You will not convert Jebu. He’s the most stubborn Zinja in the land. And Lord Yukio is too interested in fighting to care about religion. But I thought you might tell them something about China, since they are considering going there. And in repayment they will escort you to the top of the mountain, since I’m too lazy to take you myself.”

“A soft Zinja is no Zinja,” Jebu quoted The Zinja Manual.

“You are also the most sententious Zinja in the land,” said Weicho. “May I remind you that the Manual also says, ‘On occasion the soft serves better than the hard. Where the sword cannot cut, the pillow may smother or the silken cord strangle.’ You may escort Eisen-sensei to our meditation hut while amusing him with your borrowed wisdom.”

As they began to climb, Jebu said, “What does the word Zen mean? I never heard it before.”

Eisen laughed. “Some of us have spent years asking ourselves what Zen means. It comes from an Indian word, dhyana, which means meditation.”

“So you teach meditation,” said Jebu. “On what do you meditate?” Eisen smiled. “Some of us meditate on a question, such as ‘What is Zen?’ Others, like myself, meditate on nothing at all.”

“To what end?” Jebu asked.

“We meditate to meditate, that’s all.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s very simple. That’s why it’s hard to understand.” They were half-way up the stone steps leading through the small pines that grew on the mountain. Though Eisen was a stocky man, he was breathing easily and seemed to have no difficulty with the climb.

They took up the conversation again, Jebu and Eisen doing most of the talking. Yukio, having spent his boyhood practising the martial arts secretly at night and sleeping during the day when he was supposed to be studying philosophy, had little to say. Jebu doggedly argued that spiritual practises had to produce results of some sort, even if only rebirth in the Pure Land. Eisen sidestepped all his arguments with amusement, much as Yukio had evaded his sword thrusts on the Gojo Bridge. At last they reached the top of the mountain, where there was a small straw hut sheltered by pines that had dug precarious footholds among the boulders. Beyond the hut and the pines the shoreline stretched encircling arms out to the horizon to form Hakata Bay.

Eisen said, “Long ago men whose names we no longer know went into the forests and up to the tops of mountains and thought about why people are not happy. And they came to the same conclusion: we should seek happiness in nothing at all. The Brahmans of India learned from those original sages. The Buddha and Lao Tzu both restated their teachings. The same wisdom is the heart of the lore of Zinja and Zen monks. I find there is much similarity between our two paths. Only, if you will forgive my saying so, we part company on the matter of warfare. We students of Zen believe that violence is an obstacle to enlightenment. The Zinja do not hesitate to kill or injure others.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)