Quiet tea, talky tea

Butsuma--a space for the Buddha. Chanoma--a space where people drink tea, eat, chat.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meditation III

One day, I was walking around a neighborhood that I didn't know too well. I stumbled on a temple gate, so I entered the grounds. There was a Nio (two guardian kings) gate with very dynamic statues, with dramatic lighting at night. There was an old-looking temple, and using my incomplete Japanese ability, I read the plaque. The building, it turns out, is the oldest surviving wood building in the 23 central wards of Tokyo. It could be as much as 700 years old! However, it was tightly shut, and the windows were just very narrow slits. I tried to peek inside, and was intrigued by a Shakyamuni triad. Wondering how I might see the inside, I saw a notice on a bulletin board, advertising zazen sessions once a month. Zazen, of course, is Zen-style meditation, but the temple was part of the Tendai sect. Because of E-Sangha, I knew that Tendai had some elements of esoteric Buddhism, along with exoteric practices and I think, some emphasis on the Lotus Sutra. In fact, the plaque also informed me that the temple was founded in Tendai in the 9th century. In the 13th century, it changed to a Nichiren sect (also emphasizing the Lotus Sutra). Then, in the 16th century, it changed back to Tendai. So why zazen? These intriguing questions and my desire to see the inside of the Hall of Shakyamuni spurred me to show up for the meditation class. The priest doing the class was a young man, and it turns out that he was the assistant priest of the temple. His father, THE priest of the temple, had been called to the head temple of Tendai on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. So the son, Reverend Oka, has been studying Rinzai-style zazen at a temple in Kamakura. I suppose that he felt this method was more suitable for public classes than esoteric Tendai meditation. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the Hall of Shakyamuni was fantastic. Rev Oka gave a short talk, very informal, partly based on his experiences with kids in the kindergarten run by the temple. Then he gave a brief introduction to zazen. Then, we did some Zen-style chanting before he turned off the electric light and we settled in to meditate by candlelight in a 700-year-old temple. After about 25 minutes of zazen, we chanted the Heart Sutra to end the session. (The picture at the top is the Hall of Shakyamuni, decorated for the New Year celebration.)

1 comment:

  1. John san
    At last I found your HP.How are you? I am now in Bolivia from last octorber having finished working in Uruguay for 2 years. I am already out of Japan 17 years.Next year perhaps I will como back to Tokyo to work in the Ministry because my son and daughther finished univesity.Anyway 13th of January I will como back to Tokyo on vacation with Makiko.I ama looking forward to seeing you very much. I took me long way to get your HP.I ama very happy to find you.See you soon and please write me to my e-mai address.
    Hiroyuki Makiuchi