Streets, Zen and Bodybuilding 2
In 1998 I wrote down some experiences of my first ten years of Zen practice. I imagined and told the story of a morning sitting during a sesshin. So far we have entered Zendo, before six o’clock in the morning; we have settled down on our cushion and now we are waiting for the beginning of zazen…
ZAZEN, 6.00 a.m. until 6.40 a.m.
Preview: 6:00 am: Does Roshi know the answer?/ 6:04 am: How did I get in here? / 6:05 am: I taste my hunger… / 6:09 am: …Hunger for posture / 6:11 am: This is how the Buddha sits / 6:14 am: Counting breath and bodybuilding / 6:19 am: “Find my mind” / 6:21 am: Zen at the adult education center / 6:24 am: We become Zen disciples / 6:30 am: We imagine the world well / 6:32 am: The monk / 6:37 am: Why doesn’t the barbarian have a beard? / 6:40 am: We get up.
Now I don’t even know what to think on my cushion. How did I get in here – and how do I get out? I have a suspicion: I won’t be able to get out. I sledded through life, through the slaughterhouses and bistros, the streets and universities, beds and bread – just to land here, on fifteen square inches of cushion in a dark room at six in the morning. Hiked mountains of bread and found only crumbs? Incense sticks and a solitary candle are smoking in front next to the wooden Buddha figure which is supposed to cut through my illusions with a sword.
I became infected with my illusion by reading: life is more than the meaning of life, and there are still songs to sing beyond humans, I have read. But what is a human being? Who am I? And what is the meaning of life?
Does the Roshi, who just entered the hall, know the answers? Can he, the living Buddha, cut my illusions with his sword? I raise my head and follow him with my eyes. Very upright, very dignified, the lion has crossed the threshold. Short ice-grey hair, a fleshy nose and wide ears I sense in the darkness. Roshi even has an athletic silhouette in his flowing black robe and purple monk cape: Swimmer. Or Boxer. It may be – but now he is abbot of this temple; and temple is everywhere where he sits. Roshi has his hands folded in front of his chest and is standing in the middle of the room. Where did he leave his sword? He looks in a semicircle once, checking, and his look meets my eyes. I’ll look down quickly. He doesn’t need a sword. His quiet eyes are enough.
I have known Roshi for ten years and have the illusion that he knows the answers. How will he use his sword?
” DONG – Chak – DONG… ” sounds the big bell. The nun behind the bells and gongs struck it, muted it and struck it again. Jikido is called her position and she gives the time and is responsible for the arrangement in the meditation room.
With the ebbing sounds of the last beat, we fifty people begin to recite a verse in which we vow to take responsibility for our actions. I whisper the verse with my lips, I mean it. I’m looking for my sword.
The abbot bowed to the floor. He puts his forehead to the wood and raises his hands next to his temples. He bows three times; now stands again, smoothes his robe and purple cape and begins a walk, Kentan, along our rows. He walks past everyone and we greet him with our hands together. The abbot has finished his tour. He sits down on his cushion, together with three more sounds of the gong. He swings back and forth, rustles with the long sleeves of his robe, snuffles, swings his head a few times and falls into motionlessness, the living Buddha.