Sunday, 28 February 2010

Rain and running water.

It was Sunday zanzenkai this morning and the heavens had opened on us overnight. At 5:30am I woke up, 30 minutes overslept, with only 25 minutes to get to the bell and drum to signal the start of the sitting. Because I'm sitting at the temple every morning now my samue was laid out in the spare room in my house, so getting dressed took just a minute. A quick bowl of cereal, a check of the football scores (English Premier League, Chelsea 2 - Man City 4!), and off to the car in the pouring rain.

By the time I had got to the zendo from the temple carpark, my socks and feet were soaked. In my haste I had not thought that wearing sandals in the rain was not a wise thing to do, but half of my brain was still on the pillow as I had rushed to get ready. Only two people had arrived. Nishida-san is usually there from 5am, smoking his brains out and reading all sorts of interesting material. He's a retired merchant navy man with the smallest amount of English which he loves to use at every possible opportunity, in between lung-fulls of tobacco smoke. He smokes like a train, one cigarette after the other. Sato-san was also there, a shy man who doesn't speak so much. He sits beside me on the tan and is always the first into the zendo itself. When I rise to go to the drum and bell, he rises too and goes straight to the tan.

Right through the sitting the rain pummeled the roof of the zendo. It gushed through the drains, down along the walls and into what sounds like barrels around the building, althought there are none. I don't understand the drainage system around the zendo, but when it rains like that you'd think we were going to be drowned. It is as if we're in a cave under a waterfall as the rushing, sloshing of water fills the room.

In mid-winter, there is no sound, only the occasional, distant sound of sirens from the ambulances dashing to the hospital, or the trains running to and from Nagoya. Now, as the bitter winter cold recedes, the chattering of birds in the trees around the temple grounds seems to rise in volume each day. Soon, as spring gives way to summer, the heavy hum of insects from the wooded areas and the gardens will weave a fabric of sound around us as we sit.

These last three days of sitting I have found it difficult to settle my mind. I've been reading a fair bit and watching challenging programs. Yesterday morning I picked up Malcolm X's autobiography and read the foreword by the journalist who penned the book. The night before I watched Moore's documentary Capitalism, A Love Story. Whilst I feel it is necessary to inform myself in this way, such an influx of ideas can be oil on the cogs of my already high-revving mind. Of course it's a good thing to inform myself, learn about the world and develop my ability to analyse reasonably, but my mind would ramble on incessently, involuntarily at times, when stimulated. Forty minutes of thinking is not what I mean to do on the tan. Forty minutes of non-thinking is what Dogen would have prefered I do. I don't mean to say that I should stop educating and developing my mind. What I mean is that I must learn to leave the resultant thinking at the door of the zendo. Forty minutes of non-thinking. No gushing water, no chirping birds, no chattering mind.


  1. Lovely post. Thank you for your devotion to practice!

  2. Hi Markus, it's nice to hear from you. I hope all's well in Finland.

  3. Good Morning! I really enjoy your blog, the writings about Ehei-ji were amazing thanks!


  4. Hi Shindo, that's very kind of you to say so. And you've reminded me that I haven't finished writing about Eiheiji. I must do that this week when I get the time.

  5. Great you're continuing telling your Eiheiji-experience! Like I wrote in some of your previous post, looking really forward to read about it! I thought you don't want to tell it anymore etc. because you haven't wrote about it so I didn't ask. But great you're getting back on that!