Walking down this road I would like to see a rice field golden in the morning sun with a great mountain rising behind it just around the next bend. I would settle for a town its lone Temple quiet, awaiting the morning bell, the call to sit, with maybe a cat at the base of a statue the Bodhisattva. I am ready to bow deeply to the first monk I see this day, but my reverie is broken by the barely dodged wave thrown up by city bus running late and fast down the crowded street of this upstate New York city.
Origami cranes lumber into flight and lift into the sky over the small, back street Temple somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku. They know their flight will be only temporary, that their wings will grow quickly tired, that the rustling sound of two thousand wings will soon fall silent as the breeze bids them a peaceful night, and the Temple bell announces the evening zazen.
It was inside Nara that it finally slipped away. Its tether had grown ever weaker, the first slip was decades before, a book, brief meetings an answerless question. It stretched further in Tokyo, basin incense under the watchful third eye and hung perilously by fewer and fewer threads until, with the monks’ gentle bow, it broke and I found home.
He says that in his prior life, this being second he knows of, he was Japanese, although he did have a cousin in China, but he doesn’t know his name anymore. He wasn’t there for the war with Okinawa, but he knows that karate was developed then, and it’s why, in this life he studies karate, because it’s part of his heritage. He says he has many more stories to tell of his prior life, he remembers it quite well, but that’s all he will tell us today, for a six-year-old needs to dole out stories slowly.
If you ask me whether a dog has buddha nature I will stare back at you in total silence. If you ask again, or implore an answer I will smile at you, offer gassho and a bow. If you ask yet again, I will turn away and you will be left with a box into which you dare not look lest you find Schroedinger’s cat.