Tonight, if all goes well, I will be a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple. I am hoping it will be in Nara, at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere in Kyoto, although it might well be in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere deep within the Laotian highlands.
One problem with that world is that I have no control over it, which, come to think of it, leaves it like the waking world which has never hewn to my direction.
I’ve had this desire for weeks on end, and I suspect tonight will be no different, and I will spend eight hours sorting files, writing cease and desist letters and trying to convince myself that even that is a form of mindful meditation and abiding kensho will arrive in the next rapid eye movement.
There was a time, still within memory’s ever more tenuous grasp that I imagined myself, at this age, as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence imposed by lack of language, not faith.
I am certain that the Japanese are pleased that I let that dream pass unfulfilled, that I confine my practice to that American form of Zen, softened and gently bleached from its shogun watered roots.
I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji and countless other small temples where I would often find a zafu and sit, but only the youngest monks I met could understand that it was there, among them, that I felt spiritually at home.
On the steps of the Temple the unexpected morning snow which cast a threadbare blanket over the gates and lanterns recedes slowly like a supplicant whose prayers have been offered. The candle flames shiver in the strong February wind while the Buddha sits, implacable. In the park below a dragon kite takes the wind and swoops and darts higher and higher, staring down at the Temple and the children laughing as they chase each other among the trees. It is gold, red and black reflecting the sun, the fires of heaven dance down over the head of the gold robed priests who bow while chanting the prayer cards yet look up and smile at the serpent who dips his tail to the enlightened one and tears off after a cloud.