September 21, 2009

Indian Summer

It's been awhile since I've checked in here to the blog. My apologies. Much travel, activity, moving about as I made the transition from Kannon-do to Olympia Zen Center and received our visitor from Belgium, Jitoku Josepha Vermote. Jitoku has been practicing at Zen River in Holland for the past two years and is exploring where she might live in the future as she nears the 70s of her life. Continuing in a hard practice/training center becomes difficult as we age and the question is where and how can we continue to practice in a way that is more moderate yet honors the vow of Okesa? We are exploring this question together.

Jitoku's first language is French although at Zen River she spoke Dutch and English. Here, she is offering many phrases in French as I do understand a bit. We've telephoned my daughter Laureen several times so Jitoku can feel at home in French and Laureen can get more experience in exchanging with a native speaker. I recall living in Japan and feeling elated when I could speak English even for a little while. I imagine that anyone feels this way when they are asked to speak a language other than their primary language for long periods of time. A deep homesickness develops in the heart when the most inner feelings cannot be expressed. Thus, I've encouraged Jitoku to say what she needs to say in French and we'll sort out the translation later. Also, I'm hunting around for a French speaker for her although it's a rare language in these parts.

You can practice Zen as long as you like, but language will still be necessary. We make a mistake when we think that Zen is only about silence. It is true that the deepest and true experience cannot be put into words, cannot be truly spoken in words, yet words are used to point toward the experience. We use words in poetry to point toward the unspeakable. Dogen Zenji's teaching is using words to point to the beyond. Ryokan san uses words in poetry to point to the mystical appearance of all the phenomenal world. We will surely go on speaking forever, using words that lift the heart and mind that give hope for a better manifestation of good.

So, Indian summer is here this week. Leaves are beginning to fall, the mornings and evenings are quite crisp, but the afternoons are warm and slow moving. The angle of the sun says that the autumnal equinox is here. The trees give a last wave. Autumn was Ryokan's favorite season. His poems are full of autumn leaves and the emotion of the dying time, the passing away of the year, the harvest moon hanging like a giant lantern in the sky. "Each year as autumn comes, the moon will shine as before and the world will watch it, will face it till eternity."

Looking around for the plan for one's life beginning at the 70's decade is like becoming the harvest moon. It is a passing along time and yet it is vibrant and full of life. It does its own work that completes the totality of the year, it demonstrates the totality of a lifetime. With so much yet to do, "Who will reflect the clearest moon in the lake of his mind?"

We explore.