Many thanks to Dolce Bellezza, who sent me this at the completion of the Japanese Literature Challenge 3. I was going to wait to read this for JLC4, but I couldn't.
My year at Japan's most rigorous Zen Temple, by Kaoru Nonomura, was reported in Japan Times as 'an unusually fine translation of an unusual best seller'. For me, reading connects me with my own experiences -past, present and future - and opens up new possibilities, definitions and meanings. This little book encouraged me to reflect on my life, while also opening up new understandings of the world of Zen Buddhism.
I have spent some time in spiritual retreats, in reflective spaces, and at Bible College. One of the most sacred times for me is dawn, in silence, just sitting (or walking) - no talking, no planning, no doing things. Its in the silence of dawn that I am reminded how small I am in the universe, and yet how powerful I am with intent. While reading this book I was reminded again, about the power of 'just sitting'.
"Sitting with my legs folded and my back straight when my every muscle still retained the lassitude of sleep was, I found, exhilarating. it felt as if every cell in my body were slowly recovering sensation and motion in synch with the steady reawakening of nature all around".
Yet the story was not just about these wonderful moments of peace and silence in Japans beautiful mountains. It was a story also of the rigorous training and routine that these novices went through in their time at Eijeiji Temple. The next sentence from the quote above screams......
"Then little by little, we were enveloped in an intense silence only broken by the occasional sharp whack of the monks stick on someones shoulder, my own body stiffening each time I sensed it was about to fall."
This was a powerful read, more poignant for those of us who feel called to silence for spiritual connections. What can we endure for our search for meaning? What becomes of our journeys? They level of violence and abuse is somewhat shocking for the reader, as we cant imagine this of the temple life. However it is part of the teaching regime, and not necessarily questioned by the author.
The authors journey into Japan's most respected and yet rigorous temple, was a beginning for him and many other monks who also under took such training. Where to for him? the story doesn't tell us much - it's left up to the reader the imagine what might become of this young man. As it is left to the reader to question, what has become of my journeys into spiritual spaces?