“I stood before the great gate at Engakuji. The naked guardians grimaced, the carved eaves stretched above me, the roof soared and touched the pines. I was about to enter the abode of the Buddha, the world of Daruma, the land of Zen. I said the word softly to myself – the cicada-like drone of the syllable, the sudden halt of the consonant.
“As I did a soft summer breeze struck the overhead pines. The needles rustled and from them fell a fragrance I had known as a child. Looking up, deep into that glimmering green, I felt a memory surface, then turn and disappear before I could recognize it. But its passing brought a tear – just one, but real.
“Then I was walking through the gate and into the temple, only an hour from Tokyo but already another world to me … Around in back I found the small tiled-roofed house. There I waited, letter and gifts in hand, waited for my teacher. I had read that the Zen adept waited all day – all night, too, through rain, through snow. None of this, however, proved necessary, for the man I had come to see, who had not known I was coming or that he was my teacher, soon noticed the large foreigner standing in the cabbage patch and came out on the veranda.
“… Every Sunday I would appear with my crackers and cheese, canned meats, peanut clusters – offerings from the PX for my sensei. These he would graciously receive and carry off to the larder. In return I would be given my cup of tea and a talk. It was always about Zen and I never understood a word. Or, rather, it was the words alone I understood – and sometimes the sentences, but never the paragraphs. Still, I was learning.
“Other discourses I had heard were rational, logical, but Dr. Suzuki’s were something else. The process seemed associative, one thought suggesting another, apparently at random. But, as one idea followed another, I saw the randomness was only apparent. Each was attached to the other by the linearity they formed.
“And as I listened I understood that there were other means of structuring thought, ways of thinking different from those I had always known and believed unique.
“This was really all I ever learned from my teacher but it was a lesson of the greatest importance. Dr. Suzuki never gave me satori in exchange for my Velveeta, but he gave me the priceless apprehension of other modes of thought.”
– The Japan Journals: 1947-2004, by Donald Richie, edited by Leza Lowitz, 2004
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