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Archive for the ‘Enlightenment’ Category

Sunrise on Mt Fuji

I awoke at the Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo, feeling very cheerful.

Then, I wondered why I was so cheerful.

A 11-hour flight from London, with a 9-hour time zone difference does not quite qualify as a case for being cheerful.

Then I realized.

I was happy for my friends; for the progress they were making in the treasure hunt. Jack and Ryan had met their teacher; so had Jamie; As for me, I had already completed 4 tasks, for the Teacher. Only 8 more to go. Awesome. Can do.

I decided to splurge; let my hair down and celebrate;

After all, it was my first visit to Japan.

And I’ve always wanted to visit this beautiful country.

I decided to go out and hit Tokyo hard; and I did;

For the next few hours, went crazy visiting malls, pubs, checking out cameras, gadgets, toy robots, freaking out on Sushi, Sake and rice cakes …

100% Urban; 0% Monk.

 

By afternoon, exhausted, I packed a bottle of wine for my hosts and prepared to travel to the picturesque Lake Ashi.

It was time to meet Hiroyuki and complete my 5th task.

Stranger. Never met him before.

But then, new friends always begin as strangers, don’t they?

 

###

I arrived at Hiroyuki’s traditional, Japanese home, overlooking Lake Ashi, with a stunning view of Mt Fuji. I removed my shoes outside the door and left them pointing outwards, facing away from the entrance.

I was greeted by Hiroyuki; we bowed to each other; He might have been in his late 60’s and he welcomed me with a Namaste; which I quite enjoyed. I gave him the bottle of wine I had got him as a gift and said “Kore wa tsumaranai mono desu kedo, doozo” (Please accept this small/trivial token of my appreciation.)

Then, his daughter, Yoshie arrived to welcome me. She looked maybe in her early-30’s, dressed in a formal blue Furisode Kimono, with hypnotizing floral patterns. She bowed to me as if I was royalty.

The first thing I noticed was her eyes; they were so…how should I say…enchanting.

“Thanks for your hospitality”, I said to Hiroyuki. “It is such a lovely place. I would really love to see the local sights today, while I am here.”

Hiroyuki gestured to his daughter.

Her eyes sparkled even more as she spoke.

“I am sorry, but my father cannot speak. He lost his voice at a very early age. If you do not find it rude, I will speak on his behalf. Of course, I will be happy to take you on a tour of our town. But first, please join us for tea.”

 

 

 

###

We sat down on the Tatami floor (straw panel mats). Yoshie invited me to sit farthest from the entrance, as a sign of honoring one’s guest. They paused to see if I was comfortable sitting in the Seiza position (legs folded beneath, resting against the calves). Of course I was comfortable, having been beaten to submission once by Snake to master this position to activate a chakra.

I remembered to say “itadakimasu” before eating, to express that I was grateful to receive.

A picture of Mt. Fuji at the doorway held my attention. I was curious to know what it meant, but knew it was impolite to have any conversation during a tea ceremony. So, I held back.

Once the tea ceremony was over and the utensils had been cleared, I asked Hiroyuki and his daughter.

 

 

“How far is Mt. Fuji from here? It looks beautiful.”

Hiroyuki became silent. His daughter Yoshie looked at me and smiled. It was a strange smile, as if she used it to hide sorrow, not express happiness.

“I was waiting for you to ask. After all, that is the reason why you are here, are you not?”

I was unsure about where this was heading.

“I would like to hear it from you” I offered.

Yoshie began. “My father was found as an infant, in the foothills of the great mountain Fuji-San (Mt. Fuji). It was a miracle that a young tourist couple came across him during their trek. They decided to adopt him, as they were childless and felt the child was a gift from the great mountain. They thought it was a good sign and decided to let him grow as an adult in the vicinity of the mountain.

My father has always lived a life of integrity. He has served the people of the great lake and mountain honorably.”

“I am glad”, I said, bowing briefly in his direction.

“He has self-learnt his way as a youth and spent a few years in your country. He arrived at the ashram after you had left.”

“Ah. Nice.”

 

“He learnt the basics of Yoga from the Teacher”, she said.

“Nice. How did it go? How far did he progress?”

“He learnt about right living; He then practiced the 3 stages –the various asanas (body posture), pranayama (breath control) and pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). I hope I am saying the words correctly.”

“Yes you are; and it is great to know that.” This was getting better and better.

“After his return to his homeland, he continued to practice yoga by the great lake and the Shinto temple.”

“This is indeed a serene place to continue one’s practice”, I acknowledged. Lucky man.

“Now, in his old age, he wishes to die in honor.”

(Huh?)

“So, he wrote to the teacher, the only man he ever trusted to guide his spiritual life; and asked him what an honorable death would be.

The teacher wrote back saying that such thoughts were unnecessary. He said, ‘How we die depends on how we have lived. An honorable life is an honorable death.‘”

(I smiled; thinking of the old geezer. You got to give credit to him. For all his strictness, the man had style.)

“Great words of wisdom from a great man. I hope that solved your father’s worry.” I smiled warmly at Hiroyuki.

 

“Yes. There was much joy. The answer warmed my father’s heart and gave him peace for many years. But then one day in spring this year, when he was opened the letter, he noticed for the first time, writing on the rear of the page. He was shocked. He rushed to check with us. But the rest of us were equally puzzled. We were sure it was not there before. It was almost as if the words appeared when the time was right for them to be read.”

(Oh! Sounded like the old man was up to some mischief.)

“The family gathered around him to read it.

The words plunged into our hearts like an arrow.”

She handed me the letter.

With a confused look, I reached for the letter and read it.

 

“This year, it is time to meet your destiny.

Practice the three stages earnestly and be ready.

Then, in the season after the Sakura flowers have fallen,

the one I send will arrive

and you will journey with him to the summit.

 

With him, you will see the sunrise

Then you will see the sun rise

Then you will know the sunrise

And then you will die

That is your destiny.

It is the most honorable death for a man.”

 

###

The only response from me was a stunned silence. I was spell bound after reading the message.

(What!!!!. The old man must have gone nuts. What on earth is he up to?”)

Hiroyuki gestured in sign language to his daughter.

She nodded and continued speaking to me.

“My father wishes to say, he is now ready; he has practiced the three stages with great effort and care. Your arrival is the sign. He says it is a great honor that you have been sent to be present with him at his death.”

“Me? Why?”

Yoshie looked puzzled. “Who better, than the one they called Sunbeam? You have earned the grace of the Sun. Stories of your powers are still folklore at the ashram. Your presence will help my father die an auspicious death at Sunrise.”

I felt I had waded right into some kind of ancient-cosmic-time warped-elemental-matrix.

The next few minutes were a blur. She was still speaking, explaining the plans for the next day; when Hiroyuki and I would set off, the route we would take to the Mt. Fuji 5th station, the path to the summit, the overnight stay in a mountain hut at the 8th station, the weather forecast, the sword that Hiroyuki planned to use to die an honorable death at sunrise the following day….in my presence.

But I was in a daze. This was surreal. There was just no way I was going to allow this to happen; see a man die in front of my eyes, without doing anything to help him.

But I had to get to the bottom of this. Why this? Why now? Why me? Just when everything was going so well for my friends…shopping in Tokyo….on such a beautiful day…. my first visit to this lovely country…in the company of a great man…and his lovely daughter…with those enchanting eyes…

I needed some fresh air; clear my mind.

I had thoroughly lost balance.

After a few minutes, I excused myself and stepped out.

###

 

 

I went to the garden and took a deep breath. I surveyed the beauty in front of me. I walked a while amidst the Sakura (Cherry blossom) trees and greenery. I noticed the flowers and leaves had withered. It was the season for them to fall.

What the Japanese call ‘Mono no aware’

Impermanence! A gentle sadness at the passing of things

I looked up at Mt. Fuji, snow-capped, in all its glory.

thought about the man who was found as a child in its foothills.

Who was now readying himself to die on its summit.

At sunrise.

In my presence.

And believed in his heart it was his destiny

Because his Teacher said so.

Nuts!!!

 

I walked around the lake, at a slow pace, till I found a big rock by the lake. I decided to use it as a seat.

The lapping of water in the shore of the lake.

Chaotic. Rhythmic.

I calmed my movements,

then calmed my senses,

then my breathing….

…and withdrew inward.

There, I turned my attention to the flurry of perceptions, memories and ideas

and calmed them.

Flow. Tranquility.

Resumed.

The Sun came out from the clouds. I felt its warmth on my skin and looked up.

Soon, I was awake.

The crumpling had dissolved.

I opened myself to accept.

I bent my awareness to the message in the letter.

With love, wisdom and firmness.

In an hour or so, unable to bear the sustained onslaught, the words in the message dissolved, revealing their essence.

Clarity.

I opened my eyes wide.

I got up and stretched my arms to the sky.

Laughed.

And relaxed.

I understood what this was all about.

 

###

 

On my way back, I saw Yoshie walking towards me.

She had changed into a modern outfit, and now carried a rustic shopping bag in her hand.

“I hope I did not disturb your walk. Pardon my intrusion”, she said.

I shook my head.

Yoshie spoke. “You wanted to go shopping and sight-seeing. I am ready to escort you. After we are back, if you permit, I would like to spend some time with my father. I will miss him when he is gone.”

I saw those enchanting eyes again, but this time, looked through them.

“It is ok, Yoshie. Be with him all day.”

“No No. I am sorry I offended you with my words. It is my honor to show you the beauty of the lake.”

I smiled at her. “And it is my honor to know such a man and his daughter, who would attend to their guest even on the last day they are together.”

Her eyes became moist.

“Be at peace, friend. Today is precious. Tomorrow can wait….and my desire to indulge the senses is past.” I said in a calm voice.

She looked at me curiously.

“You are the same, yet you look and sound and act different.”

“This is who your father needs to be with to survive tomorrow”, I said and walked past her to the house.

0% Urban; 100% monk.

 

(to be continued……)

 

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