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Lions Roar : March 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 39 ican newspaper interviews had told him she’d survived colon cancer and two divorces, had no children, taught courses in Eastern philosophy, and described herself whimsically as a Baptist–Buddhist. Her book, The Power of a Quiet Mind, was a 300-page volume inter- preting the dharma in terms that addressed the trials and tribulations of black Americans. Toshiro was only two chapters into his translation, but he’d found her work electrifying—even culturally necessary. Her prose was incandescent, shimmering with the right thought of all buddhas, but in the con- text of a black American in the twenty-first-century. Toshiro also found this ironic. In Japan, the old ways and old wisdom had become antique after World War II. The traditions of Soto and Rinzai Zen held little interest for the younger, business-minded generation of Japanese who seemed quite satisfied pursuing the goods of the world and being salarymen. But the Americans? Since the 1960s, they had become passionate about the dharma, even when they got it wrong, and he often sus- pected that much of the continuation of Asian spiritual traditions might fall to them, the gaijin (foreigners) of North America, who had grown weary of materialism. As much as he valued his privacy at the temple, he saw how impolite it would be to turn this very distinguished visitor away. He wasn’t happy about the prospect of having to be entertaining, but it couldn’t be helped. If he didn’t welcome Tucker, her publisher—his boss— would be displeased. Even so, he had always been awk- ward around people and he felt afraid of this situation. The young priest brought his palms together in the gesture of gratitude and veneration, called gasshó, and made a quick bow. “Forgive me for not recognizing you at first. I think your book—and you—are wonderful, and you can help me with some of the words,” Toshiro said. “But I don’t think you should stay too long. One day only. I don’t see people often, and I’m not such a good teacher of the buddhadharma. Really, I don’t know anything.” “Oh, that’s hard to believe,” she said, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she smiled. “I’ve read that all beings are potential buddhas. Anyone or anything can bring us to a sudden awakening—the timbre of a bell, an autumn rose, the extinguishing of a candle. Anything!” Toshiro’s eyes lost focus when she said that. She knew her stuff, and that made his heart give a very slight jump. How would she judge him if she knew the depths of his own failure? The priest invited the pil- grim inside, offering her a cup of rice wine and a plate of rice crackers. He showed her around the temple, the two of them sometimes walking out of step in their stocking feet and bumping each other as they con- versed for half the afternoon about English grammar, with Tucker sometimes placing her hand gently on his He wondered what terrible karma had brought this always questioning American to Anraku-ji. He was certain she would discover that, as a Zen priest, he was a living lie.