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Lions Roar : July 2016
cushions, must walk to a specified spot on the floor two meters away from the chief monk’s sitting platform and bow before his cushions is one of the rules. This bow is mostly an empty gesture executed before empty cushions, since all the monks who later succeed him as chief do everything possible to reduce the time they have to spend meditating and invariably avail themselves to the prerogative of arriving last. Not the Thief. When I enter the darkening hall, hard rubber sandals slapping against the stone floor as I advance to make my bow, he is already seated, a mighty presence lost to the world. Well...not quite lost, and this is the difficulty. The Thief has the unnerving talent of wearing two faces concurrently while he sits atop his cushions. Face one shows him utterly gone, so remote from the hall he couldn’t care less about me and my puny meditation. Face two glow- ersatmethemomentIaminhisfieldof vision and cuts me to shreds. Even when my upper torso is parallel to the floor I feel his glance crushing me with my unfreedom. Any doubts about this are dispelled the instant I raise my trunk and confront his eyes boring without mercy, cool and mocking, into mine. Yet never can I shake the suspicion that this is all a mask, that the Thief is too absorbed with what made him quit teaching school and become a monk to be bothered with the likes of me. The first face says: “You’ve got that right!” The second face, the one I would like to dismiss as a mask, winks (without moving an eye) and says: “You didn’t come thousands of miles to a Zen monastery to bullshit yourself, did you?” The Thief does not care about my love life, or what books I have read, or if my Japanese is coming along. He terminates me at a single point, always the same point, the point where I attempt to live. If our eyes never met again he would not give me another thought. Since they do, he forms himself into a koan that I can avert only by awakening to the Zen Self or by keeping the hell away. ♦ LEARN MORE AT PACIFICZEN.ORG A RETREAT WITH JOHN TARRANT SEPTEMBER 16 – 18, 2016 THE GARRISON INSTITUTE GARRISON, NEW YORK (easy access by train or car from new york city) THE CREATIVE LIFE AND MEDITATION PACIFIC ZEN INSTITUTE Japanese Incense since 1705 www.shoyeido.com LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 77