22 May 2008

In, out, and between - pt 2

I was feeling light and happy when I arrived at the last temple I needed to visit to complete my nokyo-cho. The monk signing my book couldn't have been friendlier. Perhaps not too many henro complete their nokyo-cho at his little temple on the edge of Koyasan. He tried giving me all manner of maps and guides to Koyasan, but I had copies of everything he offered. He finally found one I didn't and I accepted not from need but simply to show my appreciation for his kindheartedness.

A group of bus henro at Shosanji, #12

As I was leaving the temple grounds a group of elderly bus henro were arriving and one woman in particular was not embarrassed or ashamed to blurt out in a condescending cackle, “Ah! Gajin da. Nani shittieruna?”

Ah! A foreigner. What's he doing here?

Clearly this woman knows little about Kobo Daishi or Buddhism, or perhaps even less of common courtesy. My initial reaction was a clenching, a tightening, and an urge to respond in kind. I did not. I chanted instead, Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo, and as I walked away I realized I had to thank the old woman for showing me my own weakness and for helping regain my balance. To be tender, to be bitter; to be happy, to be hateful – we know each in contrast to the other. All are intrinsically empty.



Gerald Ford said...

Very fascinating pilgrimage. I've always wanted to do something like this. Sorry about the old lady's comment. I remember reading somewhere that old people are generally much more likely to blurt something out due to a deteriorating mind (decrease in blood flow and such), so I wouldn't give it much thought. Or better yet, just reply to her in Japanese very kindly and she'll learn to be more careful around "gaikokujin". ;)

Jeff said...

The old lady's comment was in hindsight welcome. But I'll remember next time someone says something stupid that its simply an effect of their biological deterioration. ;)

Thanks, GF.

Zach said...

Perhaps you could have said, "Kyou kechigan dekimashita. Anata ha?"

Maybe even that's too spiteful....

harrybhappy said...

Thank you for sharing your experience,I have had similar experiences in India and Thailand as a (rather large)American Theravada Monk, I figure if they take the time to say something then they may remember me for the rest of their life, and at some point they may get it. I know that I was that way once and I laugh at myself every day for the way I thought, the ever changing mind.