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.