memory

Today is the Full Wolf Moon, and I think of the things Sensei shared about the few years he lived in the wilderness of Hokkaido in his late 30’s. He said that the sounds of nature became sounds of imagined people, like the stream of melting snow near the abandoned hut he stayed in. At one point it sounded like a group of people talking — perhaps reflecting a desire to not be alone which he confronted at that time. Years later he told me “I am alone but not lonely”. That stream also was featured in a remarkable story of his daily routine that he spoke of and wrote about in his When It Stops Sinking:

“The Bhikkhu got up in the dawn
Stripped him to nakedness
Took the cooking pan and put on shoes
Open the door and ran to the only place of un-frozen stream

Scooping water from the hole dug into the snow
The Bhikkhu splashed the water onto his body
Splashing, splashing, splashing twenty times onto his blue black body
He felt that he was purified

The water was warm for him
It was even steaming
Certainly it was warmer than the atmosphere
Which was ten to fifteen degrees below zero

He was extremely happy with the fact that
Not all nature was severe and hostile at him
But some part of it was mild and gentle to him
At its most delicate and essential part of it

He did not feel any cold at all
He was just joyous of this daily routine
Which was totally secret from the villagers
Even from animals and birds from around

It was even sacred ceremony to him
To keep his body and mind clean and pure
To maintain his good health and inspiration
To persist in the lone life in unprotected nature

Even if he succumbed to the desires;
Even if he was polluted by the practice and memory of the past
By the desire and ignorance of the present moment
By fear, insecurity, diffidence, uncertainty for future

He was resurrected and refreshed
From the nocturnal ordeal of murky confusion and desperation
From the daylong fighting with endless pain and incapacity
From the monotonous and tedious transition of time in the seclusion

He recovered his childhood innocence and energy
Imagination, vision, dream, hope;
Body, mentality, behavior, attitude
When he finished his ablution, he was triumphant

He was joyous to the extent that
He wanted cry out to the mountain
He just dashed back to his lone house,
Raising a line of violet smoke.”

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