Today is the Worm Moon, and I think of how Sensei would often say “All flowers are beautiful.” Their nature is to be beautiful. Why are we so selective and opinionated? Flowers were always a part of his life, symbolically and literally. He told me his family crest was upward-growing Wisteria (here’s all I find online about Shibuya and family crests). Visiting the Carlsbad Ranunculus or better yet, the California Poppy Reserve was a ready excuse for an adventure with Sensei. Here’s a sweet story of morning glories from when he was between high school and college in When It Stops Sinking:

“The early morning in June
Dews are sparkling on the green leaves
Nobody yet awakens
Only the sparrows

Pearl walks around the back garden
Strolls on the mossed knoll
Passing between the twin zelcova gigantic
Descends down the stone steps

Goes under giant chestnut trees
Spreading branches over the half of the backyard
Plain blossoms smell semen
Strewn around the step stones on the neatly swept ground

He strolls through the backyard
Goes to the east end of the garden fringed by moat,
Water flows slow in the half dark
Irises are sleeping sound

Hydrangea is drowsy
Fireflies stay in their beds
Tiny lights brink blue and violet
Dreaming a party with the fairies

Pearl bends over morning glories
Entangling in supporting reeds
Many buds are swelling
Sucking the subtle twilight of the quietude

Crouching over the pots of varied colors
He chooses one of the biggest ones;
He hangs over and stares at it
He focuses on the subtlest changes of the unfolding

Little by little
It unfolds
Little by little
It blooms
It bursts
With a voice —


Pearl is amused
Smiles at
The morning glory
Deep purple unfolded

Many buds are bursting


Pearl laughs
He’s happy
He feels alive
He feels fresh

He is opened
He is alive
He is joyful
He is natural
He is spontaneous

The tiny voice of the morning glories has broken
Pearl’s depression, frustration, stagnation
His heart is buoyant now
His body is alert now
As the shouts of the morning glories”


Today is the Snow Moon, and I think of Sensei’s decision to go to Bodhgaya around the age of 45 (in the late 1970’s). Why did he go? He said he wanted to understand the Buddha’s original teachings in contrast to the more modern Mahayana of Zen in Japan. Remember Bodhgaya is where Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree until he was enlightened. Many countries have representative Buddhist temples there including Japan, and Sensei taught meditation in that one until around 1980. One day Sensei told me to memorize “Khantī paramaṁ tapo tītikkhā” (patience/perseverance is the greatest virtue). Well it turns out that this full moon day is celebrated in Sri Lanka, Thailand, etc as “Sangha day” or Māgha Pūjā, and commemorates Buddha’s Ovāda-pāṭimokkha teaching which includes that statement. Here, Buddha, 10 months after enlightenment, refers to the plural Buddhas, meaning all Awakened ones:

Patient forbearance is the highest austerity.
(Khantī paramaṁ tapo tītikkhā).
Unbinding is highest: That’s what the Buddhas say.
He is no monk who harms another;
nor a contemplative, he who oppresses another.

The non-doing of all evil,
the performance of what is skillful,
the cleansing of one’s own mind:
This is the Buddhas’ teaching.

Not reviling, not injuring,
restraint in line with the monastic code,
moderation in food,
dwelling in seclusion,
devotion to the heightened mind:
This is the Buddhas’ teaching.


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.”