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ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT



IS IT FOR YOU AND CAN YOU DO IT?

continued:

"Losing his forward balance and falling several times because of his speed over the trail's uneven surface, he stumbled toward the hut's rough-hewn wooden door, tired, bruised, and out of breath. The sun was just now beginning to fall in a warm sunrise glow against the irregular flat stones used to form the wall of the isolated cabin, pushing back from the rocks the night's cold chill. Leaning on the wall at arms length in order to catch his breath he turned to see the sun rising above the mountains amongst translucent gray clouds, shining with irridescent glowing edges and allowing curtains of light to cascade in beams to the valley below. He fell to his knees, spreading his arms at length as if in homage. The sun warmed his bare face and hands and he could feel his musty sweater absorb the same tender warmth. There was no longer a just in front in front of him, but a penetrating all-around aroundness all around him...and a strange calmness he had never experienced before.

"After eating and resting, he gathered what few belongings he had and made the trek back to the ashrama. All along the way passerbys and field workers, who always before had seemed to busy tending crops or watching their animals to pay much attention to him, stopped to recognize his presence, be friendly, bow or nod. Back at the ashrama he made conference with the Maharshi, bidding him farewell, and thanking him for allowing him to stay. Gracefully he explained he felt he no longer had need of the venerable one's services. The Maharshi, sitting crosslegged on his mat as he almost always did, looked at him for the longest time and with only a slight smile passing his lips, in a brief gesture of dismissal, told him that in reality he never did. The following day, after years in India and Asia, he was on his way back to Europe, shortly thereafter, returning to the states.

The Wait:


"I sat mouth agape as I pictured what it must have been like in India, high in the mountains, crisp rarified air biting at your nostrils and filling your lungs to the bottom of the last tiny air sac. The sun breaking the tops of the peaks and having your mind explode, but not explode; to be whole, but not whole. I wanted it, I wanted my mind to explode in a brilliant flash of illumination. When I told the man next door that was what I wanted, he just shook his head and smiled. Day after day I went back and pestered him. Day after day he told me he had nothing to offer.

"Finally, in desperation that I might not ever stop bothering him, he began giving me small hints into what one might do if anything were to be done. But nothing. I listened to what he said, studied and practiced faithfully, but still nothing.

One day he told me he would be moving soon and I would be on my own. The pressure of the multitudes were crunching down on him and he sought a more solitary lifestyle. He told me that prior to his departure a highly honored Japanese Zen master would be coming to the U.S. and since what I seemed to be seeking and what Zen is paralleled, suggested I see him. He had taken it upon himself to make the arrangements for me to attend a special week long sesshin under the master. I can still see myself furrowing my brow and shaking my head. Except for the Maharshi, the man next door never mentioned anybody specific, but here he was suggesting I see someone who was supposed to be a Dharma master. I stood looking down rubbing my foot in small sweeping arcs across the floor all the while asking myself what was the matter with what I had been doing, I was uneasy, no afraid to see some master guy.

The Zen Master:


"The sesshins ran from four in the morning to eight at night. About thirty people attended and we sat in two rows of fifteen facing one another across the room with our backs toward the wall.

"In the morning the master spoke to all of us in assembly and three times a day we met with him in private consultation. The rest of the time we sat in the most ungodly, uncomfortable position anyone could think up. The master was a small little man they said was in his late seventies, although he looked much younger. He spoke no english and everything he said had to be translated. What he talked about was similar to what the man next door talked about, only in a context that wasn't as easily cross transferable to my experiences. The master had the same calm serenity as the man next door, but in one of the private sessions when I asked him through the interpreter if his mind had exploded, he turned from the translator's eyes to mine with a flash of rage and his body stiffened, quickly retreating to a relaxed manner with a slight sparkle in his eye. After that, for some reason, the man that walked around the room cracking our backs with a stick to keep us at full concentration, spent more time producing extra welts on my shoulders.

"Near noon on the next to the last day I was surprised to see the man next door come into the sesshin. He was quickly ushered in to see the master and they were together in the master's room for a long time. When he left the master walked with him. They seemed as one. There was no interpreter. By the final day our numbers had diminished greatly and though the master spoke in private with the others, he refused to have private consutation with me. When the last day finally ended and we were leaving, thanking heavens we even survived, the interpreter came to me and said the master wished to speak with me. The master told me three of the our group had realized Kensho and berated me for not being among them. He said I had vast opportunities in my daily existence far beyond most and had not fulfilled the expectations of either him or my mentor. I thanked him, bowed, and left.

"Going home my mind was in a whirl. I was sore, I ached, I had welts all over my back and some shrimpie little jerk was telling me to realize my growth. Three people had Kensho. Big deal! Nobody's mind exploded. It wasn't India. For seven agonizing pain filled days I had sat inhumanly contorted under the aegis of a certified Bodhidharma successor, beat with a stick like a dog, nearly starved to death on nothing but turtle food, and probed ceaselessly day after day to practice into the wee hours of the morning...and nothing! I quit my job to practice full time. The summer quietly slipped by. The man next door, as he said he would, moved, seeking more solitude from the multitudes. I received a draft notice and by the end of October I was in the army. It wasn't until after I was discharged that I met up with my mentor again. Before he moved, however, he did come to me and recount his meeting with the Zen master and how the discussion involved me. He said the master had told him I was close, very, very close, and any little thing could break the bottom out. The master had said it wouldn't be little Kensho either. Some at the sesshin were like dog bowls being tipped over, but I was like a dam ready to burst. Water is held by both, but the results are quite different. Pondering for awhile, thinking of my draft notice, the man next door said it was probably good that nothing happened, although he was curious how a person with such an experience would handle a military situation."

[end of 1972 typed notes]

Onus Probandi:


In the month of July 1969, at age 31, after fourteen years of practice, because, for the lack of anything else to call it, the bottom of eternity consciousness literally broke through, and thus therefore, the equivalent of Inka Shomei, the Seal of Approval, at the Fourth Level (ken-chu-shi), was graciously accorded me by the person from which I sought guidence; he himself, having experienced full realization under the grace and light of Sri Ramana some thirty-nine years earlier, also at the age of 31. People ask what leads me to believe my next door neighbor come mentor was also the same person Maugham used as a model for his novel. Since Maugham never said nor the man never told me himself, most of what I have come to know has come from observation, overheard conversation at the time, and what I have been told by what few people I met that knew him in the past.

Sometime in the early-mid 1940s my mentor had a vague connection with the Pasadena Playhouse. There was a dowager patron of the arts that contributed to the Playhouse and in the process of that support she and my mentor became friends. She lived in a California community above Pasadena called Sierra Madre' and had an avid interest in things Indian and Asian, of which my mentor had some knowledge. I met her ten years later, sometime in the mid 1950s, she having visited the man next door various times during that period. Also, since he didn't drive, but loved riding around in my wooden Ford station wagon, he requested I take him to her house on occasion. It was she that told me that in 1944 or so, a famous English author had come to the Playhouse to talk with him about a 'sequel' and that in 1945 or 1946 he had joined the author on a one or two week trip to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

The dowager also told me something regarding the Maharshi. My mentor had never mentioned him by name, only that he had studied at an ashrama in the south of India between the wars. Maugham called him Shri Ganesha from Travancore. He was actually Sri Ramana Maharshi from Triuvannamalai. In anycase, prior to my mentor buying the house next door he had been living a semi-ascetic lifestyle on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California. He related to me he had left the mainland taking with him nothing but a toothbrush, staying seven years. The dowager told me that in September 1946, after his trip north with Maugham, my mentor left for the island on the occasion of 'his holy man's Golden Anniversary.' Later research revealed that devotees of the Maharshi gathered at the ashrama in September 1946 for a great celebration honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the Bhagavan's arrival at Tiruvannamali.

In connection with the same, the man next door told me in passing he had arrived in India in the winter of 1925 and that the year before he arrived his teacher, that is the Maharshi, had been beaten and robbed one night by a group of thugs. He was trying to impress on me that even a revered holy man was not immune from such daily tribulations. Again, later research revealed that the Maharshi had indeed been set upon by ruffians. According to his biographers, on the night of June 26, 1924 several men broke into the ashrama, beat him and several of his devotees, along with stealing several holy relics.

My mentor's guardian was an agnostic. I remember because it was in connection to him that I first heard the word. My mentor however, flirted with Catholicism on and off a good part of his life and there is a slight ring of Catholicism in The Razor's Edge. Maugham even weaves a thread to that effect throughout his novel. In later years the man next door told me a very interesting story regarding the Zen master he sent me to study under. The master was adopted. At age five he was sent by his adoptive parents to a Rinzai sect temple to begin study. He was sent in honor of a request by his birth mother. Apparently while she was still pregnant she decided if the baby was a boy he would become a priest. Earlier a nun had given her a bead off a rosary and instructed her to swallow it in order to ensure a safe childbirth. When the baby was born, tightly clasped in his left hand was that same bead. My mentor liked the story, and even though priest, nun, and rosary may not have been Catholic related per se', it was related.

In his novel Maugham pretty much focuses on 'Larry's' travels in Europe and India. However, in the spring of 1931 'Larry's' former fiancee' 'Isabel' mentions she knew the bank manager in Chicago that handled his account and he told her "...that every now and then he got a draft from some queer place. China, Burma, India." My mentor told me he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines, even mentioning he had a son in the Philippines. Also, when I was at the house of the dowager I saw an intricately hand carved glass-covered wood coffee table he brought back from Japan that he gave her, that had been at one time, a lid to a trunk. It is my belief it was during his travels to Japan in his continuing search for the truth that the then twenty-three year-old met the thirty-eight year-old Yasutani Hakuun Roshi.



Another thing was his World War I adventures. He really didn't discuss it much except telling me that at age seventeen he was a fighter pilot flying for the British through Canada and that his best friend had died in front of his eyes. However, when I was growing up there was an 'old' man that tended the oil derricks not far from where I lived. Every year on the Fourth of July he would take a bunch of us kids to the top on one of the derricks to watch the fireworks being shot off in the surrounding communities. He lived in a combination caretakers shack, repair shop near the wells. One day I took my mentor to his place just for the heck of it. On his wall were several framed photographs of biplanes with men standing around in front of them dressed in WW I flight regalia. Come to find out the oil well man had been a pilot fighting for the French in the Lafayette Flying Corps and was one of the men in the photos. Next thing I knew my mentor and the oil well man were swaping war stories about everything from pulling thousand foot long Zeppelins out of the sky using twin Vickers armed with tracers to R & R in Paris. My mentor flew Sopwith Camels, the oil well man Neiuport 11s. I learned more about WW I in those few hours than all my years in school.



Sri Ramama was born December 29, 1879 and died April 14, 1950. Yasutani Hakuun Roshi was born in 1885 and died in 1973. My mentor entered Mahasamadhi several years ago. He would have been 100 years old in 1999.

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