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Showing posts from February, 2015

Intimacy Issues

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My mom is sitting a two-month meditation retreat right now at Spirit Rock, the Vipassana Center in Northern California. I got a letter from her asking for the kanji for when Dogen said "To forget the self is to be enlightened by (or intimate with) all beings." She thinks the use of the word intimate is "weird and creepy," and she's asked for the original Japanese several times.

The letter I wrote in response is pasted below.



Dear Mama,First of all, thank you for the leggings and peanut butter! I’m wearing the leggings right now, and I have eaten most of the peanut butter. I’m printing this out from my blog and sending it to you, because I am too lazy to write it out by hand and then type it up again. I also thought you would get a kick out of receiving a letter from me like this anyway. 
I believe you have asked me for the original Japanese of those lines in Genjo Koan at least 3 or 4 times over the years. Since I’ve been studying Japanese formally for a grand t…

Is Zen For Old People?

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Last week the college where I'm taking intensive Japanese had a recess from classes. Most of my friends took the opportunity to travel; some went to Kyoto, or the Sapporo Beer Museum. A few friends of mine visited Okinawa and went to a snake museum and "Okinawa World," which I gather is kind of like Disney Land. I, on the other hand, spent the week freezing in a monastery, staring at the wall. Actually, I went to not one but TWO different monasteries and TWO different Nehan sesshins! Spring break 2015 WOOOOO!

Sometimes I wonder about myself. It's recently dawned on me-- and this might seem obvious already to people reading this-- that people my age don't normally do this. In classical Japanese literature, all of the nuns are old. It's usually the protagonist's mother, or nurse, or aunt, who's retired and became a nun to prepare for death. In one story I read, the "Kagero Diary," a young, wealthy woman wants to ordain to escape from her mean…

Being the Only Woman in the Room

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My teacher proudly says to anyone who will listen that I don't want to practice at his monastery anymore because I don't like the "smell of men." That's definitely not true, and I definitely never said that! I can prove I never said that, because the phrase he uses in Japanese to say "smells like men" (男臭い otoko kusai) is idiomatic and not something I could have come up with on my own. Besides, I quite like men. Now that I'm out of the woman's monastery, I seem to be seeking out men's company more and more.

I can talk to most men about things that most women are not interested in talking about.

I like that men are usually taller than me.

And I actually do like how men smell, which is often like some kind of men's deodorant, which is probably designed to make women think it smells good.

So while I don't dislike the "stench of men," my teacher does kind of have a point. I really really hate being the only woman in a room full…