He came back a few years after rigorous training at Eiheiji, the headquarters of the lineage, to L.A., his head now shaved and demeanor somewhat more reserved.
We talked about his new life walking through small villages of rural Japan engaging in the practice of takahatsu, begging. His work takes him him to the front doors of homes upon which would knock and then wait for someone to open. His clothing and dogu, utensils/props, made it perfectly clear to the residents that he was a Buddhist monk and more often than not, he reports, they welcome him in. His purpose was to offer to chant sutras, Buddhist scripture, at the butsudan, the family altar containing the mementos of recently and distantly deceased, for their benefit in the next life. This short ritual, taking about 10 minutes, earns him a few yen and much appreciation.
"What if no one answers the door, perhaps they are not home?" I asked.
"I chant outside the closed door anyway," he replied.
Our conversation occurred when I had just come back from a job interview with the L.A. Philharmonic, seeking to join their development team ranks. Job hunting is so frustrating, as this blog notes early into its development. I asked him what he thought I could do to improve my chances, and he hummed "Daiku", the beginning of Beethoven's "Great" 9th. We both laughed.
A few years later, I saw Gigen - san again. He was still out on the takuhatsu trail providing folks with a way to stay in touch with the Buddhadharma. In the course of conversation, he asked me whether I thought he would be more sincere looking if he did not wear his tabi, split toe socks, when going out in the snow. Looking at this photograph (not my pal), it does not seem that the woman is looking at his bare feet.
Even if no one opens the door ...
Happy Solstice in the
Year of the Green Wood Goat / Sheep / Ox*!