"Everything has Buddha-nature." This is a memorial to puffer fish we found at Mt. Koya.
Martha: "I want a monkey and a Japanese kid. They are both so darn cute, and I think I can fit them in my purse." So far we have visited Kyoto and Mt. Koya. In Kyoto we met up with Emily and Fernando and went to Arashiyama to see the Monkeys, the Golden Temple "Kinkakuji," and then Kyomizu-temple. I think everyone liked Monkey Mountain the best. Sunday we took the train to Mt. Koya to visit Okunoin, the sacred temple deep in the cemetery forest.
Martha, Erin, and I stayed at a temple overnight, and after they fell asleep, one of the young monks (19, the one peacing) asked me if I had ever been into the forest at night. "It's filled with ghosts."
We entered the cold, dark forest. It was just the two of us, our footsteps swallowed by the full moonlight and dark tombstones carpeting the forest floor. I asked him why he became a monk, and we began to talk about mind, sex, sexuality, drugs, meditation, masturbation, monkhood, buddhahood, everything. Whenever we passed a sacred monument, we stopped talking, bowed, and continued from where we left off. Strange birds and animal sounds wove ghostly threads into the blanket of silence that swallowed us, and I could have sworn that I heard other people walking in front and behind us, but I never saw anyone else. When we arrived at the end of the path, Okunoin temple, where Kukai is burried, I was amazed that the monk gave 2,000 yen ($20) to the incense offering, ten for him and ten for me. We stood in front of Kukai`s cave, offered the incense, and then suddenly the young monk sang the most beautiful prayer I think I have ever heard. He just sang into the night, eyes closed, heart open. Shingon Buddhism often uses singing and chanting as its form of meditation. Soto Zen, on the other hand, uses silent sitting, while Rinzai Zen uses mental riddles called Koans. Tendai uses running and physical exhaustion. Every sect has it's own special way of dissolving the illusion of self. Interesting, yes?
On our way back, the monk and I shared a cigarette and talked about dreaming and reincarnation. I asked him if he saw any ghosts in the forest and he replied, "Well yeah. Didn't you?" I said no and asked why he didn't point out the ghosts to me. "They don't like that," he answered. We both laughed. I looked up at the full moon illuminating the rushing river of clouds, took a deep breath, and smiled. Why am I so damn lucky?