Issue 25;


A visit to Rinso-in

By Francis Checkley Anryu Chiu

We had been in Osaka for our daughter's wedding, when it occurred to us that perhaps Suzuki Roshi's temple may be in the vicinity. In fact, it was about three hours on the "semi bullet" train, that is, a train which stopped at some of the stations on the way. Initially, we phoned to make contact and ask if and when it might be possible to visit. We were asked to send a fax as an introduction making it quite clear that they preferred that to e-mails!! Because of the wedding arrangements, Bernadette was unable to go so unfortunately I had to make the trip alone. As with most things in Japan, everything about the trip proceeded flawlessly. All trains precisely on time, coming to a halt in the place indicated, station platforms spotlessly clean so that they could be used as mirrors if you so wished. Taking a taxi from Yaizu city we soon passed into the country side, rice fields all around and soon arrived at the very impressive complex of buildings which comprise Rinso-in. Above and below the temple was land given over to a quite large cemetery, clean and well-tended with numerous stone Buddhas in many different poses. As such, the temple is nestled So in a steep sided valley with bamboo growing all around. Above there is a reservoir which feeds water down to the rice and vegetable fields below. In November 2011 Rinso-in hosted many priests in celebration of its 500th anniversary. When Suzuki Roshi left for the U.S.A., his son Hoitsu,  respectfully called Hojo-Sama "revered abbot", now in his seventies and still very active, assumed responsibility. Everywhere around the temple was beautifully tended and the distant sound of running water only accentuated the deep pervading silence. Soon, I was met by the Suzuki family, Hojo Sama, his wife Chitose,  Shungo-san(Suzuki Roshi,s grandson), his wife Kumi-san, and their two children Momoyo 7 years old and Kanro 3 years. So, three generations altogether! Later that evening we ate dinner in the family quarters attached to the temple. Sensing my discomfort with deboning the fish with chopsticks, Hojo Sama came to my rescue, saying we call this fish "conversation fish", everyone seemed to find it very funny! Later, the beer came out though I noticed that Shungo's was the non-alcoholic variety whereas Hojo-Sama and I were drinking the strong local brew! Oh well, zazen is only at 6am.After "the party" I, could not sleep all night. At about 5am cars began arriving in the courtyard outside my room as local temple members began arriving for zazen. There were about 6-7 people, all male. Outside the zendo entrance and hesitating to enter and take some ones place, I felt a vice like grip take my arm and guide me directly to where it was appropriate to sit. It was of course, Hojo-Sama! After about 15 minutes of sitting, he began to speak, and though I could not "understand the language" of Japanese, there was a strange sense of knowing. After, we filed out to the Buddha Hall to chant the Heart sutra. And indeed, from the time of my arrival until departing, there was such a sense of heart, of being cared for and of gratitude for life, of being a part of something so unspeakably vast and that we were all just so fortunate to have begun to realise  how precious this human birth actually is.

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