Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kauru Nonomura

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple is a memoir, translated from Japanese, of a year at a Soto Zen monastery, following the tradition of Dogen. I read the beginning to Anandi and she thought the violence was not very Buddhist, the way the senior monks treated the new people. It's against the rules to resist the beatings. The rules for going to the bathroom are quite involved, and you snap your fingers three times before and after, and recite bathroom prayers. I do'nt want to say this is an anal sect, but it seems about control. I think discipline is important and each tradition has it's own ways. This is the sect where you meditate facing a wall.

I've always had the fantasy of joining a monastery. A friend who actually lived at one for some time said it was more challenging than you'd think. I haven't really read a memoir of being in one, so this book is greatly appreciated, even though I doubt I would enter such a violent monastery. I wonder even if that is a possibility in the USA. What attracts me is the simplicity and commitment to the path. What repels me is the retreat from the world. I've been thinking about the Bodhisattva path recently, one of engagement with others. Maybe that's why I'm interested in seeing the other side of things.

The back blurb says this 1996 book was a sensation in Japan. It's taken 19 years to get an English translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Not that she took that long to translate this book. (Click on this link to learn more about JWC.)

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