Mar 26, 2023
Martin Goodson

7. Pondering


Jizo reveals something about his mysterious past...



Maybe you’re thinking, "How can Dylan remember all this stuff? All the strange names and everything!” Especially since I have ADD and my teachers are sure I can’t concentrate for more than five minutes at a time. Well, it’s like this.  First, I CAN concentrate if I’m interested. And second, I have the handy little tape recorder you gave me. It’s not new but it still works and it plays my music so it’s always on me. Jizo says it’s alright to use it to remember but not to write the blog. He doesn’t want me to just copy what I hear. He says he wants me to ‘ponder’ “ponder” it.  Don’t have a clue what he’s on about. Nobody ever used a word like that in my presence before. When I say that he laughs. 

“Ponder is a perfectly good English word. It means to think about what you’re told, but also to test it against your own experience.”

I guess I look confused. Jizo shakes his finger.

“Look Dylan. It’s simple. I tell you a story about     the Buddha and you think, ‘Oh, I know how he must have felt leaving his family’.’ It’s your own experience that tells you that.”

Jizo gets a far-away look in his eyes.

“For many years I pondered the story of the Buddha this way until one day I realized that the Buddha’s story was also my story. And I can tell you the very day it happened.

It was a cold morning in the mountains of northern Japan. I had spent several hard years in a training monastery, getting up at the crack of dawn and breaking my bones on the meditation cushion for long hours every day and sometimes through the night. I also cooked and cleaned and swept out the rooms and gardened. There are strict rules about how to behave in a monastery but I was used to the routine and had grown to love it.

This morning I was up as usual, but everything seemed different. I was leaving this place that had become my home and I had no idea what was going to happen to me. In Japan, monks who have finished the first part of their training are sent out to test the strength of their insight into the Buddhist teaching. They can travel on foot for hundreds of miles, through forests and along steep mountain paths as well as through strange towns and big city streets and they need to be prepared.

So just as I was setting out, my teacher came to say good-bye and handed me a beautifully wrapped parcel. I asked him if I should open it but he said “No”. I was to keep it in a safe place. It was money to be used for my burial should anything terrible happen to me. Then he knelt down and gently knotted the laces of both my sandals.

At that moment I felt the immense tenderness and compassion of this great man and for an instant my heart felt as if it was about to break. “ Never untie these knots”,  ‘Never untie these knots,’ he told me - and in a way I never have. I am happy to be a knot in the long rope that leads all the way back to the Buddha and that has guided every generation of travellers along the Buddhist path since the very beginning.”

O.k. So I taped that. Not everything can be put in your own words. Then I ask Jizo a question:

“So you’re a monk?” “Yes and no”, he said.

And I wonder. Is it true? Is Jizo a Buddhist monk like the ones we saw in the movie? “Where are your robes?” I blurt this out and regret it almost at once. Jizo smiles at me: “They’re not so important.”

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