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Beth Joshi Mulligan - Fall training period week 7

November 13, 2015 by Jokai

David Blackwell Rev. David Jokai Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Beth Joshi Mulligan - Fall training period week 7

Fall training period week 7

This morning I lost my Rakusu. In case you don’t know, a Rakusu is a garment a Zen Buddhist wears after they have taken the precepts formally with their teacher and in front of the Sangha. It symbolizes a robe for lay practitioners, and is made from strips of cloth sewn in a pattern that symbolizes rice fields. Roshi sometimes mentions this to remind us that our practice is similar to the process of farming rice; remnants of the old crops and the soil are turned under to enrich the soil for the next crop. He invites us to use all the ingredients of our life to grow in our practice.

Anyway, I digress….the thing is, I have one that I sewed myself; Roshi has written on the back of it with my Dharma name Joshi. And I’m supposed to wear it, and this morning I couldn’t find it. After I enter the Buddha hall in the morning, I do three full bows on my Zagu (remember my Zagu? – I remember it now…) and I went to hold my Rakusu out of the way as I always do, and it wasn’t there! The weird thing was I clearly remember kneeling and putting it on, softly chanting the verse of the kesa…and I had no memory of taking it off.

I went to my cushion wondering where the heck it was. I was sitting next to Roshi as usual and feeling quite naked with out it, and also wondering if he would notice. I imagined going into meet with him hearing him say, “Where is your Rakusu?” And me, Miss Mindfulness, head trainee in her 8th week, answering, “I don’t know, I lost it.”

As soon as it was time for kinhin, (walking meditation), I bowed out of the hall and started to look for it. I looked in the bathroom, I looked in the dining room, I looked on the shoe rack…I traced my steps into the study hall where I do my stretching before sitting. Suddenly as I stood in front of the little altar, I realized I was wearing it under my robe! I’ve never done this before, but for some unknown reason I put my Rakusu on before I put my robe on, and forgot. With great relief and some silent laughter, I pulled it out where it is supposed to be and drew comfort from its familiarity. When I went back into do fast kinhin, my hands felt just right tucked beneath it.

The symbolism of this little drama was not lost on me. I immediately recalled the words we chant at the noon service in Hakuin’s Song of Zazen, “Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away, what a pity.” It resonates so strongly with the Buddha’s teachings- always pointing us to what is right here. There is nothing missing, we are already awake and whole. Only we don’t see it because of our upside down views. And in terms of the training period especially as it is coming to and end, perhaps this experience was there to help me trust that everything I may be seeking is right here- instead of straining to “get more out of it.” True nature is right here, if I can just remember where to look, in this case, right under my robe…

After meeting with Rohsi, I went in to do the morning service and along with the residents chanted; “ If you do not see the way, you do not see it even as you walk on it. When you walk the way, it is not near it not far. If you are deluded (or don’t know where your clothes are…) you are mountains and rivers away from it. I respectfully say to those who wish to be enlightened, do not waste your time by night or day..”

I love it when these ancient teachings come to life in the here and now. And so- I head into the final days of the training period with the reassurance that everything is always ending and beginning, cultivation is continuous, if we want to keep growing, and the teachings are everywhere if we pay attention and don’t lose our sense of humor. “This very place is the lotus land, this body is the Buddha…”


  • Lynn Koerbel:

    14 Nov 2015 04:31:27

    Dear, dear Joshi—I adore reading these posts, and feel I am with you, practicing alongside, entering the world through your Zen portal, as you hold open the door. Bows of delight and wonder. Thank you.

  • Ava Stanton:

    15 Nov 2015 11:59:27

    Thank you for this blog, and I can imagine each step of your description now, having visited, and been at risk of forgetting my rakusu when I was getting ready to leave! Sending love, the drenching tender love of compassion, as you practice for the benefit of us all this week.

  • Adi:

    16 Nov 2015 11:51:54

    Thank you for ‘communing’ with us all over these weeks of training with such ‘heartful’ teachings emanating from your practice. I have felt you with me & have been able to find refuge in your committed sitting as I struggle in mine…
    Dear Beth Joshi I hold you with love & deep appreciation & look forward to Sunday

  • Jim:

    17 Nov 2015 10:27:45

    I am going to miss these wonderful gems you share. But, they, too, are impermanent and then we may realize that they always are/were everywhere. May blessings flow to you in these final days . . .

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