Zen is Now!

December 24, 2009


At this time of the year, I often think of the time I spent with Greg and Moko high up in the mountain just outside of Tokyo, in their lovely traditional Japanese cottage, that was abandoned by the owner who went to the city.

It was Christmas night and it was snowing heavily outside, Greg my host and I were drinking sake with a Zen Monk, who left his family after he turned 50, traveling from temple to temple to seek enlightenment, and to make ends meet, he helps Greg and Moko to pick tea leaves growing wild in the mountain, about this time every year.

We have been drinking for over an hour, our feet tuck under the warm kerosine stove below the wooden floor of this old Japanese house. Greg said to me out of the blue, “Ask him, ask him!”, I said, “Ask him what?”, Greg replied, “Ask him: What is Zen?”. I looked up at Greg and then look slowly to the Zen monk, feeling a bit drunk and stupid, but somehow, I would like to know as well.

So I said to the monk, “Sensei, what is Zen?”.

I remember even now, there was an audible silence and a definable time gap, before this gentle and hairless guy, looked up at me, jumped off the floor, rushed towards me, pushed me down and stood over me with his finger pointing at me, shouting, “Zen is now, Zen is Now, Zen is NOW!” (he knew that much in English), before he jumped outside in the snow and laughed as he skipped around and around in circles.

Greg and I didn’t know what to do at first, but being both sloshed, we just nudged and winked at each other before we went back to our drinking, feeling the warmth under our feet, and for the first time in my life, I knew clearly inside even though I was feeling plastered:


PS: This is what Greg has to say about my version of the story, the slap was so painful, I have erased it from my memory:

Isn’t that wonderful …stories ..they are all true…Yours is just as right…but… I remember that you said to Shukan san and from no urging from me ..and in a rather,  ”Well!!!! What is Zen !!..” and Shuknan San as quick as lightning ….a little guy never done fighting in his life ..moved in Samurai fashion all on his knees in one foul sweep  across the floor and gave you the biggest hardest God almighty slap across the face ..that Iv ever seen ..and you holding your face and saying,  ”I got it !!  I got it!! ”

He was funny though..the time I came back from being away in China and rolled up some mean very mature super blow your mind heads and giving him a toke which I had never done before and never did again ..he puffed on the butt like it was tobacco and then just went into this state of pure enlightened bliss ..saying over and over in Japanese ..Iv got it ! Iv got it !!… this went on for hours and hours………

You can see Greg’s weblog here: http://greg.exblog.jp/


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