A few weeks ago, I did spend a few hours with my friend and brother Yasuo. He is a Shingon monk and a very unsual person. Anyway, he took me to a dream place, a remote valley where he lives in the mountains between Kyoto and Osaka where cranes, herons,shiny insects and all sorts of flying things can be seen playing endlessly over shivering ricefields, where very old farms and old temples dream away from the busy city life. It is like going back in time or entering a living sumie painted by an artist three hundred years ago ...Very different from the Japan we work in. Anyway, he took me to a brown new Nichiren temple build on a mountain with countless statues, huge big Boddhisatvas as tall as a high building, and statues of all sorts, the whole collection of deities, none missing...A Buddhist attraction park, empty, of course. How much better this money would have been spend in creating schools and jobs, feeding the poor and building hospitals or just properly invested in nice and healthy business projects. Instead, a kitch display in which I could not see anything that looked like real. I mean real as life, people, stuff. I told him how I was feeling and he was feeling quite the same. We ended up visiting a tiny Soto zen temple, not far from a paddy field, so poor and yet very looked after. He drew my attention to a stone covered with moss that was carved with the poem "orginal face": for those familiar with the film about Dogen, it is the poem (waka)of Dogen that you hear in the trailer and in the movie too and it says:
Haru wa Hana
Aki wa tsuki
Fuyu yuki saete
Flowers are in Spring
In summer the cuckoo
in Autumn the moon
and in winter the snow
Freshness and cool
Quite refreshing indeed, this simplicity. As Dogen says somewhere else, don't remember where:
When you paint Spring, do not paint willow trees, plums, peaches or apricots – just paint Spring.
To make Buddha statues out of stone, wood and precious metals is really painting the unnecessary. The very beauty of it all is in the simplicity of Buddha sitting in the flesh and in the universe manifesting the boundless aspect of the path. I find our virtual place, so simple, so unpretentious, a bit closer to what would be my ideal vision of a true temple. As Jundo often says, life as the temple.