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Thread: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

  1. #1

    Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Just something i bumped into, all in Japanese, giving you a good idea of the place, how cold and hard and harsh is the training. In the middle, rare and exquisite footage of our ancestor, Niwa zenji. At the end, the famous sussho ceremony with its shouting cap phrases and ritualized dialogues.

    and a picture of the back of a rakusu written by Niwa Zenji which I happened to find landing on my lap, the meaning is most profound: a single drop of water

    Deep bows to my teacher Chodo, my brother Jundo and all of you.



    Attached files
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-09-2016 at 12:51 AM.

  2. #2

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you for sharing this! Stunning.


  3. #3

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Very interesting and somehow makes me very happy to be here...guess I should look into that.

    Thank you for sharing Taigu.



  4. #4

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    What a marvelous relic of the Lineage! Thank you for sharing this.

  5. #5

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Hello Taigu,

    his calligraphy is extremely powerful it seems,

    looking at it for the first time just now felt like someone punching my stomach (in a good way - if that makes any sense).

    Thank you for sharing and gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  6. #6

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Really cool.

    Thanks for sharing.


  7. #7

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    What wonderful work by Niwa Zenji on the back of that rakusu. It is alive, all these years later.

    And the film: Niwa's calm face, amid all that harshness, shouting and stress.

    Thank you.

  8. #8

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa




  9. #9

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thanks for posting!


  10. #10

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    What a gem, thank you for sharing!!

  11. #11

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    This is what Koru Nonomura writes about Niwa in Eat, Sleep, Sit p.182, 183:

    When we were settled, a slide door slid noiselessly open and aan old priest appeared. This was master Renpo Niwa, the 77th abbot of Eiheiji. His eyebrows were as white as crane feathers,and below them his eyes shone with a preternaturally keen light that was discenible even from my far-off vantage point. There was about him an indescribable magnetism; he stirred my innermost being. (...)Then he began his sermon. Whatever message he may have given us I have since forgotten, but I will never forget the mesmerizing beauty of that voice. For one so old it was amazingly strong, yet it had dignity and calm, and it pulled out my heartstrings with what seemed to be superhuman power.
    Everytime this ex monk recalls Niwa Zenji in his Eiheiji experience, it is as a man with compassion, grace, love and light. Watch the video and see for yourself. yes Myozan, a moment of peace an love in the midst of a bootcamp.



  12. #12

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you Taigu - though I have to admit I found this documentary quite hard to watch. What a shame there is no translation as perhaps listening to Niwa's words may have provided a context for the harshness?

    Is Koru Nonomura's book an illuminating account?

    I feel I know very little regarding lineage/history of Soto Zen/ it's rituals and ancient practices - would this book help to fill in some gaps?



  13. #13

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    I find this terribly inspiring. A swift kick, an aching winter, a burning summer, a hard sweat, a shout, a sore back - here, here, here, now, now, now.

    Sometimes I have to shake myself out of myself. To shake that slow creeping complacency.

    Gassho, Gassho.

  14. #14

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Is Koru Nonomura's book an illuminating account?
    There have been a couple of threads on this topic that also reference Nonomura's book that may be worth your while.





  15. #15

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you so much, Taigu, for finding these Treasures.

    I will try to translate and post the comments in the video by Niwa Zenji today.

    Yes, there is a great "bootcamp" atmosphere to Zen training in Japan at many places ... both Soto and Rinzai. In the links that Dokan posted, I quoted this excerpt from Nonomura's diary of his Eiheiji experience ... Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple. Some folks may be surprised, but this is Japan ... boot camp, much like the army ... ... ?PID=19318

    Daikan wasn’t the only one to earn the instructors’ wrath. “No! No, no, no! Come on!” As the meal progressed, the yells grew steadily louder and more menacing. The sound of slaps rang out ceaselessly

    “What’s this? You don’t want to eat? Fine, then don’t!” Tenshin had mistakenly laid his chopsticks across his still-empty bowl. The servers passed him by without stopping.

    Enkai had the opposite problem: miso soup being poured into his bowl spilled over the edge and ran down onto the tatami while he watched aghast, not knowing what to do.

    Doryu got punched in the stomach and dropped his bowl.

    Daikan finally managed to lay out his bowls properly by copying his neighbor, but from then on his every move earned him another slap or punch. In the end, he was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and dragged down off the platform. As he lay on the floor in fright, the instructors kicked him.

    Yuho, Kijun, and Choshu somehow managed to keep up with the servers, but their bodies were rigid with effort, their eyes wide open and unblinking as they hurriedly crammed food into their mouths and gulped it down without chewing.

    For all of us, the acts of eating and drinking were carried out in a state of abject terror. The least mistake brought an instant cuff from one of the eagle-eyed senior trainees standing watch. The food had no taste; there was no sense of enjoying a meal. The pace was fast and it took intense concentration to keep up. Now the chopsticks. Next the lap cloth. You had to confirm each step mentally before you could act.

    If you paused to savor the food, before you knew it, second helpings were being served and you had to rush to get your share. If you took time eating that, next thing you knew the servers were coming around with tea, then hot water. Even after we’d memorized exactly what to do and the routine grew familiar, there was never any time to linger over our food.
    There are aspects to it precisely like boot camp or a college fraternity 'hazing' ... a building up by breaking down. Group consciousness is created, inner strengths are found, the selfishness of ego is left at the door. As I said in those threads, "there is a time for a bit of "tough love" (emphasis on the 'love' part), and some folks benefit from the marine drill instructor. Not my style so much or Taigu's, and for some folks it just backfires. However, there is a time to push push push some folks forward to attain that 'no where to attain' ... However, we have to be very cautious ... because sometimes a well meaning "spank" can turn into teasing and abuse and power trips, as sometimes seen in that book." In fact, all all too often ... which is one reason we prefer to maintain a soft and gentle atmosphere ... yet just as sincere toward Practice.

    Also ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    There is [now at the large training monasteries like Eiheiji] primary focus on the precise performance of ritual, which is often very different from the "freedom" of Zen practice, or some "gentle, peaceful search for enlightenment and personal self discovery", which perhaps most Western practitioners envision. It is something of a prison, with punishments and rigorous discipline maintained ... (in fact, when I used to volunteer as a Zen teacher at a maximum security prison in America, there were more than a few obvious similarities).

    Of course, a central point of it all is that true freedom can be found in what seems, at first glance, to be a rigorous lack of freedom! The true "prison walls" are not made of stone, nor are found only outside us. In learning to master, in detail, arcane and precisely performed ceremonies to perfection (Oryoki eating is one that many Westerners may be familiar with, although even then, usually undertaken by lay folks in a simplified, less rigorous form) ... one learns something beyond ideas of "perfection" or "imperfection" in the very striving for "perfection".

    On the other hand, the training in a place like Eiheiji or Sojiji, these days, is very much focused on training young novice priests in the mastery of form and ceremony necessary to function as local parish priests performing funeral services and such, and this also is not of real interest to most foreigners who go there. My teacher, Nishijima, is known in Japan as a critic of what the system has become, a kind of assembly line to turn out young priests who will inherit their father's temple.
    I have heard that the fact that Nishijima Roshi is a strong critic of places like Eiheiji, by the way, is one of the main reasons that Niwa Zenji ordained him and gave him Dharma Transmission. At the same time that Eiheiji Abbott Niwa was at the heart of Eiheiji, he wanted Nishijima and his students ... Sangha like this one perhaps ... to be a "kick in the shins" to the rusty system.

    Gassho, J

  16. #16

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    The translation of Niwa Zenji's comments (about 20:30 in the video) is ...

    Rempo Niwa Zenji, Abbot (Kancho) of Eiheiji

    When it is said "Body-Mind are One", this means that the human body in its entirety is the heart-mind. And the heart-mind in its entirety is the human body as well. This is the very fundamental point of the Teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. We sum it up with the single phrase "Body-Mind are One," and do not divide them into two things. It is a non-Buddhist teaching to divide them into two. It becomes a different teaching. Thus, when the body is straight and true, the heart-mind becomes straight and true. The doorway to the teachings is founded on this "Body-Mind are One", a teaching continuing to us for 2500 years until today. Body is heart-mind. It is something quite deeper than the view of world and society.

  17. #17

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you for this translation.

  18. #18

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    thanks Shawn and Jundo - going to read the links later today when I have time to focus.



  19. #19

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Been there , Done that; back at HMCS Cornwallis in the early fifties. Different strokes for different folks, I'm grateful for my introductions to Zen 8)

  20. #20

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you Taigu for the video and Jundo for the translation,
    Eiheiji does seem to be the polar opposite of what most Westerners would expect from a Zen temple, it has inspired me to read "Eat, Sleep, Sit"

  21. #21

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thank you for the video and translation!

  22. #22

    Re: Eiheiji in 1985 featuring Niwa

    Thanks Taigu for the post.

    A point that resonated for me:

    Jundo wrote, “Of course, a central point of it all is that true freedom can be found in what seems, at first glance, to be a rigorous lack of freedom!”

    Having been involved in an environment built on rigidity for a long time I would say definitively do not discount it.

    Once learned structure and rigidity can be freeing because you know exactly what to do. For example, I was uncomfortable not knowing the procedures and rituals for Treeleaf zazenkai at first but now that I have practiced and I know what to do I feel some freedom and ease. No discomfort from wondering about what comes next if that makes sense.

    I guess it all depends on perspective and practice. This thread was a good reminder for me.


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