Again cold and unforgiving weather today. It is thought to be a good sign because it will help those following to truly remember what the masters did 80 years ago to found this special teaching. Freezing weather seems to have been the appropriate time to begin austerities in Japan, like the rainy season in India in the time of the Buddha.
Waterfall training was one of the main ways to purge the ego. So today, aspirants must walk in their footsteps in their minds, up the steep narrow path along the ridge to the waterfall. They will feel the freeze of spray on their face as they get closer, then the immersion of skin habitually covered with cloth, the sound deafening arousing the dread of that first cold death.
Photographs of their waterfall training etch themselves into the memories, the consciousness, of aspirants. The blood-stained white cotton robes, the hands pressed into gassho despite the shivering, the slate-blue of feet and hands. And they are told this teaching takes the middle-way, and that only masters need to do this hard training. That they do it exactly so that disciples living their daily lives, ‘householders,’ do not need to. But does this create a dependence despite its magnanimity?
Wondrous powers will be activated through the Dharma current of correctly linked streams. The spiritual current is something seekers can plug into, connect with, through the rituals and spiritual tests. The mandala or succession diagram for this teaching is complete, reaching far back to Shakyamuni Buddha, 2600 years ago. So, if they go under the freezing waterfall in their minds, in their deep minds, they are assured of going further on to enlightenment in oneness with their guides. This is the mysticism of blind faith.
The Masters were flesh and blood, warm-blooded mammals with soft eyes and physical and emotional vulnerabilities. That they were driven to take these strict actions following in the footsteps of their masters, and those before, is about tradition, validity. The further we get away from the founder of any religion or organization, the more checks and balances we need.
But it’s not what the masters did, it’s the way they did it, out of pure compassion for all human beings, for their suffering and their joy. There was no other motive. It is this pure intent that is so impressive, and that disciples can easily emulate.
She is feline in her enthusiasm to collect the cards which mark each day of training. They are beautiful, each with their message carefully conveyed in the hand of the Master, reproduced in their several million. She buys a little case specifically designed to collect them in, and then as the end approaches, she feels a sense of completion. These masters have, drop by drop during 33 years, fed her with faith. She was born not knowing the taste of it, not naturally knowing there was something for her in the invisible world. Her innate purity stood for nothing in a culture in which merit and maleness mean everything, and their opposites nothing.
The religious treasures have amassed over the years, and now she can never be parted from them. They enliven her spirit and allow her some action. Her complete happiness can be found in following perfect models, in belonging, in constant gratitude and humility.
Today, in a city temple under the central Osaka freeway, one long-term disciple talks of how she was saved by the teaching’s power in 2001, at the time of the aerial attack on the Twin Towers of the New York World Trade centre. She was standing outside the main entrance when the first plane crashed into the tower, waiting to go up to a meeting on a high level floor. In the panic, she ran for cover into the subway where she could take refuge until the emergency teams came. Winter training is the time she can show her gratitude most. She always tries to bring a foreigner to the sessions to say thank you to the foreigners who rescued her from that tragic disaster. She will never forget her debt. It is her mission to expend her life paying back.
The Masters can be role models through their faultless lives devoted to all beings. But we must be careful to live out our own individuality, our own Buddha Nature, and to bring to fruition our unqiue mission.