14th August, 2013. Takatsuki, Osaka
When I was a teenager in northern Britain, my father was a very strong calm influence in my life. One day, we were playing cricket during the leisurely lunchtime as we often did during school days, and listening to the radio at the same time. I can still remember those dark brown voices the BBC prided itself on, floating out into the perpetual sunshine of my child’s life. The smoothness of the cricket bat handle wound immaculately with waxed cotton, the ‘chonk’ of the hard ball as it struck, the moving forward of my body to strike in a straight line as I had been taught, and the indestructible sound of words which totally changed the direction of my life.
‘It is hard to be born a human being, and harder still to encounter a Buddha. It would be like a blind sea turtle encountering a floating log with a hole in it and poking its head through.’
At the time, I had no idea what a ‘Buddha’ was, as I was born an Anglican Christian from strong Catholic heritage on both my maternal and paternal side. But I could deduce that this encounter was extremely rare, and I could imagine the sea turtle in a vast salty ocean, suddenly spotting the hole in the log on the surface, and then swimming furiously upwards towards it to pop its green neck through and view the sky first-hand.
My parents kept their religious views quiet, but my younger brother and I were very religious, always inspired and fascinated by my devout grandmother’s faith. He served as acolyte, assistant to the priest, and later head choir boy of quite a famous boys church choir, and I, slightly resentful that the role of women was to step back and support the holy men, stayed quietly kneeling in the pews and watching his progress. I remember feeling so comfortable in the darkness of our local stone church, content to listen to Latin reverberating around the white marble altar, and entranced by the candlelight and incense. For several years after hearing about the zealous turtle, I remember waiting for a ‘Buddha’ to appear, though I still had no idea what it was, and I wanted to be a holy figure wearing robes in order to serve this ‘Buddha’ or ‘God.’
I will never forget the experiences of deep Christianity I had with my grandmother. We offered candles together to various saints, spent a great deal of time bowing, genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. She almost always had tears in her eyes once we set foot inside a church. As a young child, I found this rather worrying because she was always so jolly in everyday life. So, I remember asking her why she was crying, and if she was sad. She looked down at me from her constant gaze at the crucifix and statue of Mother Mary and said, ‘These are tears of deep joy that God loves me and protects me, and that I am special to him. One day you will feel this deep joy if you show your gratitude and respect every moment of your life.’ I was very moved by this crying myself, and she swept me up into her arms with absolute delight and passion.
Then in my early teens, my inspirational grandmother with such pure faith died, and I knew she had chosen me to carry on her legacy of strong Christianity. However, when I came to practise on my own, Christian practices, especially of prayer and confession, felt wrong, seemed dark and rather negative to me. It was at this point that I realised that out of adoration and awe of my grandmother, I had wanted her approval and so practised willingly with her, but I could not be sincere without her by my side. So, I made a conscious decision not to practise Christianity, and instead to explore other pathways and take my grandmother’s spirit with me.
As my faith exploration became more determined, and my intellectual wings became strong, I was so shocked to find out just how lacking peace most Judeo-Christian sects were. They seemed consumed with rage and revenge, and power-seeking above all, having been at war for hundreds of years since the Crusades in Europe, and still continuing to fight. For a long time I couldn’t understand why my grandmother seemed not be aware of this aspect of her deep faith, but later I did come to understand, as I also did her tearful joy.
Soon I entered the turbulent waters of relationships, and found that I easily became involved with angry and disturbed people, even though I felt little of those negative emotions myself. My transient partners were also lacking in pure faith and instead invested themselves in intellectual analysis and wholesale rejection of the invisible world. I was saddened by this incompatibility and longed to find my life partner and settle down to sharing the magic and joy of existence that my grandmother had lived by. As a result of these strong pre-requisites, my relationships were short-lived and filled with drama.
It was during this time, while studying as a performing pianist and cellist at a national conservatoire in northern England, and very much influenced by the great Russian Romantic composers like Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsy and Skriabin, that I found the Buddha. As a respite from my hard physical practice schedule, which often ran to 10 hours a day as I was ambitious, I attended a lecture simply called ‘The Buddha Shyakyamuni,’ which recounted his life and outlined the basic Mahayana systems of karma (cause and effect), Bodhichitta (focus on enlightenment) and Sunyatta (emptiness). I was so impressed to actually encounter the Buddha for the first time, and to have some basic understanding of what he stood for. I indeed felt like the sea turtle so thrilled to find the hole in the driftwood, and to take in the whole of the heavens.
I instantly knew that this was my pathway, so I took my grandmother’s spirit with me and started out on the way. Of course, the Buddhist way was somewhat at odds with my immersion in Russian Romanticism, but I believe it brought about some realisations I would not have otherwise had. One such realisation was that I temporarily lost my mind while working to learn the whole of the famous Rachmaninov piano concerto 2, and as he himself did while writing this magnificent tour de force. The musical themes permeating this work are sublime; I think they are filled with the joy, renunciation and devotional gratitude, of a hugely religious nature. But creating these themes took its toll on him and he became exhausted and seriously depressed for many years as a result. The physical and emotional demands of this work left their mark on my spirit too, which led to me to eventually renounce Romantic music altogether and turn to early vocal music of Europe, which centred me, allowing my Buddha nature to shine again.
When I was recovering from this period of breakdown, I discovered the power of meditation, and would spend increasingly long periods of time meditating with various masters. This part of my pathway healed me and moved me on, and soon I became a meditation teacher myself and would work with others to help heal them. I later discovered through the Nirvana teachings, that I now practice 30 years later, that I have healing in my ancestry. So, I have carried that legacy forward by using healing hands and working with energy fields in my life here in Japan (for further information see ‘In Through the Body’ my Alexander technique web site).
I encountered one of my many illustrious teachers at this stage whose name was Don Burton. He was an Alexander Master and gifted Anatomist. On my encounter with F.M.Alexander’s Technique, I took another huge leap forwards on the path. The Alexander Technique is quite well-known today, and Alexander teachers can be found resident in most colleges of the performing arts in Europe. When I first became acquainted with it, it was little known, but there is no doubt that it found me, as most gurus do find their devotees.
At this period, I was teaching music in two schools I created in the Lake District in northern England, and performing myself when I could get the chance. I was very absorbed in teaching so that the spirit of each musician could flow freely, which meant reducing physical effort to a minimum. It was only when the body was working in a smooth effortless way that this was possible, and so I developed rather unorthodox ways of teaching. Then, when on holiday in the beautiful south west of England, I was waking through country lanes and I saw a sign, which read, ‘F.M. Alexander Technique: Body and mind re-education.’ I was fascinated so rang the bell on the gate of a grand house, and was greeted by an elderly very upright man who introduced me to a group of Alexander teachers. We talked for a while (I was eager to know the theory behind this technique, so got out my notebook), but I was soon recommended to close it and given a list of recognised Alexander teachers throughout Britain instead. My mentors insisted that I should experience the technique first-hand before I looked into the theory.
This simple occurrence was a hugely important learning stage in my life. It was then that I realised that if we were not careful, we could view everything in our lives as theoretical, and lose all touch with direct experience. With the rapid onset and development of technology, computers and the like, it was becoming more and more common to become armchair livers of life. Life was becoming all about pressing buttons and learning concepts and theories, becoming a specialist in a certain discipline without any direct knowledge and experience of the whole torrential stream of the Dharma. Sadly, I felt that the study of precious musical masterpieces was being adversely affected by this modern trend, and that technique was the dominant concern. So, I instantly contacted an Alexander teacher on arriving home, and started to experience the technique for myself.
Don Burton taught me how to channel unique healing energy through my hands so that my own pupils could benefit from it. Of course, this chapter in my life is hugely rich and cannot be recounted in this short biography, but you can find a great deal more detail about it in my novel ‘Temple of the Phoenix,’ and especially in the featured conversations between the two protagonists Nohmen and Kokoro in ‘Nohmen and Kokoro talking Dharma’ section in the side menu of Nirvana Linden. Suffice it to say that I deem both Don Burton and F.M.Alexander to be Buddhas, and my debt of gratitude to them will go on being paid back eternally!
Coincidentally, Don Burton was also a practising Buddhist when I first met him. He was connected to the Tibetan tradition based at Manjushri Institute in Ulverston, the Lake District. I happened to live nearby and so started to practise there myself, studying basic meditation and rituals compatible with my Music work and my Alexander training. It was at this point that I encountered the early teachings of the Buddha focused on meditation, making bonds with the Universe, and loving kindness expressed universally to all sentient beings. It was also at this time that the Tibetan Kadampa lineage was being founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso at Manjushri Institute, and I had the opportunity to meet and work with this revered Buddha in his obscurity.
At this point I was experiencing retreats and going quite deep with my emptiness practice. I also met my life partner, who was without doubt, one of my greatest teachers. We studied the Alexander Technique together and were thrown into a furious centrifuge of karma with all its ecstasy and all its hellish suffering. We were fated to be together, lapsed Jew and lapsed Christian, hardened intellectual and intellectual escapee, agnostic and person of religion. We were hell-bent on pleasure, singed by the flames of earthly love and possession, wallowing in the ego and seeking emotional perfection all at once. My faith became a blur as our karmas were blended together, and It seemed quite likely that my sandy pathway would be covered over by the lush vegetation of sensuality.
As the raging flames of disagreement about the existence of the invisible world threatened to consume us both totally, the founder of Rigpa, Sogyal Rinpoche, a charismatic Tibetan teacher published his classic, ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.’ The power of this masterpiece, ejected me from the karmic centrifuge. I realised the positive importance and inspiration of the unpredictability of death and demise, which was in complete opposition to my partner’s negative view and intrinsic fear of death, a legacy handed down through the persecution of the Jews. I was saved, my pathway cleared, and I was filled with Bodhichitta to bring my partner to enlightenment with me, no matter what it took. This fierce exhausting training went on for many years until I could go no further with it and we separated. My faith deepened immeasurably thanks to my opponent’s complete lack of it.
H.H. the Dalai Lama had a great influence also at this stage. His beautiful smiles even impressed my partner, though all basic Buddhist tenets such as karma, reincarnation, Bhodichitta and so on, were totally dismissed. I could never have believed that the human ego could be so dominant. It seemed at times as if I was being constantly assaulted by Mara and all manner of obstacles and temptations, the destruction of sacred Buddhist tomes and implements, all but consummated murder.
In the midst of this pleasure garden period, I absented myself from this relationship as my partner was married with children, and seemed to want to have it all. I recriminated that I would be responsible for breaking this marriage and so decided to sell up, pack a rucksack, and set out round the world. I searched for the Dharma in Buddhist temples of India, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and discovered the Middle period teachings of the Buddha. I spent two years on the road establishing my determination to continue on towards enlightenment no matter what.
I met more incredible teachers, but perhaps the most influential were the members of an indigenous tribe of native Australians, and their spiritual leader, Ninija. In the raging heat of the south Australian desert, I joined a project to aid the elderly and young of this tribe to return to their traditional life in the interior, away from white Australians and all modern conveniences. By Ninija I was briskly taught how to live directly instead of through my mind. No concepts were available to me during this period, and reality arose before my very eyes with the assistance of the Creation stories of the Pyjinjarra tribe.
Then I returned to Britain and found myself quite suddenly back in the centrifuge with my partner. Now the tests really began. But I was strong, and busied myself practising compassion and serving, whilst obsessively reading as many sutras as I could get my hands on. This was my theoretical period until I could get into a position where I could truly act from the heart.
Then we decided to move to the eastern Pyrenees and inhabit a mountain house, which was a shell. I would write and continue my Buddhist studies while working to make the house more habitable, and my partner would also write and read. It seemed idyllic and, at least to begin with, quite calm. The mountains were truly purifying, the huge garden abandoned and medieval, the life simple. We were poor, my partner having divorced and been cheated out of most of the settlement, but we could live in relative comfort.
Such a paradise you couldn’t imagine, but still it was possible for the centrifuge to start up if certain conditions were not met. It was here, surrounded by Catholics and not a Buddhist in sight, that I really started to practise. I set up a small shrine in a deserted room of the skeleton of the farmhouse, and every day practised Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s meditation training and Lam Rim teachings. His teachings gave me unimagined protections in this spiritual hotspot of medieval Christianity, where the ruthless Albigensian crusades against the Cathars, a holy spiritual sect of Christians whose principles were not unlike the Buddhist, were played out. The village in which I lived was surrounded by crag-top fortresses where the Cathars hid to escape the brutal scourges of the Catholic Church, and eventually were all burned alive!
In the Pyrenees I was completely alone in my faith, and sharing each day with an antagonist to boot. But my faith was cemented and I made vows that I have never broken. I vowed to obey the laws of Karma and strive to reach enlightenment, and devote myself to others in all that I did. Having few resources to travel back to Europe to practise more, I found the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese peace activist, and read almost all of what he wrote. I was greatly touched by his tenderness for all beings and considered myself blessed to have encountered such wisdom.
In the meantime, the situation with my karmic opponent was escalating, or so my deluded perceptions told me. Life seemed intolerable in the mountain paradise, so I knew I must begin to cut free from the karma once again. I had learned so much, but was emotionally and physically so weak. There was a particularly violent episode when all of my Buddhist sutras printed out from the internet were burned one day, my shrine wrecked, and so I decided it was time to retreat to gather my strength for the final act with my esteemed teacher.
I was not sure what to do, and I had no money to spend on travel away from the isolated corner of south-eastern France, only a credit card. So, I packed a bag and left on the 6.00 a.m. bus departing from the village once a week for Perpignan, and more major transport routes. But the night before I left, sitting up all night studying and meditating, I had a vision of Montpellier and a small wooden Buddhist temple in a sub-tropical garden. I knew no one there, and to my knowledge there were no Buddhists in Montpellier, no internet connection.
I strongly felt that the Buddha was guiding me through this vision, and that someone would be waiting for me in Montpellier. I arrived in Montpellier by train and checked in at the nearest and cheapest hotel. I meditated in my narrow room, sitting with a candle and incense, but no Buddha image because it had been destroyed. I decided to explore the narrow white-marble streets of the nearby Arab quarter and almost immediately found a shop selling incense and Indian sundries. I chose a small sandalwood sitting image of Amitabha Buddha and more incense to keep me going. I asked the shop assistant if there was a Buddhist temple in Montpellier, and she showed me an advertisement on the bulletin board depicting a small wooden temple in a beautiful garden! I knew the Lama would be waiting for me.
The next day, I went by bus to the temple. I opened the gate to a modern house and knocked on the door. Lama Seunam opened the door, and before I could introduce myself he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’ He explained that he was the spiritual son of Kalou Rinpoche, the Kagyupa lineage. The next day, the group of trustees interviewed me, and I was invited to stay for an unlimited period of time in the garden house next to the temple in return for looking after it and cooking for Lama Seunam when needed. I hurried back to hotel and brought my luggage, and he showed me around so I could take up my duties immediately.
I spent the next year with him, and helped run several retreats in the Cevennes centre. He was an amazing teacher, strict, funny. One day I told him I felt very close to the Buddha spending all my time in or nearby the temple, and he said, ‘how can you feel close to someone that doesn’t exist?’ He was always testing me as we worked to make butter lamps, kept alight always, and practised certain complex chanting for special occasions together. He was a master of ritual performance, and had a magnificent deep voice redolent of the Himalayas, as well as instrumental talents.
Later, I was regretfully forced to leave him to earn some money, but not without him preparing me to enter the Kagyu clergy. However, something prevented me from being ordained in this lineage.
Eventually I returned to England as my mother was diagnosed as terminally ill, and I had to go to make my peace with her. We had always had a turbulent relationship, and now, through my Buddhist devotions and awareness, I felt I was ready to actually show remorse and repent. I very sadly left the Pyrenees, my garden overlooking nothing but primeval forests, and my volatile but regretful partner. We could not imagine such a separation, but knew it had to be. I could not imagine not living in such a paradise either. I just could not see myself back in the industrial urban landscape of north-western England.
Once settled in in my mother’s tiny apartment, both feeling fragile and cautious, I started to explore the Buddhist organisations nearby. I had no money except a small government benefit as an unemployed person, so I had to walk everywhere. As I strode around the concrete pavements, I was always aware of my beloved grandmother. She too never had enough money to use the bus, so would walk for miles and miles, and was fit and strong as a result.
I became a practitioner of Friends of the Western Buddhist organisation (FWBO) now known as the Triratna Buddhist Community, a British Buddhist sect, founded in 1967 by Dennis Lingwood known by his Indian name Sangarakshita. The early teachings are important in this organisation, so it was a chance for me to revisit the beautiful and simple aspects of compassion and great loving kindness (maha meta), and the cardinal importance of breathing and calming the mind known as Right Meditation (samyak-samadhi). There I celebrated many puja (offerings or Dharma feasts). Sangarakshita is a truly literary being, having authored more than 60 books, which I devoured and still refer to today.
One day, I was talking to my mother, when she suddenly stood up and said she had something amazing to show me, which she had forgotten about. She brought a newspaper article from one of the national papers describing the consecration of a Chinese Buddhist Temple. I looked with interest, but was not sure of the connection with me as I was not a Chinese Buddhist. Then suddenly I recognised the beautiful Victorian building refurbished to create this golden shimmering temple in urban Manchester! It was where I was born and brought up for the first part of my life. It was here in the simple back yard that I played cricket with my father and heard about the opportunist turtle! Our humble caretaker’s house attached to this huge monolithic building, which was used a high school and public library, had now become the residence of the High Priest of this Chinese order.
I rushed to meet my new Sangha friends to tell them that I had been born and brought up in a Chinese Buddhist Temple. Everyone was amazed, nobody more than me. And yet, this discovery was yet another important indication that my life as a Buddhist was not a matter of my choice and free will. I certainly had been chosen and my life managed by divine powers.
Thankfully, I was indeed able to make my peace with my mother before she died. She also no longer dismissed her strangely Buddhist daughter, but started to listen to notions of karma and rebirth, and took some courage from the teachings about her own pending death.
I then worked at Lancaster University, my Alma Mater, teaching study-skills to foreign speakers of English, and whilst there I joined a Japanese group called ‘Serene Mediation’ which was based in Zen teachings. I did several retreats at their moorland retreat centre, but found I was not in tune with the austerities of Zen practices. However, I did acquire a Japanese bell, and carried it with me everywhere. It had a beautiful sound, which woke my heart if it was sleeping. I did not yet know the significance of this small brass bell-bowl, sitting on its bright silk cushion, with its rough wooden beater. It sits here in my office as I write this story!
I then felt an urgent need to go back to France and so went to work in North-eastern France, in the holy city of Strasbourg. Here I was once again alone and went back to practising Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s pathway on a daily basis. I had many insights and generated a lot of compassion and Bhodichitta as a result, once again in a setting where there were no Buddhists around. Of course, I made contact with my partner again and we spent a relatively calm time together at arms-length. Then suddenly, I was made redundant as the company I worked for went bankrupt, and so, I decided to go back once more to the Pyrenean paradise, armed with my new wisdom and compassion, and lashings of optimism!
At this point, in search of other Buddhists, I encountered BIONA (Buddhist Information of North America) and Steve Klick, the director, on the internet. He had single-handedly created a huge electronic library of free Buddhist texts, which I helped him with, and I studied with him personally on line for more than a year. I became once more immersed in sutras, which enabled me to write my first novel, always my dream. It has been published now as ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy: on the Twelfth Day’ (see ‘works’ for more details) and relates to my direct living with indigenous Australians.
Then, always cueing into my Tibetan practice, I was asked to practice Nichiren Buddhism by Steve Klick. I chanted the Lotus Sutra of the Buddha launching me into the final period of the Buddha’s teachings. This also gave me chance to touch Japan and Japanese Buddhism. Having worked hard at my training with Steve Klick, whose guidance in my situation was invaluable, he announced that he was terminally ill, and that I should take over from him as Director and Chief editor of BIONA. I was truly honoured and began to recognise this as a part of my mission – electronic Dharma!
I prepared to go to Kansas to sit at his feet for a while before he died. As always, I had no money, so I decided to sell all my possessions to a Dharma friend in Montpellier, Didier. He was a well-known painter especially of Tibetan temples and clergy, and I helped arrange his exhibitions in and around Montpelier to fund art projects in Tibet. He willingly bought everything from me, even my computer, and eventually I had enough money to purchase my one-way ticket to Kansas City. I spent the next month ridding my partner of all traces of me as we had finally agreed that I should simply disappear, and that the karmic centrifuge we created would kill one of us soon if it was allowed to go on. Of course, there was great anger and sadness, and the day I left never to return, was one of the most difficult I have ever known.
I felt so liberated, a little scared and breathless, but truly detached from this magnetic force which had in the end become so destructive. It truly was cutting away masses of negative karma, and I felt free to practice without restraint and take up my mission wholeheartedly. Business was finished, and I set off with all my possessions in two suitcases, having given away all my most treasured possessions, such as my books, which I bequeathed to Perpignan University. Once again, I was following my heart. I had never met Steve Klick personally, but I trusted him totally. I was gearing myself up for American Dharma, certainly not by choice.
I arrived in Detroit to change to an inter-flight to Kansas, and as I went through immigration, there seemed to be a problem with my papers. I was taken into internal offices at the airport, and spent the next 6 hours being interrogated. It seemed that I was being regarded as a illegal immigrant because I had no longer had an address in France, and on top of that, I had no job at that time. Steve Klick had arranged to apply for a religious visa once I was installed and had contacted Immigration on that matter so that I could be recognised. However, once I was proved thoroughly clean of drugs, paper money, diamonds, etc. and my suitcases completely wrecked by rough handling, it was deemed that I was unworthy of entering the United States of America, and I was to be deported immediately.
This was indeed a dramatic turn I believe engineered by the Buddha. Nichiren Buddhism was not to be my pathway, and indeed, quite soon after this incident there was a huge schism in the Nichiren school which separated Sokka Gakai away from the traditional stream. Naturally, Steve Klick was shocked and disappointed that I could not step into his shoes, but realised it was not to be. Unfortunately, after his death, BIONA has changed a great deal, but it still exists.
Once escorted back to Paris by 6 policemen, and received there by 6 more gendarmes, I decided I must go back to be with my mother, who was quite relieved that I had been rejected form USA. I first arrived in London and went to stay in student accommodation until I could find a job. I was still practising everyday, and as an interim measure I immediately got a very poorly paying job with a charity organisation called ‘Evolution.’ This entailed promoting various charities on the streets of London.
We would stop people and talk to them about the particular charity we were promoting, and then sign them up to donate a small amount of money every month. This was very difficult in hard-headed London, but I was reasonably successful and sent blessings to thousands of people during a six-week period. I also made some wonderful friends and experienced two other Tibetan sanghas: Jamyang with Geshe Tashi, a Gelug teacher; and Samye Dzong, with Lama Gelongma Zangmo of the Kagyu lineage.
Finally, I took up a contract position at Imperial College London, while being part-time at St Mary’s University of Law. Living and practising in London was indeed a challenge with all the bomb scares and tension. I was so sad to see such a beautiful city dirtied and crowded, but so glad there is such a strong Buddhist presence there to help to balance all the problems.
So, my incredible journey was almost at an end as I was then invited to teach in Japan. My mother was now deceased, and so I felt I could leave Europe. My professional connections with Japan had flourished over the years, and so 8 years ago I left London with my 2 suitcases and took up life here in peaceful Japan. Of course, there is a small story attached to this. But first, it was planned that on my way to japan, I should spend a month in Myanmar, the modern name of Burma, a country I had always longed to visit. I had studied and practised a number of Burmese teachings in the past, (another story for another time), so I wanted to see this country with my own eyes. A great fan of Aung San Suu Kyi, I wanted to support her mission with direct prayers.
I had friends who were delegates of The International Red Cross stationed there, so I decided to take the opportunity to visit them. After having difficulty securing a visa because the country was in a chaotic condition politically, I finally arrived there and checked into a beautiful hotel as a guest of IRC. My taxi drivers in Yangon connected me with two great Buddhist teachers: the great Sayadaw U Pandita, Abbot of Panditarama Monastery in Yangon, who agreed to work with me personally; and one of his chief disciples, Wasata, located in Mandalay.
I prepared to start a new practice of U Pandita’s and was advised to acquire a Burmese Buddhist image from a certain craftsman. I did this, and duly brought it to Japan along with many paintings copied from the desecrated temples in old Bagan, an enchanted area, the ruins of which are said to represent the Golden Age of Buddhism in Asia.
I had had little experience of Japanese Buddhism, and really knew nothing of the founders of Buddhist sects here. On the first evening in Kyoto after my arrival in Japan, I went to the bookshop in a department store, to find any Buddhist books in English (my Japanese was practically non-existent) The only Buddhist book on the shelves there was called ‘Kukai: the Universal,’ by Ryotaro Shiba. At this point, I had no idea who Kukai was I’m afraid, so I devoured his enchanted life immediately to get a feel for it. Kukai founded the Shingon School of esoteric Buddhism, and is my present Master’s root guru.
Back in London, in preparation for my classes of Japanese University students, when I visited the Japanese Embassy in London to collect my visa, I had asked if they had any colourful posters of Kyoto to hang in my professorial office. They didn’t have much stock, but gave me a large poster of a beautiful temple surrounded by beloved sakura, cherry blossom, which I brought here with me. I was awed by the idea that there are over 30.000 temples and shrines in Kyoto.
Then quite soon after settling into my professor’s apartment located in a student centre nearby my university, I became friends with the international student manager who spoke good English and was responsible for helping me with all my admin, impossible for foreigners to deal with. One day, after most of the official business regarding my immigration was completed, I invited Kinoshita san into my apartment for coffee and to thank her personally. She was surprised to see the small shrine I had set up in my bedroom, asking if I was a Buddhist. When I affirmed, she said that she was too, and that I must visit her temple with her soon. I was delighted and was looking forward to having my first taste of Japanese Buddhism.
After that visit a few weeks later, I had a huge revelation. The great, unsurpassed teachings of Nirvana had found me, and my tears welled over at reaching the end of my incredible journey. I knew I was home, sitting at the feet of the reclining Buddha on his deathbed, giving his final teachings to bequeath to the world. In the evening of my life I had finally reached the final teachings of the Buddha, and had before me the prospect of reaching Nirvana myself in this lifetime. I had also encountered my true life-partner, my guide Mariko Kinoshita, with whom I practise in perfect harmony these incredible teachings of Nirvana. (see my novel, “Temple of the Phoenix’ for detailed impressions of the Nirvana teachings)
Of course, in the multifarious pages and posts of this site Nirvana Linden, the essence of these teachings will gradually appear, so I will not spend much time here as my tale is already a long one! But as a small final proof of the way my journey has been carefully guided, Mariko visited my university office one day not long after my arrival, and showed particular interest in one of the posters I had hung on the wall. She stood in front of it silently, and then asked me if I knew this temple depicted behind the sakuras. I answered that I didn’t. She turned to me with tears in her gorgeous oriental eyes and said, ‘This is Daigoji Monastery, and is where the founder of Nirvana Buddhism in Japan was trained as a great master!’
Perhaps you can see what I mean when I say that the guru, the teaching, finds you if you allow yourself to be found, and if you open the ears of your heart wide.
14th December, 2014, Takatsuki, Osaka
‘Going beyond Nirvana.’ I have heard this phrase often, and now I am experiencing this next phase having thought that encountering the Nirvana teachings was my final resting place. Of course, the native intelligence, the spirit, never rests, and to be honest I knew this was so. But we are tempted to rest, to depend, and so it was with me. I recognised the ultimate teachings, but in so doing within my ordinary human mind, my mundane limited mind, I became dependent, leaning my weary weight on this body of Buddhist teachings. Declaring to the world that I was a ‘Nirvana Buddhist,’ serving the temple and all sentient beings. Why are we so eager to get people’s attention, so egocentric? The mind plays tricks and makes its demands, and without the guidance of our buried true nature, we give in and make a show of who and what we are. How sacred we are! How respectable and virtuous we are! And in so doing, we separate our ego selves away from the truly sacred, the invisible.
We become addicted to living the lives of the so-called enlightened, to the sublimation of our human needs and desires, to follow others. This is the way religious teachings have come to work in the world: we strive desperately and relentlessly, purifying ourselves, cramming ourselves with all the blessings we can find, convincing ourselves that we are Holy, that we can have all the attributes of ‘the Good,’ We become the guru, allowing his or her energy to work within us, generating our aspirations for enlightenment and bodhichitta on behalf of all sentient beings, bringing out the bad or the good in us by many varied means – meditation, prayer, reflection – call it what you may. But all the time, underneath the outward show, which we even convince ourselves of, we do not believe we are truly worthy of enlightenment. We do not believe we are a Bodhisattva or a Buddha.
I have digested so many holy words, lived by so many different creeds, reached so many different stages of insight and purification, that I have become conditioned by goodness and sacredness. It has become a thick covering of frozen snow, blocking me, holding me still against the rapid current of existence. I have been a seeker, par excellence, but quite suddenly, after digesting the final teachings of the Buddha, my stomach is full. I am replete. Now I will look no further, will not tie myself to anything or anyone. Every day my task is to get to know myself, to listen to my own wisdom beyond the noise of conditioning and indoctrination.
I no longer tell people of my missionary zeal. I no longer separate myself away aggressively, making myself different to others, thrusting myself on to a sanctimonious pedestal, creating competition and unrest. I will no longer abdicate my responsibility to be completely empty, utterly empty in silence and stillness. I will take no more paths because I am certain that the truth is right here and now in me. My spirit is concrete, eternal, pulsing with universal energy. Why do I need to be taught how to live my true nature as an energic being among the millions in all the universes. Only I can know me directly; everything outside is a superimposition – I mould myself to fit for various egocentric reasons: to please others, to ascend up the ladder of enlightenment; to unconsciously enjoy the admiration of others; to be seen to be holy and good, etc. But none of these reasons is honest because they are pinned to a synthetic question; all questions separate us, making for interpretations, for versions.
When I am completely honest, I am not separate. My self disappears, frittered away from fingertips on a breeze, and I start to flow into the great sacred stillness, the silence, and I smile. This is absolutely all I need. I feel that this is my djang. Australian aboriginals live highly structured lives based on ancient ways imparted by the Great Mother Nature when she created the phenomena to decorate Father Earth’s surface with. They live each moment conscious of all the bounty and balances provided by the Great Mother, making no concepts, having no beliefs, just being indisputably. There are no questions. There are no separations.
So, they live in complete harmony with land forms, creatures and weather, longing for their djang, their death. The djang is the climax of their human lives. It means that they have learned all they needed to and no longer need the vessel of their body to shelter their spirit. So, the body is discarded and burned, and at that moment of glorious djang, the spirit is released into the great night sky. They leave behind bones which are impregnated with their personal wisdom as their inheritance. Their spirits travel on into the sky, and as they travel they stop to make a small campfire to warm themselves and cook a little food.
Needless to say, I will update this biography as events occur and there are changes.