Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reflections: Visiting Antaiji -The Sounds Coming and Going

When sitting I’m aware of (and sometimes get stuck on) the textures of the sounds that are coming and going. There’s even a change in pitch as a car drives by that I got pretty attached to when I was sitting with my Sangha in Michigan near a street with a fair amount of traffic. My attachment to sounds coming and going has been true here, too, where the sounds are mainly birdsong, though birdsong hasn’t ever really been an interest for me. I don’t know the names of the individual birds, which is probably just as well. I have the iBird App on my iPhone, but it only applies to North America.

On one ‘free day’ in early June, in which there was no morning zazen, I got up and started a log with descriptions of the sounds I hear while sitting:

4:00 –

One creature, 2 notes, a low note followed by a higher pitched one. The sequence is regular and repeated, the effect being something like a swing or a door hinge going back and forth.

Off in the distance, maybe over the next hill, a group of frogs producing a sound that is something-like hitting a empty wood tube. The sound has the rhythm of boat halyards hitting the mast of a boat as each wave passes. At this distance it is very different from the loud clacking of individual frogs under my bedroom window at night.

4:10 –

Two birds sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. I actually think they sound like the voice intonation pattern from a Japanese for Dummies tape I bought (but didn’t get very far through) saying “whatashi”, which is the word for I. The basic song is composed of three notes, a bit like a whippoorwill’s and has been around since March when I arrived.

4:18 –

The low hollow hoots of an owl.

4:24 –

The overall volume of the birdsong increases enough so that it is no longer possible in most cases to distinguish single birds. oo-ee-oo, wheat-wheat, we-we-see-sea, siding scales and a bunch of other stuff appears and increases over the next few minutes.

4:30 –

A crow. Boy, they are big around here. I can feel, as well as hear, the air being moved when one flies by the hondo.

4:39 –

First time hearing the second of the most melodic of the birds, whose song has been around since I arrived, too. The melody of the call fits pretty perfectly to the words: “By the dawn’s early light”… & “That our flag was still there…” No kidding! That song is around all day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. At times it gets annoying in its constancy.

4:45 –

2 woodpeckers adding their hollow taps to the rhythm section. A single sequence sounds a bit like a door creak-, creak-, creaking open (or closed).

More “whatashi” birds arrive or the same ones that began the morning augment their song. A variable two or three more notes get added to the basic song, but the tone of the added notes is amazingly rich and clear and includes a very slow vibrato. I’m impressed that these birds can change the tone of their voice at the drop of a hat. This aspect of the song only appeared at the end of spring, so maybe there’s a seasonal change in the song for some of them...maybe its just an instinct change for mating season. This varied beautiful song remains throughout the day. While sitting my brain has written a whole song to accompany it, mostly a couple of organ chords and some choral voices, very simple... Weird having it going for a whole five day sit. When I work in the fields the song causes me to “flash back” to sitting in the Hondo, though now the song seems to be a bit more along the lines of a soundtrack to a spaghetti western or Tarrantino flick. On the few chances I’ve had to go to town, the song is there too, but now its more upbeat and instead of organ, an accordian predominates. The only thing that manages to wipe this song out of my brain is the sound of the surf when I am sitting by the ocean (Sea of Japan) as I recently had a chance to do on the last ‘free day’.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh….Sound of the wings of the crow pushing air….


The overall volume of the orchestral cacophony starts decreasing… the sun is now truly up.

…That’s the end of the log.

I’m writing this on a day when the other three people who arrived the day I did have already left Antaiji. The continued presence of the sounds coming and going, even though they come and go and have changed with the progression of the seasons gives me a special sense of peace with the world. One thing I know, especially when not-thinking, is that these sounds will always be here, at least in my lifetime (although who knows about Antaiji and I guess the world as I know it could come to a disasterous end).

The sounds coming and going will be here, but someday in the not too distant future I won’t be… at Antaiji anyway. Maybe on that day I’ll begin to figure out where I stand as far as the rest of my life is concerned. One thing that hasn’t changed for me at all for quite awhile now is that I’d rather sit. That’s why I came here in the first place and I doubt that will ever change. I don’t know what that makes me or how much impact that will have on the choices I have to make regarding my life. I know that this preference makes me a variety of things in other people’s eyes, but I don’t care. Really. Those folks are just coming from their own set of judgements and delusions. We all have them, including me. What I said doesn't make me not care about those people and I hope they will still regard me as a friend. I will try to be there for them when life gets tough.

Does anyone really know the truth of Zen?


Hokai said...

Yes, I think you know. Maybe not fully insight, but you will know, when the clouds are clouds again.
Nice blog.

Happi said...

Gerald - Arigato. Danke. Thanks.