Well, here I am, on the train!
I had hoped to be able to put some posts up before I left, but things were just so busy that I didn’t manage it.
It’s been scramble to get what needed to be done done before left, so my preparation has been a bit stressful. It’s amazing how many unexpected things come up that you don’t think about (at least, I didn’t).
For example, I tried on the rucksack I’ve borrowed from my brother on Friday, only to discover that even when lowered as far as it goes, it gets in the way of my newly acquired Tendai-gasa (or as one member of our temple calls them, mushroom hat)! No amount of fiddling about with strap lengths, even taking out the metal frame that was there for back support solved it, but I did manage to find a fairly cheap 45L pack that does the job. 45L isn’t all that much though, when you’re packing a tent, roll mat, etc. and going walking for 3 weeks.
But, members of the temple have very kindly given me food provisions, a mini torch, white tennis shorts to wear with a juban (white under-robe top) under my robe if the heat really takes its toll, and other items as well.
I’ve also received lots of good advice and tips about travelling and rambling. For example, did you know that the water at petrol stations that you fill your car radiator up with is drinkable? One member of our temple who is a plumber, assured me its all mains supplied, so it’s perfectly fine to drink as long as you let it run for 30 seconds first, so you’re not drinking what is in the pipes.
That might prove very useful! I remember when I had just become a Shami my master, Tsukamoto Shonin, instructed me to buy a one-month round-Europe train ticket and go and see as many different countries as I could. I slept on the trains, and woke p somewhere different almost every morning. During that trip I realised how important water is, and also, how expensive it is to buy on the move!
Mind you, there has also been some advice which I’m less inclined to follow. While soldiers in the army may urinate on their feet before a long hike to stop their feet getting blisters, I admit I haven’t followed their lead. I’m not ruling it out, but I think I’ll see how I go before I resort to such measures!
Anyway, I made it with my reduced size backpack onto the train this morning. I decided to leave the sleeping bag and other non-essentials behind – it’ll be warm enough in the tent.
The journey through london was the start of the trip, the start of a pilgrimage, and a time to spread the Odaimoku . Whilst I wear a Samue (Priests working clothes) most of the time, and also go through London in my black robe when doing Monk-y business (sorry!) I haven’t been on the London tube system before in my grey robes. They certainly do attract some attention, although most people are very subtle with their curiosity. I did catch one guy on the central line covertly taking a picture to send to a friend on WhatsApp…he just wasn’t as subtle as he thought.
It’s a very interesting feeling – when you take the ceremony to “leave home and attain the way” you are removing yourself from society. We’re taught to kill the old self who has such and such qualifications, such and such status, position, style, etc. Thats why we shave our heads and are given new name.
If you believe samsara can give you fulfillment, that is almost impossible to do, or at the very least extremely painful, because there will be a conflict between your old life as a lay person and your situation – you might become miserable as a priest. But, it can also be freeing in a profound way. Traditionally the monk engages with society, and especially the bodhisattva monk tries to guide and help people whenever they can, but neither has a personal stake in it.
Maybe the robes themselves symbolise this, no matter who’s wearing them. They represent someone who is very visible on a commuter-packed train. Definitely a part of their journey, but also in a way, not part of it.
I’ll leave it at that for now. We’re whizzing along past green fields now. I will stay in Penzance tonight so that I can have a look around and see Captain James’s house of course…I’m hoping local people might be able to help me plan the first leg of my route as well.