Wednesday, December 7, 2011

first/last visit from an old friend

Kobutsu Malone, a man sometimes carelessly characterized as the enfant terrible of the current Zen Buddhist scene because of his compilation of the Shimano Archive, came by for a visit yesterday. He brought his lumbering behemoth of a dog, Harley, a sweetheart with enormous paws, with him. It was the sixth day of Rohatsu sesshin, it occurred to me later ... one of the most intensive of Zen retreats leading up to Dec. 8 and what some celebrate as the anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment.

The visit marked the first time Kobutsu and I had sat down face to face, though we've been on the phone often enough to qualify as a couple of old biddies... two old farts with Zen practice as a backdrop, with a distaste for the manipulations and malfeasances that can exist in that world, with a shared love of good dirty jokes, with ... well, with friendship ... sitting down over steak and baked potatoes and corn and passing bits and pieces of meat to Harley. The virtues of vegetarianism lie somewhere in our rear view mirrors ... food is food and thank goodness for it.

We got my son Ives to take some pictures of the two of us posing in the zendo in front of the altar, and I have little doubt that Kobutsu will ignore my pleas not to put the pictures on the Internet (I dislike seeing how old I can look in pictures) ... although I can imagine his offering to withhold publication ... for the right price.

And here it is, the seventh day of Rohatsu, a time when intense concentration and effort were once our zealous norm ... and also the anniversary of the day on which the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor ... the day before the elected anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment. How could the Buddha have been enlightened without Pearl Harbor? It's not a 'classical' koan, but to my mind, assuming anyone puts willing stock in koans, it's useful enough.

Anyway, I enjoyed Kobutsu's visit and our gab. As he mentioned when we were arranging the visit, "it'll be the last time I get to see you" and, both as first visit and last, it was very nice. We were 'Zen' students once. Now, I guess, we're just Zen students ... or less august anglers trying to live up to Harley's example.

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