Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus" - A Japanese Buddhist Monk of the Samurai Era


A Japanese Buddhist Monk of the Samurai Era

There was a humble Buddhist monk hundreds years ago or in the samurai era of Japan.

Ryokan did not live in and preside over a temple, which means that he was not in an official position as an elite member of the society, since samurai authorities at the time controlled people by forcing them to belong to Buddhist temples in villages and towns.  In those days, Buddhist temples functioned as a kind of administrative office.

He lived in a small and humble hut built in a temple or a shrine in a local area facing the Sea of Japan.  He just taught and spiritually guided villagers, using simple words and expressions, without acting like an ordinary Buddhist priest.  But mostly he loved to play with children.

However when he was young, Ryokan learnt hard Buddhism and performed Buddhist practices so sincerely, though he was born in a house of a rich farmer.  He underwent Zen Buddhism training in a long-established temple in west Japan for 12 years to be certified as official Buddhist monk.  Then, his teacher in the temple died, telling him to do what he wished after his death.  So, Ryokan started to travel various areas in Japan to finally settle in the humble hut in the temple near his home village.

What made Ryokan famous was his excellent skill of art of calligraphy and Japanese poem.  While Ryokan was alive, some notable people in the era sometimes asked him to write words for them.  Even some notable scholars living in Edo (presently Tokyo), the capital of the samurai government, visited Ryokan's humble hut.

Today Ryokan was recognized as one of the best calligraphers in the Japanese history, though he has been sometimes depicted in books or animation movies for children of today as a gentle old monk who loved poor children of poor villages in the samurai era.

One of well-known Japanese poems he wrote is:
Cherry blossoms are falling down
     to the ground as their life is expired.
But some cherry blossoms are still open
     in the tree as if they were exultant
Yet remaining ones will be falling ones soon
     since they are the same cherry blossoms.

By Ryokan ("Above the sky, a big wind")

**** **** ****

Joh 12:22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
Joh 12:23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.