PETER DAISHIN GAMBY



My most memorable experience with Soen Roshi was when I drove him, Eido Roshi and some others up to the Catskill Mountains to look for a country zendo. Our group stayed overnight at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, with Soen. Eido and I sharing one bedroom.

The alarm clock rang at 5 a.m. Soen bounced out of bed in seconds, Eido two seconds later while I stumbled and staggered for many minutes before I joined them for an early morning walk along the hotel's beautiful walking trails. Soon, we came upon a huge rock outcropping and Soen, with palms together, began a mesmerizing chant to the boulders. Farther along was a very high circular stone tower which we climbed to the top. There, a round terrace about 25 feet in diameter had a commanding view of the mountains and the just-rising sun. Soen said: "Let's do a play." He asked Eido to sit on the steps on the terrace and then approached me, and to my utter astonishment lifted me upon his back – that short man!

I couldn't believe his next move. While chanting noh-like utterances with me riding on his back, he circled the terrace clockwise once. Eido was accompanying Soen's unworldly grunts and cries by banging his walking staff on the stone terrace floor with sharp irregular thuds. Once around and I was put down by Soen, who stood me to face the rising sun.

Final Act: Soen knelt down facing me and with palms together chanted to me I know not what. With my tears streaming down, he pronounced: "You are now Jizo Bodhisattva"!

The next day – back on the ground – I had to look up Jizo Bodhisattva in an old Buddhist dictionary .... Who me? He must be joking! But maybe some day ...


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