Brother stand the pain; Escape the poison of your impulses. The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do. Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun. Turn away from the cave of your sleeping. That way a thorn expands to a rose. A particular glows with the universal. RUMI
Apparently the great sage Kukai, whose name means sky and sea, had meditated in a cave here at Muroto at the tender age of 19 . Through reciting a mantra a million times he had 'broken on through to the other side' and seen the light. Having really pushed myself that morning by the time I got to the base of the mountain atop which was temple number 24, Hotsumisakiji, my impulses got the better of me. Anger in particular. To think that here I was approaching a cave made super sacred by arguably the greatest saint in Japan's history, and was foaming at the mouth.
Pilgrimage can be seen as a great leveler for the human psyche. No matter how well behaved and spiritual one may be in the confines of the church, the brotherhood or the political party, out on the open road the far wilder character, lurking only nanometers below the surface inevitably comes out to 'play'. Indeed this is the very reason that individuals across the Earth have embarked upon pilgrimages. They saw that moral training in any system was lacking the real bite that only a wandering through the 'matrix' could offer. What use is it keeping a smile on your face in the ashram, only seconds away from the divine guru, when a quick trip into Delhi will quickly reduce your spiritual life to wet knickers? As Thomas Merton found out when he was in his early fifties a life commited to prayer in a monastery is no guard against beautiful young nurses.
The signal was weak as I climbed. Having a large Japanese readership of my blog I was fairly devout about providing information via cellphone to my wife who would then input it directly to the blog. She is a busy woman. She does not wait with baited breath for my updates. She has not walked 13 kilometers in a two and a half hours this morning. She has to hold the cellphone in one hand and type with the other. I look over the grey ocean and feel a bit of the winter chill, tapping my foot to dissipate impatience. The signal gets lost three times so I redial.
" Fuck it! If you don't want to do this I'll get somebody else!" Here was the most important person in my life being told to fuck off at nine in the morning by her itinerant husband who was quite sure that his suffering demanded more attention than her morning schedule. I walked on a few hundred meters until the imposing view of the crashing waves hitting Cape Muroto was revealed in all its ragged beauty. Astonished by this outburst which may have been understandable in my whisky days, in my thirties or even forties, I decided to take my pack off, roll a handmade smoke from my Drum packet and take stock.
Yesterday a guy had looked at me with murder in his eyes. Today I yell at my wife of 32 years. Is this just tiredness from the long road? Or is this the road beginning to drop its masks-its pretensions about being 'sacred' ? Have I unwittingly entered an invisible stream of emotion and left over disappointments streaked with angst that has formed over hundreds of years and hundreds of thousands of aching feet and hearts? Is there really a 'field' left behind that taints even the most boisterous of pilgrims? The short answer? YES.