Our attitude in doing takuhatsu

When we first began takuhatsu, we were taught several principles. The most important principle of takuhatsu is to keep the same respectful attitude toward all people. We would not skip any single house or shop on the street. Whether rich or poor, kind or not kind, we would not treat anyone with preference or discrimination. We would not change our attitude toward people based upon the amount of their donations or the way that they reacted to us. We would not disturb people working at a shop, people shopping or people walking on the street.

Takuhatsu by myself

While I was at Antaiji, I did takuhatsu with other monks. Such takuhatsu was not difficult. In these circumstances, I liked takuhatsu. After I went back to Japan from Pioneer Valley Zendo in Massachusetts, I lived by myself at a small temple as a caretaker. I lived on takuhatsu. Doing takuhatsu by my self was completely different from doing takuhatsu with other monks. I often felt like I was just a meaningless beggar.

A few experiences of takuhatsu

Once I did takuhatsu alone in a market place in Osaka. Osaka and Kyoto (near where Antaiji was located) are quite different. In Kyoto, because there are many temples and monasteries, people are familiar with takuhatsu and generally respect monks doing takuhatsu. But in Osaka, people do not respect monks as much. Osaka has been a city of merchants from ancient times. Members of my family were merchants in Osaka for six generations, about three hundred years.

While I was begging in Osaka, one boy about ten years old asked me, “You want money right?” To me, his question sounded like he had asked if I did takuhatsu, not for the sake of Dharma, but for the sake of money. I could not give him any answer. It was a big and difficult koan to me. If I didn’t need money, I didn’t do takuhatsu. But, if I wanted to make money, I didn’t do takuhatsu either. I knew easier and more efficient ways to make money. I did takuhatsu to support my life practicing zazen and working on translation of Zen texts. What the boy said to me was true. I did takuhatsu for money. But if I really wanted to make money, I wouldn’t do takuhatsu either. Takuhatsu is not an easy way to make money. Not only physically, but also mentally, it is very difficult. While doing takuhatsu alone, I often felt like I was a meaningless, valueless person in society. Sometimes I didn’t want to go. Sometimes I felt guilty for living by begging. It was much easier to work for money. I had many good reasons to quit being a monk. In doing takuhatsu, it became necessary to be very clear about whether I did things for the sake of Dharma or for my personal desire.

Once when I was begging in Kobe, a middle aged man riding a bicycle stopped in front of me and offered me a 1000 yen bill saying, ”My wife died a few days go, this offering is for her.” We don’t talk much during takuhatsu with people, but in each encounter without words I had a deep and powerful communication. I felt the virtue of takuhatsu was not only for me but also for the people who made an offering. And to receive those offerings, I believed I should keep my attitude toward my life free from selfishness. I had to determine for myself that I would live and practice for the sake of Dharma, not for myself. To keep this attitude is difficult. Doing takuhatsu is a hard, and yet wonderful, way to examine my attitude toward my own way of life.

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