An Ango at Toshoji – Jean-Marc Delom
An Ango at Toshoji
Jean-Marc Delom’s Experience
The heat was suffocating when I began this Ango to live what appeared to me to be an experience. In my little room tucked away from everyone, I reminded myself of the reasons that had brought me to this temple. A mixture of anguish, doubt, but also pride that I had managed to overcome my fear of the unknown. I felt I was absolutely in the right place for me. I had left my family, work, habits and comfort for three months, and this had produced in those around me a mixture of incomprehension and questioning. For my part, I just followed one thing … my intuition.
I came out of the period of isolation ( Tankario) quickly and after an entry ceremony into the sodo ( the meditation room) being presented to the Roshi and the Tokudo (monks and nuns) the daily activities were soon put in place. Get up at 4 am zazen, ceremony, samu, tea and teaching, samu, ceremony, meal, rest, samu, rest, ceremony, meal, shower, zazen and bed at 9pm. Continuous practice was established, time had no hold over us, the days were punctuated only by the sounds in the monastery. I had the impression that I had been there for months and others felt the same.
We lived together in a restricted space. We slept in the sodo, but denuded of everything, where nothing truly belonged to us, just a suitcase and the things we needed to practise. I had an impression of just having the essentials, but everything too. A simple coffee and a bit of cake created a subtle and total inner happiness. In this space, we also met our egos, seeing ourselves in the mirror of the scrutiny of others. The intense rhythm of the days and exhaustion worsened frictions and tensions… But the continuous practice would re-establish itself and everything would become smooth, fluid and gentle.
This Ango also allowed me to create strong links with Sebastian Mokusen and to get to know him better. Our common activities, ceremonies, long discussions, little strolls before evening zazen, were also moments of sharing and exchanging views. An Ango is a time where we can go deeply into the functioning and construction of ‘me’ via this ‘other’ by the observation of differences, similarities and all that is deeply human : consciousness, emotions, words that create meaning and creative intelligence as the means of transformation and change.
The ceremonies of obon were not only the chance to go out and meet the local people and understand the meaning of the ceremonies, but also the chance to live in the present moment in its simplicity and authenticity. Without much rehearsal , we learnt to do them by observation and simple continued attention.
Mistakes were unimportant, the only thing that mattered was the harmony between us. Living an Ango goes well beyond living an experience. After Sebastian Mokusen left, I experienced ‘silence’ as there was a sesshin and also because I couldn’t communicate very well in English. This meeting made me gradually realise ‘bodily’ rather than ‘mentally’, the illusion of my previous knowledge and things that I was sure of for a brief time. In this solitude and seeing the reflection of things, life appeared to be just in the present moment.
When I arrived at Toshoji, I felt I had lived there before. The day I left, I felt as if I had lived there for ever.
Three months can be summed up in an instant.
An instant of silence in that ‘peaceful abode.’