Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Akiko’s Way of Zen

Welcome to Akiko's Full Service Dhama Station

As many of you know, Jean-Luc and Valerie left Olympia, Washington earlier this year. Since July 2012, Jean-Luc has lived and worked in Christchurch New Zealand, at the University of Canterbury. He is also an active member of the local Diamond Sangha and the hiking club. Valerie moved to Corvallis, Oregon in September, 2012, works for the Department of Transportation and is sitting with the Corvallis Zen Circle. In November, the two were reunited for a visit in Hawaii. During that time they spent three days at a retreat known as "Akiko's Buddhist bed and breakfast"

Wailea Village Hawaii

Wailea Village is a village of 7 houses that once was central to the sugarcane industry. Now bypassed by the highway, there are more pedestrians and cats in the street than cars.  The “Buddhist B & B” is located in an old service station.  The garage bays serve as an art gallery and also accommodate the weekly Wailea Farmers Market if it rains.  It's new function reflects the motto posted on the front of the garage gallery: "Rooted to the source, Be of service to humankind."  On the patio, a cat lounges on drying coffee beans that Akiko has collected from the neighbor’s yard. The beans will be roasted and served to guests. The garden and grounds are simple, artful and eclectic. The zendo is located upstairs from the service bay. 

Zendo Upstairs
We are shown to a one-room open air screened structure, surrounded by a jungle of exotic trees, flowers and vines - the "Mango Tree". There is a footpath used by local wild pigs. Solar power allows the use of two lamps at a time; It’s simple and sustainable. The bathroom facility is partially open-air with an "on demand" hot water system.
As darkness falls, we notice mosquitoes lurking nearby. Having failed to heed the advice to "bring a good mosquito repellent" we start to panic. Truth be told, Jean-Luc would prefer to face a bear than a swarm of mosquitoes. Our retreat suddenly looks like a serious mistake… What are we doing HERE?  It doesn't help that our first week on the Big Island was spent at a timeshare with all the resort amenities on the sunny Kona Coast. 
The rain falls on the tin roof as we take a hasty "on demand" shower.  We dash off to the service station for the 5:30 PM sitting. Akiko sits beside an altar complimented by simple statuary, photographs and art.  The service includes zazen, interspersed with "standing qi gong” and kinhin.  We both relax into the familiarity of traditional zen form and enjoy "just sitting" after so many days of overactive vacationing. The sounds of frogs and crickets chorus while the occasional rain shower passes. To close, we chant the heart Sutra in Japanese, followed by three bows. Akiko provides clear instructions for how to complete each bow. We stand and say the closing gatha of Akiko's zendo in unison:
"Every moment is an opportunity
to deepen our practice and ourselves
to be better human beings
and to be of service."

Akiko makes mochi

Each morning we watch Akiko prepare breakfast. She answers questions with stories, tells stories to teach, and if you listen carefully she teaches each of us about living a full life. This is a Dharma breakfast.  She tells us about a friend who has a gift for Japanese cooking and serves "old-style" foods to the elders of local villages. Akiko now contributes her monthly Social Security check so that these meals can be offered at a local temple. She describes with joyous enthusiasm how the elders are revitalized with social interaction around the family table. We are overjoyed that we stayed, have grown from the experience, and now reflect on how we almost missed a powerful lifetime experience because of some pesky mosquitoes.

Akiko began her zen practice at Chozen-Ji International Zen Dojo near Honolulu, Hawaii.  She received intensive Rinzai training for more than 10 years.  By her own account, the Roshi spoke no more than 18 words to her.  She eventually left – somewhat frustrated by the apparent lack of interest by her teacher.  Rather than giving in to discouragement, Akiko has crafted her own path. Within the walls of the zendo above the service station, she borrows from tradition, adding her own touches. Wearing her characteristic head scarfs and aprons, she serves her community with grace, energy and unique zen spirit grounded in the strength of her daily practice. The results speak for themselves, no “transmission” (or oil change) required. We deeply bow to the zen spirit of our dharma friend Akiko!

Valerie captures the elements of Akiko's in water color

Submitted by Valerie and Jean-Luc Devis

1 comment:

  1. That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.