Last weekend I went to Summerville north of La Grande to meet Sensei, a Japanese monk, who teaches meditation. He lives in a rustic cabin on the property of my friend Carole Novitske.
Carole recently began a practice in Buddhist meditation and quickly realized that she would not remain consistent to it without a teacher at her fingertips.
So she began her quest to find one. She found Sensei through her friend Dr. Eric Berg, who has been his student for the past 13 years.
Sensei was living in a temple in downtown LA teaching meditation there since the late '80s and wanted to retreat to a more peaceful setting.
Sensei, which means teacher, comes from Japan and was born to a wealthy family. He was a student at the Christian Missionary University studying English and American literature when he became interested in meditation by first reading James Joyces' "Ulysses."
It was this book's style of "stream of consciousness" writing that led to his discovery of meditation, which came to occupy him completely.
He decided to devote his life to this practice and became a Soto Zen Monk.
After becoming a monk he travelled to India seeking the original Dhamma (teachings of Buddha) and stayed in Bodgaya for four and half years practicing and teaching meditation to students from all over the world.
When he returned to Japan he became the Abbot of Musashino-ji Temple in Moroyama city; which he gave up due to his preference to being a mendicant monk so he could devote himself to the pure practice of meditation.
In the late '80s, he came to the U.S. to visit Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihaara Temple in LA and decided to stay. Here he became the resident meditation teacher. In 1989, he took Theravada ordination at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia. His book "WakeFul" puts into words his teachings.
Meeting with Sensei was one of the highlights of my life. I have been a student of Buddhism for the past 25 years or so and I have practiced formally in the Bay Area with various teachers off and on - mostly off for the past few years.
Recently, I read a wonderful book called "Bones of the Master" about a simple monk from China that re-inspired me to go back to my practice.
Coincidentally, at around this time, Carole brought Sensei to live on her land and invited me to come and sit with him. So I did.
When I met Sensei, who is a small quiet man (he reminds me of the Yoda character in "Star Wars"), I felt instantly at home with him.
Sensei left his Soto lineage for a simpler practice. He took all the rituals out of it and stripped it down to the simple art of sitting.
The only formality we observed was the setting in which to practice; dim lighting in the form of candles, a stick of incense to time the length of meditation, a bell rung to begin and end a session, cushions to sit on, a simple altar and deep silence.
It had been awhile since I have meditated and I was out of practice. So, Sensei read to me from his book on how to practice. I quickly found the groove again and was able to reap its benefits instantly.
I went to him because I have been very troubled in my life due to major decisions that I have to make.
Sensei instantly seemed to "read" me and spoke directly to me, telling me that this practice would make me happy and remove all my troubles.
During the course of my time with him, which refreshed me like a pure mountain lake, I came to feel that possibly he knew something that I should trust.
So I've come home again, literally and figuratively, to my practice. I also wonder if I were to bring this man here to John Day would others want to meet him? My dream now is to do that and offer his wisdom to our community.
One of the things Sensei said during our time together was that in the Christian faith meditation appears in the form of contemplation.
Before I met this person, I did not know what my purpose was - but now I do. It is to share the beauty of this simple monk and practice with you.