It was early, so the buses were very crowded. I had to push through his packed crowd of people to board the bus. Then move all the way to the back. As I did so, all of a sudden I came up someone who struck me as most unusual. He had a mysterious presence - there was something luminous about him. There he was, an old priest in robes, wearing glasses and reading a book, yet he glowed with a type of light. In comparison, the people around him seemed so weighed down by their thoughts and cares. I stood in the aisle, a youth who didn´t like Buddhism and lived in a temple only because of the circumstances of his birth, and yet I was deeply moved by this intelligent- looking man who seemed so deep and so still and who radiated such brightness of spirit. Why did he seem so different from everyone else on the bus? I had never met a person like this before, and I couldn´t figure out what was so inspiring about him. There I was, having been brought up in a way I didn´t want to continue, thinking that temples and priests were really not appealing, when all of a sudden this mysterious person appears with all his great depth, who was obviously a priest. Why would he choose this way of expressing himself? I was so intrigued by this man and the question he was presenting to me by his whole presence, that when the priest got off I followed him. It turned out that this person, Yamada Mumon, was on his way to Reiun-in, a small Buddhist temple in Myoshinji. I followed him right to the gate and saw him go in.
It was this encounter that made me realize how limited my understanding of Buddhism was. I saw there was a whole aspect of the religion that I knew nothing about. Despite growing up in the temple world I had turned my back on its teachings; I doubt I would ever have become a monk if I had not met Mumon Roshi. Because of him I saw for the first time how the inner quality of a person can shine forth from his entire being, and I wished to know more about the teachings that so illuminated Mumon Roshi.
it was like all of my burdens had dropped off, as if someone had hit me on the back and everything was awakened within. I realized right then the mistake I´d been making and immediately went back to the monastery. That day on the mountain I realized that there was no self to be bothered! I had been crushing myself and making myself miserable worrying about the problem of realizing enlightenment, when in fact it was found in the living of every single day! Everything would come to me even if I did nothing and ceased worrying about my own little problems. Not to isolate myself up on a mountain, closed off from everyone, turning them all away and worrying about my own small state of mind, but to go and be what every day brought to me-that was my practice and the expression of my enlightenment! Ever since I realized that, my whole life has been completely different. I know there is no problem for myself, because there is no one there to feel that there is a problem. When I came back from the mountain I knew that what I had to do with my life was to live it totally with the purpose of bringing this crystal clear awareness to other people. And that´s all I really wanted to do-that was, in fact, what I´d been doing from the beginning, but I had stifled it in a small, egoistic way. I´d gone to the mountain for only my own enlightenment; it had been an expression of my ego. But because of that I´d been able to awaken to that greater purpose, awaken to that greater Self that had work to do in this world.
Afterwards my zazen was very different. Before when I sat I would do so with a heavy sense of myself. Now I didn´t have that at all, but felt in my sitting as though I was being lived through by another great energy. For the first time my eyes wouldn´t move during zazen, but would be drawn into the floor where I was looking. During kinhin -walking mediation- my eyes would be drawn into the place I was looking, and I wouldn´t feel like looking around. This went on for several days, bringing me to a place where I could answer koans much faster. The things that had been obstructing me weren´t there anymore. I saw how easily I could understand what my teacher was saying. The koans and the words I received when I passed the koans seemed obvious to me, and I could grasp their meaning very quickly. I sat lightly and energetically, and didn´t feel heavy anymore. What had happened to me on the mountain had turned my life around.