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The problem is that people do not know their place of return...
Harada Roshi

Takata Ejo Osho

..

A Japanese Zen Monk Offered 30 Years of his Life to Help Develop a Foreign Country

Three thousand miles from Japan to USA without money. Another three thousand miles from USA to Mexico without money. Like a fallen leaf driven by the autumn wind.

This is how Takata Ejo Osho, a Zen monk of the Rinzai school, used to describethe way he arrived to Mexico on December of 1967. Before that, back in Japan, he had received doctorate in Buddhist studies from Hanazono University and under went Zen practice at Shofukuji monastery in Kobe under Yamada Mumon Roshi. All in all after 20 years, when Mumon Roshi wanted to write out his inka certificate he said: “what is the use of that, nobody gets enlightened by reading it and foreigners cannot even read it anyway. I want to go abroad as you said and see if what you taught me really works there.”
He called his zendo in Mexico 'Zendo Aguila Blanca' (White Eagle Zendo) and would teach his students: “while you climb the mountain you can see the mountain, once you are on the top you cannot see the mountain anymore”, stirring certain inquiry in some of his students.
Not long and the Archbishop of Mexico, Cardinal Dario Miranda invited him to participate at the ecumenical message opening the Olympic games of 1968. At this occasion he said: “If the athlete can forget himself completely and become one single strength that overcomes all egoistic limits, then the path towards victory will open and the public, while applauding, will express at that very moment its reverence towards life.”
The golden ball rolled in any direction: to the indigenous peasants in the southern mountains of Oaxaca he taught the use of soy bean; medical healthcare was not available for people at the fringe of society, so he introduced acupuncture and herbal medicine.
“If I have some soy beans in my hand and cannot teach Zen with this soy beans, I am not a Zen master – if I have an acupuncture needle in my hand and cannot teach Zen with the tip of this needle, I am not a master of Zen.”
The peasants cleared the mountain near their village and planted a field of soybeans. He showed how to make soy milk (tonyu) which was distributed among the villagers. Among them, an old dying lady accepted it as her only food.
He had no intention to do social work, just being grateful for the food he had been served when he arrived. “Yumei” - dream, was the first calligraphy he introduced, carved out from a wooden block:

“Man must have dreams
Man must break dreams
Man must realize dreams”

...but reality was not always so smooth; in those times he was accused of being a revolutionary. He opened his hand full with soybeans and said: “ yes! and this is my ammunition”. For one whole year his passport was taken away. In one of the indigenous mountain villages he was even put into prison.
A group of children from the villages had received a donation of new musical instruments. On their way to serenade the President in the capital they petitioned him out. When the President saw his work he told him: “all Mexico is your prison”.
Yamada Mumon Roshi came to visit in 1972 and 73; together they went to the indigenous peasant village of Ayautla, 700 km south of Mexico city, where Mumon Roshi left a pilgrims hat and a pair of straw sandals and planted some tea seedlings, he had brought from Japan. With the outcome of Mumon Roshi's calligraphy show in the capital, and some other donations, 21 hectares of land were bought somewhat outside of the city. There, a center was projected, where peasants from all around the country could come and be taught appropriate techniques to develop their own villages - “all Mexico is my zendo”.
In 1976 he founded the Mexican Institute for Ryodoraku Acupuncture and introduced a systematic Japanese technique based on scientific research, which was more accessible to Western doctors.
As patients gathered he would teach his friends in the zendo, so that everybody could make a living. With some of the outcome of their work together, doctors from Japan were invited to teach. With the years they went on to build the first acupuncture school of Latin America, with a registration at the Government.
There was the vision of searching a new medicine, which combines modern Western resources with Eastern - and local traditional ones (as recommended by the World Health Organization). In this context, he taught about the functions of the left and the right hemisphere of the human brain and the balanced development of both in order to properly combine logic and intuition.
During all the years of building, money was always very scarce, kind of just for survival. Once he wrote a poem about it:

“Our school is very poor, nearly no resources. But we have great fighting spirit, like the general Anaya.”

After twenty years of work, more than seven hundred doctors and health practitioners had received a course in acupuncture, based on ongoing clinical experience with about twenty thousand patients which was methodically gathered and registered. Some persons from the indigenous villages have been trained to bring service to their villages.
For some members of the team it was very difficult to regularly do zazen practice. So he introduced a modernized method of guided development of the group, based on the ancient thoughts of the Chinese monk Tozan Ryokai for the teaching of Zen. A practical derivation of it in actual modern society is also known as Kawajita Jiro System. This method is mainly based on discussion. The group then processes and organizes its opinions.
In 1992 the Mexican Constitution was reformed and a certain ban on religion was lifted. Takata Ejo Osho, as a Buddhist representative, was invited to become a founding member of the Mexican Inter- religious Council, presided by the Archbishop of Mexico,Cardinal Corripio Ahumada. He held this membership till the end of his life.
By that time, there were zazen groups in three universities and two private public places, which whom he sat regularly. His teaching was without many words, he preferred to teach Zen in silence, with his own body and his own life. ”I want to be like the air, everybody uses it freely for life, without being aware of it.” - and “Working for society without awaiting any applause.”
Among the writings he left is “Gestation of a New Eastern and Western Medicine in Mexico” which describes his work in society; and “The Book of Sutras” which compiles his Zen teaching, the sutras to be chanted and the proceedings in the zendo.
Even though his lifetime was already limited by long disease his dreaming and expedient means were far from exhausted; one of his later projects was to build a hospital with Western and traditional oriental medicine combined.
Whatever he did, wherever he went, he was always in his full essence. He used up this energy till the last hours of his life, receiving people at his hospital bed and giving them some words without any concern of his own decaying body. He was with his friends till the very end.
Takata Ejo Osho died in Mexico city on June 16, 1997, at the age of 69. 15 years after his departing the institutions he built are still functioning under Mexican leadership. On the grounds in the countryside a zendo for retreats was built and actually a stupa in his memory is under construction.
'Suigetsu', 'Moon Above the Water', was one of his last calligraphies, carved on a kaihan board for the zendo. Once he said to a close friend: “life is a game, let's play big”; stirring again certain inquiry: how can we ever play as deep and correct as you did. During his lifetime in Mexico Takata Ejo Osho deeply respected and adapted to Mexican tradition and custom. Mexican people would say of him, that he was actually a Mexican who for some reason happened to be born in Japan.
In recent years some persons of Mexico have come to train at Sogenji temple in Okayama, and also Tahoma Sogenji in USA, nearby Seattle. The abbot of both monasteries, Harada Taigen Shodo Roshi, who is also a Dharma heir of Yamada Mumon Roshi has visited Mexico twice to teach.



References:


  1. Takata Ejo and Cinencio Francisco: “Libro de los Sutras” (“Book of Sutras”)

  2. Takata Ejo: “Gestacion de la Nueva Medicina Oriental-Occidental en Mexico” (“Gestation of the New Oriental-Western Medicine in Mexico”).

  3. http://www.aguila-blanca-zendo.com



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