I once went to Eiheiji Monastery, the main training center for Soto Zen monks. They live there for about a year and then return to the family temple, passed from fathers to sons like a business.
However, given the influx of visitors that each weekend try to taste the monastic life, I was unable to find accommodation. Not too disappointed, because the environment with regard to visitors seemed more like a spa than a monastery, I continued traveling by train along the North Sea coast down to the city of Kanazawa, where I just noticed I had lost the last train bound to where I lived, in Nagoya. Since there was not another train until the next morning, instead of going to rest in a hotel, I put my backpack in a locker and went out to walk under a light rain through the deserted streets.
At the edge of the main river, I came across a tiny sign with the name D. T. Suzuki and an arrow. With nothing better to do and full of curiosity, I decided to honor the unexpected indication. It got to a nowhere-place between fences and unsightly abandoned buildings, where the only thing that stood out from the rest was just a slip of about one square yard, cut to an empty lot with a small tree and a rock with a plaque. Despite the gloom, the rain and the Japanese writing, I confirmed that in that place stood the house where the person who had revolutionized my life with his writings on Buddhism (see post) was born and spent his childhood. Excited by the unexpected meeting, I sat down to contemplate the humble memorial to one of the most influential and genuinely spiritual figures of the 20th century.
My surprise did not end there, because the following weekend, on a visit to the peninsula of Kamakura, I entered one of the temples and I was confronted again with a sign of D. T. Suzuki, indicating that his ashes had been deposited there. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Unintentionally, in two consecutive trips and in so disparate geographies, I had come across the places of birth and death of that who I think with gratitude as my mentor, though I only knew him through his writings, for he died a year before my birth, at the ripe age of ninety-six (1870-1966).