I decided to sleep outdoors during my weekend pilgrimage. On that Saturday evening, after having walked much more than in earlier weekends, I sat on the porch of the last of the temples I visited.
The resident monk came out and struck up a conversation. When I said I was a pilgrim and my idea was to sleep outdoors, he was so moved that, without accepting a refusal, he invited me to stay at his temple. First he took me to the local “onsen,” a very relaxing spa where I could remove all the dust from the road. Back at the temple, his wife (Japanese monks can marry) had prepared a sumptuous dinner. In all the years I’ve been vegetarian, I’ve never felt more sorry for declining a meal than that day (not out of gluttony but out of the sincerity of the invitation). However, they totally understood and even complimented me for keeping what they considered high principles.
I slept like an angel.
The next morning, I accompanied the monk in the morning ceremony, and then we returned to the dinning hall to share a colorful breakfast, with great variety of dishes and careful presentation, now obviously vegetarian. They were a young couple, and scattered all over the temple it could be found some of the toys of a toddler. The three of them came out to say goodbye and to hand me a package under the promise of not opening it up right away. When I did, I couldn’t repress a few tears. It was full of useful items, from cleaning supplies to money.
“How much generosity,” I thought. I went back to Nagoya impressed by the events, without having to use my new sleeping bag. The first night I was going to sleep outdoors was the most comfortable of all my life. It made me wonder.