Home: Zaike Tokudo, Shukke Tokudo

My grandparent’s immigration documents, a photo of my mom, Mary Anna H. Takagi as a toddler.

My grandparent’s immigration documents, a photo of my mom, Mary Anna H. Takagi as a toddler.

The nature of home is the way of belonging. People often say, on finding zen, it felt like it was home. Like, “I feel belonging.” This belonging is key to practice.

Soto zen has two kinds of ordination. One, zaike tokudao (staying home and attaining the way) and the other, Shukke Tokudo (leaving home and attaining the Way) are known respectively as lay ordination and priest ordination. This post is about the “home” part of these terms.

The concept of home in Japan and Japanese culture is a central to “staying” and “leaving.” In Japanese culture, there is a world of difference between the ie ( 家) the family/household and the outside world. Even for me, 2 generations removed from immigrant, this is important.

Leaving and returning is marked is by saying —”itte kimasu” (I am leaving/I am going) and “tadaima!”** (I’m home). Here’s the thing: saying tadaima or itte kimasu (and their literal translations) is not the same as “I’m back” or “BRB” in the west. In Japanese culture, the idea of home demarcates family life from society life, and holds different contexts with different meanings.

Back to Zaike Tokudo and Shukke Tokudo. In Japan Buddhism was a family affair, temples were passed from father to son, a practice anthropologists call, patrilineal primogeniture. Second sons and daughters had to plan other futures. In general second sons often left…. leaving home. This was likely one of several factors prompting Japanese emigration to Hawaii and later to the U.S. Worth pointing out that Katagiri was the youngest of nine and Suzuki Roshi had an older half brother.

Maybe the above will provide some background context for “staying home and attaining the way” and “leaving home and attaining the way.” Home is a form of belonging, spiritually and culturally in the 12th century and the 21st century, in the East, and in the West.

**See the short film TADAIMA on vimeo. Home is a place of culture, spirit, and belonging for Japanese and Japanese Americans resettling after incarceration during WWII. Ck out, Robin D’Oench on Vimeo. OK, full disclosure, Robin is my nephew, and he filmed this in Santa Cruz. Just push the blue button to watch on vimeo from this blog post.

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