The Disquiet* and Zen

Takahara Oji, 2019

Tomorrow will be the 7 year anniversary of Katherine’s passing. Homage to my root teacher. I am fortunate to have had the time with her, Our dialogues continue to simmer, root, and manifest in my life. Nine bows.

Recently, my sister, my niece and I hiked the Nakahechi route (aka the imperial route) of the Kumano Kodo. The Kumano routes to the sanzan, the grand shinto shrines (Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha and Hayatama Taisha) cross the mountains and rivers of Wakayama. I suppose I belong to this land as it is where my grandmother emigrated from. On this trail, one is reminded of the primacy of nature in the Kumano, Shinto, and Buddhist faiths.

Ancient red pine

Gnarled roots

Oji and Jizo


This dusty world

The world is dusty. This is the samsara of ordinary life, in and out of residential practice. I sometimes hear others say directly or gesture toward a promise of transformation, “I’m calmer”, “I have improved _______ or _______,” or even, “I am now at peace.” The very words stain the fruits of zen. I worry these projections mostly affirm those who make such claims and heighten the disquiet of others (who do not make such claims). Ego goals and zazen are like oil and water.

For some of us, disquiet is a familiar friend. What else is there to say?

*I learned this term, disquiet, from Fernando Pessoa’s amazing book, The Disquiet. “I sometimes think I enjoy my suffering, but the truth is, I would prefer something else.”

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