Matsuyama: I’d like to speak about the meaning behind the phrase “inner trip,” which has been a theme of this guide. At Taizō-in Temple, my grandfather, as the head monk of the time, had put catfish in the pond shaped like a gourd as a sort of answer to the question posed in Hyōnen-zu. People tend to look outside themselves for answers, when actually it might be right before their eyes—inside.
Naruse: There are some words I’d like to share by Daisetsu Suzuki, who is often credited for spreading Japanese Zen Buddhism in the US and the rest of the world. He said, “We aim at the moon and climb mountains. Trekking the moon is a fantasy that no mountain could realize. Still, the moon is always with us.” This made me realize what you just said.
Matsuyama: And I think happiness is also right there with us too. If we think of happiness as a result of dividing our possessions by our desires, we can see that increasing our happiness lies in either increasing our possessions or decreasing our desires. In more Buddhist terms, we have the word “chisoku,” which means to learn sufficiency. I think looking into ourselves teaches us the true meaning of contentedness.
Naruse: But there must be many who find it difficult to be satisfied with little. What should they do to learn about sufficiency?
Matsuyama: The answer lies in being moved. I once asked a gourmet chef what the tastiest food in the world is. To this he answered, “sponge cake (castella).” After trying all the best foods the world has to offer too! This particular sponge cake was made by a patisserie in the mountains, and the chef had happened upon it while lost and famished during a road trip around Europe. It is the experience that intensified the chef’s impression of the sponge cake.
As for me, during my training I had to walk for 28 days from Saitama to Kyoto. Though one usually begs for alms from various people, I also lodged in several places on my way home. One day, a terrible storm came by. The weather made it impossible to sleep outside, and I went to a nearby temple to ask if I could stay for the night. My clothes were a mess, and I looked rather miserable. Regardless, the head monk had greeted me warmly and praised my tenacity. He prepared a bath, food, and a warm bed for me, and I was moved to tears. Such things wouldn’t make us cry in everyday life, would they? But those memories are impossible to forget, and it is precisely these sort of impressions that are happiness.
Naruse: So, to increase our happiness, it’s important to decrease our desires to their utmost lower limit. Does that mean it’s important to have nothing at all?
Matsuyama: What’s important is a state when one lacks something. We aren’t moved by what we have, but rather by the gap between what we have and what we don’t have. So, if one knows sufficiency, they have nothing and are constantly moved. This is happiness. It’s not something that can be passed down in a story, and I think everyone has some understanding of this. Yet, knowing and experiencing are two different things, and knowledge is only meaningful when one has experienced it firsthand. This is why Zen Buddhism values our experiences and identifies our impressions of things as being most important. After walking from Saitama to Kyoto, you have no idea how happy I feel riding a bullet train. Learning sufficiency makes us realize that happiness is right before us.
Naruse: Mr. Matsuyama, thank you very much for showing us around Taizō-in Temple and for teaching us about the meaning behind an inner trip.
The other theme of this guide is inquiry. We are undoubtedly familiar with looking up what we don’t know. If something comes to mind, we just type it up in a search engine and find the answer right away. This guide raised several questions, many of which surely had answers.
But this world is not merely composed of questions with answers. In fact, there are countless questions that have not been raised yet. In some cases, we know not what we know not. What should we do then?
First, is to inquire. To overcome boundaries, we must question ourselves as much as we can and then experience firsthand what we’ve learned. Rather than criticize, it is important to act and then confirm on our own.
In our experiences, we often find ourselves looking outwards for answers, though, in truth, our self-discovery lies within. This is what an inner trip entails.