A Country Gentleman
By Eido Shimano
On August 7th, 2013, Kiyuu Yokoyama, who also known as Kiyuu-san, suddenly passed away. He was 82 years old.
The family asked me to conduct a funeral and burial service, at Dai Bosatsu Zendo (DBZ), which took place on Sunday August 11th.
Kiyuu-san and I were almost the same age. Both of us were from Japan and spent over half a century in this country. I always regarded him as my “brother,” and “teacher”. He was a man of action, not of words. He was an intelligent, yet a shy and subdued man. Often, spiritual teachers use such terms as selflessness, generosity or compassion. However, many of us, including myself, are not what we say. Instead, we are unconsciously, hypocritical. We speak of selflessness yet we are selfish, we speak of generosity yet stingy, and we speak of compassion, but are, nevertheless, nasty.
Kiyuu-san never used such terms, yet his being was selfless, indeed. He was extremely generous, in the giving of his energy, time and possessions. Those who knew him would agree with me, that he was a compassionate and trustworthy individual. He was a good example of what a Buddhist should be. He was truly a great country gentleman.
At the Dharma hall at DBZ, during the service while we were chanting sutras, an intense thought came to my mind. I was almost going to say it. But, now, I would like to express it in writing.
“Kiyuu-san! You are lying, in front of us, with a peaceful face. A few minutes ago, I touched your forehead but there was no reaction. I ran a bell over your face, again no reaction. You appeared as a 'dead man'. Since you looked so alive, I wanted to ask: Kiyuu-san, where did you go and where are you now?”
The original motive of the establishment of DBZ was to clarify this very point. All students who came to DBZ, dug deeply, into themselves for the answers to these fundamental questions. In a similar manner, these questions are artistically portrayed in the famous painting by Paul Gauguin, which hangs in the Boston Museum, “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”
During your funeral service, Kiyuu-san, you gave us a silent “teisho” of Tosotsu’s three barriers from the Gateless Gate, Koan Collection. It was the best teaching for all of us. I am sure whether your friends were there, or not, from that day on, they keep asking “Who am I after all?” It was dynamic, a thunderous and unforgettable moment.
In May 2008, when your wife passed away, you came to DBZ for the first time. It was, as if, you were led by some greater power, to find DBZ, in order to bury your wife’s body. One day you expressed your desire to take care of the garden at DBZ and became a resident. You also said “I’ll make this temple full of flowers.” Even though you did not say it in words, I imagined it would be like Lumbini in Nepal where Shakyamuni Buddha was born.
I say that you were led by a greater power, since I can’t help thinking it was not an accident that you came to DBZ. You told me that when you were young, you were interested in communism. You wanted to go to the Soviet Union, but in 1958 some greater power brought you to a capitalistic county, the United States. It was the very year, that Nyogen Senzaki, our karmic founder, died, in California. Nyogen Senzaki was born in Siberia, part of the Soviet Union. On a conscious level, you did not know who Nyogen Senzaki was, but on a karmic level both of you were so intimate. Nyogen Senzaki lived in this country 53 years and went back to Japan, only once. You too lived in this country for 55 years and you went back to Japan, only once. Your beloved wife, Sumiko-san came from Hiroshima where Soen Roshi went to school before he went to, The First High School, in Tokyo. Thus Nyogen Senzaki, Soen Roshi, you, and your wife were all connected karmically, in a most subtle way. As much as Nyogen Senzaki took care of Jimmy Tanahashi, you took care of us all. You did not say “SHU JO MU HEN SEI GAN DO” (However innumerable all beings are, I vow to save them all), yet your actions and your being, were so influential that they left an indelible mark, on the hearts of those who knew you.
I gave you the Buddhist name “Ko Shin Dai Kiyuu Koji”. “Ko” means to cultivate, “Shin” is heart, “Dai” great, “Kiyuu” salvation, “Koji” is lay buddhist. Your living example cultivated countless hearts and they are all impressed by your earthy-oriented spirituality.
We thank the great Dharma and its mysterious arrangements which brought Kiyuu-san to DBZ at this time of its history. I sincerely pray that Nyogen Senzaki’s effort of over half a century in America, Soen Roshi’s years of solo sesshins at Mount Dai Bosatsu in Japan and Kiyuu-san’s contribution to DBZ and its sangha, will regenerate positive Dharma energy, in Dai Bosatsu Zendo.
What can we do to requite all of these spiritual benefactors? Most of you do not know Nyogen Senzaki and Soen Roshi in person, but many of you knew who Kiyuu-san was and what he did. He was a man of action who never used flattering expressions. He worked hard and he spoke little, except frequently saying “I am grateful.” This could be a hint. We all have to be grateful to the fact that we are able to meet the Dharma in this life, and be part of this Dai Bosatsu Mandala. We must do more chanting, more samu, more zazen and more sesshins.
Thank you Kiyuu-san. Truly thank you Kiyuu-san for your inspiration. We shall never forget you.
Let true Dharma continue, universal sangha relation become complete.