This conversation with the Buddhist monk and teacher of Roshi sect occurred in early 2018, when he kindly agreed to have some tea with Ignas in the house of Mr. Darius Šarauskas near Kaunas, Lithuania.


So what brings you to Lithuania?

Actually, I met one lady from Vilnius. Her name is Miyoko. We met in Germany during the opening of the Zen monastery. She is the founder of a group called “One Drop Zen.”

What is your relation with her? Is she your disciple?

No. We’re friends. She is also a student of . I have been a student of Harada Rōshi for the last 32 years.

Of course. So you studied for 32 years?

I’m still studying. I’m not finished yet. [Laughs]

Beautiful. [Laughs]

Your teacher can say to you, “Now you finished your practice, you can become a teacher.” But for you, practice is forever. A teacher has to practice.

When you use the word “practice,” what do you mean?

For example, in a monastery we have a particular pattern: we wake up in the morning, then we chant sutras, then we meditate and other work. This is the routine of our life that we call practice. In practice, you get entirely involved — not that you and work are separated. You become one. Each moment for you is a state of — while you’re working, walking, sitting.

You can choose to have a conversation with me. I think you are well prepared before you came here. That is also your practice. You have to be well-prepared because you are going to meet someone. You cannot just meet and say anything. Your practice is to prepare yourself before appearing in front of someone. Our life itself is a “practice.” You cannot say, “I am finished because I did 20 years of monastery practice.” Every bit of the moment is our practice because life is a practice. When you enter the monastery, you have a specific pattern of life under which you go through and polish yourself.

Please clarify a bit. Is it true that every person may put a different meaning toward practice depending on what answer he or she searches?

The monastery has only one pattern. You cannot make two patterns there. Either he, me, or you, we have different characters, different perceptions. In the monastery, all your perceptions have to be thrown away.

If you join that community?

Yes, because you didn’t come to expose yourself that you are something.

Of course.

When you enter the monastery, you have to forget everything outside the door. You come-in fresh, empty, and then you will learn the things. If you are full of things before, the information you got from the outside world will not work. People, when they come in with a lot of information, expectations, or enlightenment — they all fail.

Do you consider yourself as a monk?

I’m a monk.

Did you take vows?

Yes. When I was 12 years old, I started this practice.

So now you are 44?

I don’t know. [Laughs] But I am what I am.

You mentioned earlier that you studied for 32 years. [Laughs]

Yeah [Laughs]. That’s the life I am living. I became a monk when I was 18 years old.

So when you meet people in Lithuania, perhaps not every one of them wants to become a monk.

Yes.

So what’s your interaction with them? In that sense, how can you assist them?

I didn’t come here to make anyone a monk. I came to sit together, to help to polish my practice and their practice. I don’t have anything like, “I want to make something.” No. What they are, they are. We are just cooperating to develop each other’s practice compassionately. It’s challenging to find people who want to become a monk because everyone wants to enjoy their life.

First, you cannot change anything. It is destruction. If it comes from their heart, then they will go smoothly because. They have to take care of themselves. But if I force them, “Please become” they will rely on my words, not their words, and then say, “We didn’t become that.”

They should have their perception. It’s up to them how they look at their inner self. A mirror is a teacher. When you go to the teacher, you reflect. The teacher is your mirror, and you are a mirror for your teacher also. You are both mirrors to each other.

Beautiful.

Yes. If you make something dark inside yourself, you are darkened, and you look at your teacher, there’ll be no light because you closed yourself.

You have too much information, and you think you are something special that you know from the outside world. For example, some people do yoga, some people do , some people do something else. They have information from previous practices. Then they expect it should happen this way. But in Zen, you have to throw everything away. You have to throw away the Buddha and patriarchs. These are not needed. They are only the milestones where you have to go to guide you.

Okay. Can you give some examples of those milestones? So what does “to throw away” mean?

If I want to go to Vilnius, I have to go through a specific road. There are banners, and there are things. We use them because sometimes, if there are no banners or nameplates, we don’t know where to go. We have to ask someone. If there are no nameplates there, we miss the road. We go and ask, “How can I go there?” You ask the teacher, “How can I go there?” The teacher is your milestone. You ask him, “So teacher, I came here because I had this, and I want to know myself,” so the teacher will say, “Okay, this is the way you walk on it.”

You had to put effort into becoming what you have become. For example, I know you’re writing this blog, so maybe you have your concepts and put efforts to make a blog.

That’s true.

Naturally, I cannot make that blog because I don’t have that much capacity. Maybe I want to do the same style as you for one or two years, but what you have in your mind, it cannot be in my mind.

Absolutely.

Somebody can guide you. Suppose somebody wants to go to Vilnius. I’ll tell him, “Please take the highway from , go straight, and then you will reach .” But he took the road and went to .

Who is wrong? The person whom I told to choose the right way but he took the opposite way on a highway, and he went to Klaipėda. So I can guide the people, I can be a light to them. After that, everyone has to work on their paths. I cannot go over there because that’s your path. I can guide the people, but then they have to walk. They have to reach their destination.

You put it quite clearly in that explanation. If somebody asks, what is the method of Zen? How would you describe it?

In Zen, there is no discrimination and a lot of explanation. First, you sit and then — people are looking for some kind of philosophical interpretation. They think this is the truth.

Most of the time.

Yeah. When you go to practice through the explanations, and you only want an explanation, then it’s complicated because, in Zen, you must sit first.

When you go to a monastery, a teacher is there. He will ask you to sit, and then you rest. Perhaps for one or two weeks, he will watch you. Of course, if you go to any monastery, they will not let you come inside easily. You have to request them for one week. They will see how much patience you have.

How do people spend that week?

They give you one room, and in that room, you sit for one week. They will also provide you food, and then they will watch you all the time — watch what you are doing inside. They know if you have patience — you came for the practice. Then they will tell the teacher that this man wants admission to the monastery.

That’s okay.

There are no explanations in Zen. You sit first, and when you have been sitting for one or two weeks, the teacher will ask you to come for the interview. He will ask you, “How do you feel?” or whatever questions he will put before you. Then the teacher will provide a clear way on how to practice. It goes on and on because every day you have to go to your teacher. He inquires about your improvement, how you see, how you do your daily life. He will ask questions, depending upon the person.

The most important thing is breathing. In our minds, there are hundreds of things coming in and going out. This is bothering you all the time — hundreds of matters not related to you. You look to your future and the past is gone.

In Zen, you have to be with your breathing every moment. That’s something you have to improve every day. In the monastery, you get interviewed every day. Still, you have to do the daily life — chanting, washing the dishes, cleaning the grounds and whatever work you get. The senior monks are also watching you on how you are doing. They will also tell Roshi that this guy is doing well. So in Zen, there are no explanations.

So a person must have motivation.

If you know very well why you are practicing, you already have motivation.

Yeah, good.

There are also hundreds of people, so you cannot expect that motivation from everyone. In Zen, there is a perfect story about the Rinzai Zen, a young guy. He was a student. He wanted to ask, “What is Zen?” and went to see the teacher at Obaku mountain.

Rinzai Zen was 22 years old. He went to the monastery and stayed there for three years without asking any questions. The head monk watched him for three years. Rinzai Zen never asked any questions. So the head monk went to the young guy and said, “You’ve been her for three years and you didn’t go to a teacher to ask any questions.” The young guy said, “I don’t know what I shall ask him.”

Did the young guy understand that he should stay in the monastery for some reason?

Maybe because he came from Vinaya to Zen, so he wants to know about Zen. He was practicing. The head monk was watching him and saw that he put much effort.

In any monastery, there are around a thousand students. It’s challenging to go to a teacher and ask a question.

The head monk said to the young guy, “Go and ask the teacher what is the meaning of Buddhism in one word.” The guy went, and the moment he asked, the teacher beat him twenty times.

Twenty times?

The teacher beat the young guy twenty times. The guy came back, and the head monk said, “What happened?” He said, “I don’t understand.”

The second time the young guy asked the same thing and the teacher beat him again. The third time the teacher beat him once again.

Again?

Yes, three times because he kept asking the same question, “What is the meaning of Buddhism in one word?”

But it’s not a word.

This is Zen, and there is no explanation. You have to be very present. Then everything becomes clear. Zen is genuine.

The young guy said, “The teacher beat me three times. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to stay here anymore. I cannot understand the teacher.”

The head monk replied, “Okay. If you want to go down the mountain, you can go. But one thing, the teacher has given you the chance to study for three years, so you must respect him.”

Then the young guy left. The head monk insisted, “I have one friend, a Zen master, Taigoo. You go to his place and study with him. Taigoo is the right person for you.” Usually, in Zen, when you go to the monastery, they’ll ask where you came from. “What did you see there? Are there any buddhas there?”

Are there any Buddhas?

Yeah, if you come from Vilnius or Kaunas, they will ask, “Are there any Buddhas in Kaunas?” [Laughs] You can say anything, but he’s not asking about the stone Buddha. He’s asking about you. Where did you come from? How were the days there? Every teacher has his qualities, and they ask questions.

So the young guy went to the new place, and Taigoo asked him, “Where did you come from?” The young guy answered, “I came from Obaku.” Taigoo asked once again, “What does Obaku teach nowadays? The young guy answered, “I asked the teacher the same question three times, and he beat me three times.” Taigoo shouted, “You, idiot! The teacher showed you motherly kindness three times, not just once, and you are complaining. If you understand, go back to your teacher. I’m not your teacher. He gave you three chances to understand.” At that very moment, the young guy understood and beat Taigoo three times.

It’s lovely to be pure and straightforward. Always be simple, not critical.

Did he beat the Taigoo three times? That is unusual.

This is not insane. It is not like beating someone for revenge.

But it’s still painful.

You take the pain to serve sentient beings. Every master, even Buddha, took the pain to help sentient beings.

Yeah, but this is not about saving anything.

Yes, it is. You people cannot understand this because you think this is the punishment.

I see. Yes. [Laughs]

Punishment is the teacher’s kindness. In Asian traditions, a parent beating his son or a teacher beating the student is common. My teacher beat me so much, still I said yes. It is a policy to test how much ego you have, how much you can resist yourself, how much you put yourself first. If I get angry — that’s negative. Many things can happen around if you’re practicing with a burning heart to solve the problems, and the teacher is with you.

Okay. Not that painful. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Now, you want their explanation.

I just reacted according to my understanding, in a Western way. [Laughs]

That’s the problem. I have encountered more than 500 students from Europe and America. They heard Rinzai Zen’s story a hundred times. [Laughs]

Rinzai Zen then went back to his teacher. After that, for 20 years, the young guy practiced with Obaku.

Is he enlightened already?

Yes. Then Obaku called him his successor. So that is the explanation.

It is not for everybody.

Indeed, this is not for everybody. But if you trust yourself, the way is there for you.

Yeah, but it’s not necessarily a shortcut.

No, it’s not a shortcut. When you are honest with your practice, with yourself when you are alive, what you do with your surroundings, how open you are to your friends. Everything is happiness — to be happy and make others happy.

We intend to serve at least one person. Sometimes you have problems, but then somebody will also help you. That’s giving and taking.

We live together in this world. Every day you are facing people, you meet your colleagues, your friends, relatives. If your thoughts will be positive — your tongue will be positive. Everything will be clear. But if you are negative inside, you will spread negativity and suffering.

However, you don’t need an explanation for meditation. You just sit and get the answer. If I want to meditate, who will sit and do it for me?

Nobody.

I will sit! Who will concentrate on breathing? Me. You can’t blame the teacher for not teaching you correctly. When I was 12 years old, I started practicing meditation. I had one question when I was 12 years old.

It’s good to have at least one question.

Do you have a question?

Of course I have.

Buddha, Rinzai, and every master said that you have to trust yourself.

There was one village where people complained to the Buddha. “So many people come and teach us, whom shall we trust?” Buddha answered, “First, trust yourself.” If you trust yourself, then the truth is evident for you because you know what is correct for you. Buddha said, “Come, see, watch, follow it, and then accept. If you follow and you think it is okay, then accept it.” Buddha never forced someone like, “What I am saying will last. It is the only truth.”

Buddha never put himself like something special. This is an excellent method of freedom for humanity. When a master says to everyone, “Trust me. I will take you to heaven.” They don’t even know where heaven is, but they are taking everyone to heaven. [Laughs]

In Zen, you have to trust yourself. The master is a mirror to guide you. He’s a lamp that gives light to you. Under that light, you take care of yourself. There are many questions. Also, we should live at the current moment. Everyone wants happiness. Then, you are doing yoga for happiness. You are doing various practices to clear your mind. We should trust our practice.

Yesterday, people asked me the question, “What about mantra?” You can’t just say, “I do mantra.” Then nothing will happen because you are separating yourself. The mantra is in mouth, but your mind is somewhere else. Empty things will not bring you anything.

Don’t you agree that every person finds an explanation on his own? Even if he doesn’t receive an explanation from a teacher.

Explanation in what sense?

Well, perhaps, he or she at least would be able to tell a friend why he went to a monastery or practice?

Yeah. So this is not an explanation. This is his experience.

Okay. But if a person decides to go to a monastery, he needs to explain to his wife or husband — why did he go to search for happiness.

Once you enter the monastery — the monastery has its way of life — there is no explanation. Outside, you can explain a hundred things. I didn’t have any explanation. I had one question, and I didn’t ask about other problems.

If you go to Samadhi, you become like a flower. Usually, people think that Samadhi means just closing your eyes and sitting. [Laughs] I went back, and my mother said, “What’s happened to you?” I said, “I was looking for god,” She said, “You think these things bring you, god?” [Laughs]

People told me many things, and I followed them. It’s not real because I just followed it. I was in so much pain. Unbelievable.

Guiders are the light. The correct teachers are very few. In India, many people come from many countries to see the and the . They are just a kind of those big-bearded, long-haired people with decorative clothes.

Yeah. So you chose a different way.

I did many things because, as an Indian, we are told many things. To do this and that — so you will gain power. I was meditating without teachers. I used to put incense, and I will make my room completely dark. I just looked at that burning incense. So this was how I practiced concentrating. It helped me a lot. When you turn off the light and stay in complete darkness, there appears the low light after a while. I used to chant that when I’m sitting.

That was my tool to go to Samadhi.

To find an answer?

To go to Samadhi because I wanted to become a flower. If you go to Samadhi, you will become a flower. So I wanted to become a flower.

That’s unusual.

Yes. So the flower means you become clear. Flower means the beauty of life. When you go to Samadhi, you forget everything. There is nothing, and from there, you come out. That energy brings you out, and you see beautiful things. That clarity means the beauty of nature. Everything is like a flower. That means you can become like that, and everyone will like you. Beautiful.

In winter, snow is the beauty of nature. If you see with that clear eye, this whiteness means you are clear. Winter is beautiful. Summer and autumn are beautiful. Nature is full of joy. It’s for us. We are human beings, and we can see beautiful things.

Yes, it’s beautiful.

Everywhere is beautiful.

So then you practiced meditation, not archery.

I was a wrestler.

Were you a wrestler?

I was a wrestler, but in India, there is a caste system, so the caste system defeated me. I was a champion in my weight division in the Intercollege competition.

So you went to college?

Yes, I did BSc, and then I did an MA in Hindi. I did a Ph.D., but I didn’t present my paper because I was too busy constructing the monastery.

Perhaps it’s not easy to combine those two.

Education is a priority. My parents were untouchables. Do you know the caste system in India?

Yes. I don’t understand it completely, but I know the concept.

The system has , , , , and the bottom are the untouchables. Nobody can touch them, and they don’t have any kind of facilities — a tough life. My parents became Buddhist. Our caste is very famous in India around Mumbai.

When I went to the intercollege competition, my weight was 48 kilos, which is the bottom weight. When I won the championship, they started to read about my life, my college name, and my caste. When they read my caste, the whole stadium started shouting, “Kill him, cut his hand, cut his head.”

When was that?

I was in high school when — 17 years old. You can say it had happened recently.

I survived even when they were ready to kill me — I won, still they denied me. An untouchable can’t become a champion. The caste system doesn’t permit it. What can I do? I didn’t have anyone to help me raise my voice. So I said, “Sorry” and took my bicycle and ran away because I wanted to be alive.

Did you do your master thesis in Hindi?

Yes.

What is the topic you are interested in?

Hindi literature.

Anything in particular?

“The contribution of a Buddhist monk to the Hindi language.” There were many Buddhist monks before the independence of India. They translated many Sanskrit texts in the Hindi language, but the literary group of people ignored them. And nobody wanted to research that subject. My academic teacher was against it. She said, “No, don’t take this subject.” I said, “No, I want to do this subject.” You cannot go against academic teachers. Then I asked her, “Please let me do this because I’m very interested and also want to do Zen.”

In my final year during submission time, the monastery teacher asked me to build a Zen monastery. Therefore, I was so busy that I didn’t submit my papers. I had that chance to submit, but I didn’t.

Is it the purpose of every human to become enlightened? Is this the ultimate purpose?

It should be. Buddha said every sentient being is Buddha. If we take away all the ignorance, then we are Buddhas. But we have so much information, and we are so tied to “me.” Everyone is saying “I,” and we are bumping into each other.

In the Indian world, once you marry, despite whatever happens, you manage and run your life together. In the Western world, even when you love a woman very much, you get divorced and move on to the next woman or next man. These kinds of things bring unhappiness and suffering. Buddha asked, “Why don’t you have a mutual understanding? Just sit together and look at each other. Let’s love each other with a full heart. What happened that made you dislike each other?”

People make mistakes — that’s human nature. But humans also have the wisdom that guides them.

This is a straightforward thing from our life and family. We made the world crooked because of our ego. When we put ourselves first, then it starts.

How long are we going to live? Let’s say a hundred years, and then everyone has to die. What will remain in this world? Your good days will stay — nothing else. Nobody cares about your money, big house, empire, your lifestyle. How much you love others, how much you give, how much you share with others — that’s what counts. Why did Buddha remain? He would have become the emperor, but he gave up everything to become a simple guy without having anything. Still, he was a prince.

You can share a message through your blogs. “We, human beings don’t have to make problems for anyone; we have to solve the issues to make this world better. Let’s express ourselves with the beauty that we got from our parents.” [Laughs]

Did you know before your birth that you are going to be born in Lithuania?

No.

Did you know you are going to speak in Lithuanian language, English, or other?

No.

We came on this earth because of the union of our mother and father. Then my mother nourished me. My father helped me and gave me what I needed. That was a two-person effort. Our ancestors, our parents, their parents — there is one trait you cannot cut. If you cut it, it will be a mess all over the world.

Human beings are so fortunate. We shouldn’t become a destroyer but a constructor. We shouldn’t become ugly but beautiful. A pure and enlightened mind can only achieve it. It is called .

Yeah, but it may take many lifetimes to achieve that.

Why not? When humanity started, they didn’t have this quality of life. They lived in caves, and they learned things because of the wisdom of the mind. Through that, we came to an era where you have information on your phone. In typing a couple of buttons, you get the knowledge of the whole world universe. This will go even further. Businesses will invent more things. Now we have a mobile, but in the future maybe we don’t need to buy mobile phones anymore.

In the first place, I didn’t think of becoming a monk. I was a wrestler. I had a dream of becoming a good wrestler. What happened? Indian society didn’t let me do that.

That’s why you became a monk?

Yes. I help some students in my monastery. I run a residential school where I support kids from underprivileged, very poor families. I give them spiritual education, meditation, medication and everything else.

So you’ll get them closer to their enlightenment?

If they become that, that’s very good. Why not? Everyone has chances.

Yeah. And what about your enlightenment.

I don’t know. I’m drinking my tea now. [Laughs]

Are you going to have children?

If it’s possible, I will do it. If it’s not possible, I will sit — no problems for others.

I’m not married because monks cannot marry in any Indian society, but in Japanese culture, they can. I’m a Japanese monk because I studied in Japan. I am one of the first Indians in the history of Japanese Zen Buddhism. I just live happily and don’t make a mess for anyone.

Is there reincarnation in your concept?

Actually, they have this kind of thing in Buddhism but not in Zen.

No?

No.

So you will be finished as an individual.

Yes.

And what remains?

Nothing.

Your good deeds?

Yes. Good deeds will remain there. Actually, I was declared as a reincarnation by Tibetans. But I didn’t accept that.

Why?

I don’t need these kinds of things. Maybe it is good for the Tibetans. After reincarnation — they declare that you are unique.

But perhaps you can’t accept that because you don’t believe in it.

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.

Okay, but thank you very much, Bodhidharma.

Okay, thank you.

Not only did you make me sit, but you allowed me to talk and ask questions, and I’m very grateful for you. [Laughs]

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you very much.