Weirdness at the Zen Monastery in Japan

Told by: @weirdball

A few weird things happened to me while I was living at Sogenji, a training temple, in Okayama Japan.

As far as Buddhist monasteries go it wasn’t very old, about 300 years, but there were some odd buildings and statues there. Above the giant entrance gate, made in the classic Japanese style, was a room accessible by staircase filled with statues of gods and demons with very realistic eyes that looked real when I shined my light on them. Okay, that’s just creepy and unusual, but not too crazy. It get’s weirder.

I was there to study with a monk who was just visiting, and one day during an intensive meditation retreat, I went to his hut, really out of sorts and dejected about meditation. He invited me to meditate with him. This definitely could have been the placebo effect or whatever, but I felt a very unusual, for lack of a better phrase, energy structure, fill my body. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced and I felt immediately better and more focused. (In full disclosure, there was a bunch of talk about receiving “transmission” of the right/ability to teach, and I could have been narcissistically projecting that onto the situation. But again, it felt very real.)

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And there was that time with the master of Sogenji, Shodo Harada Roshi, who eventually became my teacher. We would have these formal interviews that were very intense. At 8pm, as we sat meditating, 7 fast bell strikes would ring throughout the temple grounds and we students would literally run down the rough unlit temple paths, in sandals, to line-up for interviews. The idea was to show your determination to learn, but it was honestly a bit cultish (though I don’t think that was the intention).

Anyway, I remember going in for my interview and feeling like he was breathing for me. It was very strange, because my breath was much longer and similar to his when he gave demonstrations on how we should breath during meditation. And it felt involuntary. And then I noticed that half of his face was gone. Just incredibly black, empty space.

Again, this could have been the many intense hours of meditation, and the atmosphere, and hierarchy leading me to project onto the situation.

I also saw a ghost. Or what looked like a ghost. One night, I was sleeping in the meditation hall and was woken suddenly by a loud clap of thunder. I opened my eyes to the lightening flash and as it faded I saw a red-faced specter in flowing black robes, floating in the rafters. It was parallel and looking straight down. Then it faded and all that was left was the ceiling fan.

I could have just been hallucinating whatever I was dreaming about since I was startled out of sleep. Or maybe, just maybe, I saw something supernatural.

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