By Lawrence Lefcort
This past fall I had the great privilege to travel to Kyoto, Japan, to complete my teacher training in Tao Shiatsu Therapy, a healing modality based on ancient Buddhist practices from as far back as the 10th century AD.
I had never been to Japan before. During my travels to south and Southeast Asia in my twenties, I never once had the urge to visit Japan; it seemed too controlled, too inflexible, too cold and too expensive. I am glad I waited. Back then I don’t think I could have truly appreciated all the wondrous spiritual beauty Japan has to offer.
The glorious tradition of Buddhism in Japan traces its roots back to India in the 2nd century AD. Since that time, the teachings have been meticulously and diligently passed down from master to student, many of whom often risked life and limb, to spread the teachings across East Asia. You can feel their presence pulsating everywhere in this isolated mountain-island kingdom.
The Japanese honour the shichi kōsō (七高僧), seven Pure Land masters who lived between 150 – 1212 AD in India, China, and Japan. Each one added their own essence to the teachings and transformed them to be fresh, dynamic, and relevant to the people of their time.
Part of my teacher training involved a 3-day meditative chanting retreat, at the 400-year old Amida Temple, high up in the mountains of Nagano province. We chanted for 10-12 hours a day (sixty of us in total), with time passing by almost effortlessly.
The temple was originally built in 1595, as a sanctuary dedicated to continuous Nembutsu chanting, a practice that can heal deep wounds in the subconscious of both living and spiritual existences. Since then, the temple has housed many renowned monks, including the great Nembutsu master Bennei, who lived during the 19th century.
Throughout my stay in Japan, my Japanese colleagues, many of whom I had never met, did all they could to ensure that we were comfortable and well cared for. They cooked the most amazing array of dishes almost nightly and cleaned tirelessly for us on a regular basis, demanding no recognition and without a word of complaint. We often had to push them out of the kitchen just to do a few dishes!
They worked harmoniously together, always with a smile, and displayed a level of care, respect and enjoyment of each other that is rarely witnessed in the West. I thought to myself: we have a lot to learn from these people! The Japanese take great care in everything they do: whether it’s cooking, gardening, cleaning, paving roads, drawing or painting — they have an immaculate and precise work ethic that is truly astounding.
Training to be a Tao Shiatsu therapist (and teacher) is a way of life. It’s about learning how to create a bright future, and developing the ability to increase our joy, our happiness, and our richness from moment to moment, with every breath. It illustrates that the source of existence is joy and that in the deepest part of our hearts, we are all unified with that joyous spirit. If we could teach this and only this to our children, and live it too, it would be the greatest gift to humanity, and to the sustaining of the planet.
I feel eternally grateful to my teachers Ryokyu and Mayu Endo for giving me the opportunity to come to Kyoto. These modern masters transmitted life-transforming teachings to me, with their only wish being that I learn to embody them in ever deepening ways, and spread them to as many others as possible. What a humbling realization!
If you’d like to experience the spiritual side of Kyoto please visit: http://taoshiatsutherapy.com/spiritual-journey-in-japan/, for information on this year’s Spiritual Journey to Japan, from April 9-16, 2017.