Kosho Uchiyama

‘One day I was taking a lunch break in the confines of Toji Temple. As we always had rice gruel for breakfast at Antaiji, it was not practical to prepare a lunch of leftover breakfast, so I usually bought a couple of rolls. I often ate on the grounds of a temple or shrine, or in a temple cemetery. Nowadays, the grounds at Toji are all fenced off, and they charge money just to get in. But in those days, there were no fences or places that collected entrance fees, and Toji was an ideal place to rest and eat a roll or two. Pigeons would approach, and I’d break off a little of the bread I was eating and share it with them. Watching them eat the few crumbs I tossed somehow cheered me up, particularly during the period when I was so depressed about going out in the first place. At some point, if I knew I would be stopping off at Toji, I got into the habit of buying an extra roll to share with the pigeons. As I was feeding the pigeons one day, I realized that I, too, was one of the pigeons of Kyoto. When the pigeons came around, people would want to feed them if they had any bread leftover, simply out of human sentiment. In the same way, if some monk happens to stop in front of your house, you might think that another one of those pigeons has come around, and you open the door and toss one or two yen into his bowl, just as you would toss bread to the birds. I realized that in a sense, I had to behave and appear attractive just like one of those Toji pigeons.’ (The Takuhatsu of Laughter Through the Tears)


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