5-17-14 - Yesterday Katrinka and I took two buses to get to the Keifuku train and go from the Shijo Omiya end to the Arashiyama station in Kyoto. Tom Kirchner met us at the station and we thoroughly enjoyed a few hours with him.
by Thomas Yuho Kirchner (Editor), Ruth Fuller Sasaki (Translator)
Read the dust jacket to know more about this book
A 2008 article on Tom Kirchner completing this unfinished work by Ruth Fuller Sasaki and getting it published
Tom Kirchner is one of the people interviewed in Zen and War. He lives in Kyoto and is a staff researcher at the Rinazi sect's Hanazono University.
I asked him how good the work of Ruth Fuller Sasaki's translation team back in the sixties was and he said excellent.
Even though he's daily translating thousand year old Buddhist texts, he said that his passion was organic gardening. He showed us two gardens, both part of the Tenryuji temple complex. The large one had a fence around it which stopped the wild boar and the badgers. The larger one was closer to the mountain and was entirely enclosed to keep out the macaques which are the most northerly-living non-human primates (BBC). In these gardens he grew wheat, onion, corn, a special type of heat and drought resistant spinach, squash, red leaf lettuce, and more. His wheat field was high and green. He hopes to get 60 or 70 pounds of whole wheat flour and does all the steps from field to bread including stepping on it when it first comes up to make it shorter and stronger so it is less likely to fall over from rains when it gets tall.
Tom came to Japan in 1969 to study and long ago became a monk. I hope to get more on him and his story here in the future. Like maybe tomorrow.
5-18-14 - A little more on Tom Kirchner. Thought of him when I walked to the 7-11 late this morning. Passed two lots being farmed. Watched one of the farmers. There are many lots in our neighborhood with crops and greenhouses. And how impressive the gardens and plants in front of the smallest places and apartment buildings. I wonder how many of them make their own compost like Tom. He's got three large bins - all three of us could have laid down on one, gets leaves from Tenryuji as the monks are always raking, and manure from a university riding school. But those aren't the only gardens he has to tend. The sub-temple he's a caretaker of, Rinsenji. The impressive aspect of it, like Tenryuji, is the garden which is not at all like Tenryuji's with a lake and bamboo forest. Rinsenji's is a gravel and stone garden, a massive one. I was shocked. Tom said it's the largest of its kind in Kyoto and possibly the country. It's like basketball court sized but wider. He spends a couple of hours a week removing the leaves and raking the gravel and a few on the long tree lined walk leading from the temple main building to the garden. He has a disciple who is in training in another temple now. He should have more. I urge any seeking realization that there would be no better combination than Tom plus all that leaf removal and gravel raking. He says the gravel garden was built only forty years ago and used to be open to the public for a fee - there's a ticket hut in front, but I guess it didn't pay for itself because it's not open to the public now. We stood out front, a view of the Katsura river and the Kogetsukyo Bridge. Rinsenji means river view temple.
Tom studied with Yamada Mumon in Kobe when Shodo Harada was known as Do-san. He was a monk at the awesome Kenchoji in Kamakura. At some point he returned to lay life. Then he got a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with its 2% survival rate. After surgery he discovered that the surgeon found no cancer. Everyone was mystified. Tom returned to a monk's life.