[DC notes to self and others in brackets]
THE NINJA AND THE CLOCK
After the evening bell, we all bow down together, touching our foreheads to the floor and say the traditional Japanese goodnight, oyasumi nasai, which means "Please rest." We're supposed to take our bedding out and go right to sleep but some of us at times stay up late writing or reading in defiance of Dogen's rules - like Dogen did.
I always stay up as late as possible. Then the next morning I am exhausted and vow never to do it again. This has been a life long conflict. I like to stay up late. I like to get up early. At times I sleep in zazen. I slept through a lot of high school. I used to nap while I was driving.
On a quiet afternoon I was gingerly sweeping leaves off the moss in the courtyard, wishing vainly to lie down on it, curl up and go to dreamland. I vowed that I would get enough sleep that night. This vow was soon forgotten - like the one to save all beings from suffering and rebirth. At about one in the morning, after staying up late with Koji studying and talking, when I was crawling under my futon in the dark and mysterious hatto, I remembered my vow to go to bed on time and thought, oh no, I've done it again. Why don't I listen to myself? Who's in charge here? I'll die tomorrow.
I rolled over and stared numbly at the dark lump asleep not far from me. It was Maku who also had been up late studying.
I started to fade. But what is that sound? An almost imperceptibly faint clicking. Ah yes, it's his clock... clock... alarm clock. Hmm. At that point an evil idea occurred to me. I reflected on how Maku always goes to sleep immediately and deeply and is never disturbed by anything. Good, good, I thought to myself. I did a few exercises for my back and then lay on the futon tapping my fingers together and meditating menacingly. I decided to move in the direction of the alarm clock but I noticed after a moment that I had not yet budged. I felt like I had as a child standing on the edge of a high river bank, afraid to jump in - trying, giving the command to go, friends urging and then... I slid out from my fluffy down cover and crawled toward sleeping-like-a-rock Maku. Slowly, slowly and oh so carefully, like a modern ninja in the night setting a hair trigger explosive device, I picked up the clock and crawled back, pulling it under my futon, reached for and flicked on my flashlight, turned the alarm switch down and returned the clock just as deftly as I had taken it. Then I turned off my flashlight under the covers and put it back by my side. I lay there tingling and soon fell asleep with a profound feeling of warmth and security amidst the sounds of rodents scampering about and a faint unthreatening ticking.
The next day zazen was late and short. Maku kept scratching his head trying to figure out what had gone wrong. I asked him what happened with the most innocent look on my face. He shrugged his shoulders.
I was glad that people thought it was funny that he'd blown it and he wasn't in trouble like he would have been if it had been at headquarters where he would have been up doo-doo creek without any prayer beads.