The day after my recent arrival at the monastery, Hogen asked me to come and have tea. As we sat on the floor of his office, he gave me a choice of Japanese tea … or Turkish coffee. Bringing water to a boil, adding extra-finely ground dark beans and sugar, he asked what I’d been doing. Aware of the preciousness of alone-time with a senior teacher, I skipped the chit-chat. “I have been pondering the difficulty of imagining my own death,” I said. “There are fleeting moments when I sense no distinction between one and the others — during meditation, say, or sexual abandon — but for 99.98% of my waking hours the ego seems incapable of imagining its own demise.”
I can offer you two kinds of chocolate, Hogen gestured towards a stash of sweets, one with bacon flavour, the other with Mexican peppers. All organic. And in the next breath, he addressed my dilemma: The Daishin of ten years ago is not the one sitting in front of me. You’ve changed so much. Not just on the cellular level — but look at your mind state, your equanimous ways. Yes, the old Peter is dead, I realized. “Thank you for the coffee.” Bows.