Tuesday, 13 May 2014


One of my jobs last week was to pickle takenoko (bamboo shoots). Konrad tells me that takenoko means child of bamboo. Well, this is is the season for bamboo children, before they grow too large and fibrous. When you find them in the forest they are quite biomorphic, like claws reaching up through the soil. At the moment we eat them fresh, but if we pickle them they are available to eat throughout the year.

Konrad and others collected many baskets full of them. The soil is soft so the takenoko is not too difficult to dig out of the ground.

It was my job to slice the claws in half lengthways and to ease the soft centre out of the furry/scaly outer layer. I lined a wooden pickling bucket with plastic and arranged the takenoko in layers, with handfuls of salt between each layer to act as a preservative. Finally I sealed the takenoko inside the plastic bag, then fitted a lid inside the bucket with a heavy weight on top. They should be ready in a few months, compressed and soft. I hope they will be okay to eat.

 Perhaps the most important job last week was to plant the rice seedlings in the first rice field. Except for those who were building the barn, the whole sangha took part. It was meticulous work that took the whole day. It was important to plant the seedlings in a strict grid pattern - the lines as straight as we could make them - so that later in the season the hand-operated weeding machines can be pushed between the rows without damaging the rice. The other challenge was the mud... very difficult to walk through at speed. The depth of the mud went up to our knees. Most of us wore high rubber boots and the suction tended to pull the boots from our feet. It was easier (apparently) to go barefoot, but I was scared of the cold!

See how fertile and lush it all looks? When I first arrived at Antaiji in early April the surrounding hills were grey. Now that the leaves have grown on the trees, the forests are dense and and green.

After the day of rice planting there were still plenty of things to be done, so instead of a sesshin we had a work morning and then free time in the afternoon. During free time many people relax, but the people with ongoing responsibilities tend to catch up on work they have not managed to complete. Here Tobi sits on the head of the bulldozer doing something dangerous with the electrical wiring.

Lluis used his free time to redesign the gravel in the southern zen garden. He created a pattern that reminded me of waves on the shoreline.

Moritz and Artur took advantage of the balmy weather to air their bedding. 

And me? What did I do on Hosan?
Well, now is the time to reveal the truth behind this post...


I am writing this from 'down under' (!)

On Hosan I packed my bags. On Monday morning I left Antaiji and arrived in Melbourne via Cairns early yesterday afternoon.

When I first arrived at Antaiji I was determined to stick it out, to stay for 80 days no matter what. Well, that resolve didn't last! In the end I stayed for one month.

One of the reasons that I came to Antaiji was to see if I might return on a regular basis for further monastic training. I have decided that I don't feel able to do this, or I don't have the courage for it or, more simply, I don't want to. My lack of courage relates to the pain I experienced during the 5 day sesshin and have felt since. While it seems that I am not strong enough for life at Antaiji, I'm aware that other people experience physical and psychological stress and yet choose to remain there. So maybe something else is missing, but I don't know what it is.

I really appreciated the life at Antaiji and the community of residents, both the long-term residents and those who are staying for a short time. Although I missed home very much, there was always someone to chat with over coffee or mint tea. I enjoyed sitting with, eating with and working with the community - a respite from thinking about myself all the time. It will be interesting to see what life is like in the urban setting after this. A lot of free choice - I can help myself to something nice to eat whenever I feel like it! - but not necessarily any more satisfaction.

Back in Oz (Cairns domestic airport).


  1. Hey Mushin it's great to read your last post :-) Here it's been rice planting nyojo and we finally finished today so we burned the campfire. Hope you'll arrived home well. A hug

    1. Hi Lluis - it's great to hear from you. It is strange to be home again after such an intense month, but very nice to see family and friends again - and my cat! It's good to really appreciate all that I have in life. Lluis, I have one favour to ask of you. Could you please say hello/goodbye to Jinen san for me. It was such a rush on the morning I left that I forgot to look for him to say goodbye. I really enjoyed the chats I had with him and I appreciated his kind and gentle nature and his interest in other people. And a hug from me to you Lluis!

  2. Mushin, thank you for your beautiful commentary both visually and in writing.
    We are the parents of Antoni, who is still at Antaiji. The Sitting Duck gave us a very special gift, which was very appreciated by the parents of a 16 year old, who is beginning his own journey. As to you leaving Antaiji, sorry for losing you there but some other places will be enriched by your touching presence. Ania and Marek

    1. Dear Ania and Marek, thank you for your words of appreciation. I am glad Sitting Duck gave you a window into the life at Antaiji. It seemed to me that Antoni was fitting in amazingly well, despite being much younger than everyone else. Age is no barrier here. There is a great feeling of acceptance. I felt this despite being much older than most people here. I sat next to Antoni during zazen and the formal meals at breakfast and dinner. I'm pretty sure he is getting enough to eat. We often served each other rice and soup. I generally wanted half a bowl of rice whereas Antoni wanted a small mountain in his bowl and always had seconds! So he is looking after himself very well. He is such a nice person. It will be interesting to see what he does with his life, especially after his experience at Antaiji. Best wishes...

  3. Hello Mushin,
    Iam Kathy, Callum's Mum and I too have appreciated your Sitting Duck blog. It has given me an insight into life at Antaiji that is missing from Cal's emails. Your photographs are so special and framed so beautifully and your comments have been so insightful. I agree with Antoni's parents, you have given many of us a special gift by opening a window into Antaiji that we would never have experienced without your blog. I spoke with Cal for the first time on Monday and he told me that you had left and that he would miss you. He felt a good connection with you and wishes you well in your spiritual journey. I know that you had met eachother at Glen Iris. Hopefully you will catch up again when he returns - whenever that might be?
    We will all miss you and I hope that one day I migt get to meet you in person.
    Best wishes and thankyou.

    1. Hello Kathy, it's good to meet you online - and maybe we will meet in person one day. It was great to get to know Cal at Antaiji as I had only met him briefly at Glen Iris. He seems to be fitting in really well. Did Cal tell you that he went to the same school as my two sons? He was the year above my younger son but knew / lived with friends of my older son - Al and Ollie. Also he mentioned that you used to go to the Siddha Yoga Centre in Fitzroy. I wonder if you ever ran into my sister there, Ann (Charumati) Westfold? - or Manning (married name). And thank you for your feedback about Sitting Duck. I really enjoyed doing it.