Chapter Sixty Five
Our days move quietly along, early meditation, walks, vegetarian meals of extraordinary quality and freshness, beautifully presented.
One of the elder Shingon monks approaches Janah after morning meditation. He has seen something, caught the perfume of her. She goes off with him to a part of the temple inaccessible to the public. After three hours, I get a mental, “Send Chloe please.”
The five of us are walking through Koyasan with no particular aim, just being together, we were headed to lunch when I get Janah's request.
“Chloe, Janah is with some of the monks, in the rear of the temple, go to her, I don't know what it's about.”
Chloe, “So much for lunch.”
Amaya, “What do you care? You eat like food is poison anyway, you and Nishiko. They probably want you for an incense stick.”
Chloe kisses her, “I eat more than you do, curves, nobody would confuse you with a stick.”
Amaya, “Try not to be all day, you will miss me and fall into a state of anxious withdrawal.”
Chloe strokes her cheek, walks to the temple.
Amaya, “What is this about?”
“Haven't been in Janah's head. Clearly, the priests have discovered something they want to explore, Chloe's name came up, whether by Janah or by the priests I can't say.”
“What would the priests know of Chloe? I thought they were immune to beauty.”
“Not to beauty, desire perhaps. They are more likely interested in the beauty she radiates from within.”
“Ah, I am feeling restored. If they wanted a babe in the room besides Janah, I should have thought myself the obvious choice.”
Nikko, “Your opinion of yourself is exceeded by nothing.”
“Dear Nikko, there is opinion and there is fact. I am fact.”
Zi giggles, “I am hungry, I see the rest are as well, shall we move on to sustenance of the body instead of the ego?”
Amaya laughs, “Soon as I get rid of Chloe poking me, you pick up the slack.”
Zi takes her by the arm, “Let me walk with you, I can bask in your radiance.”
Nikko and I follow them to food, then we return to our rooms to relax and await our girls.
Amaya and I undress and lay down together.
Amaya, “When I lay here naked with you, it is more difficult to remain sex free. However, we agreed, so I must bear up.”
“Let's merge instead, we said no sex, but not no holding tight. Tender kisses are excepted.”
We kiss, not platonically, unless Plato was into swapping tongue with his students, settle in to each other, merge for two hours. We are off in a place that has no place, is every place, bliss descends, we float along.
Two hours of merging leaves us in a state of calm and contentment unmatched by any other experience. Hard to get more intimate than becoming someone else. We are still dreamy while we attend to each other, then the now familiar 'pop!' I feel her heart race, she squishes into me.
I am drying her shiny golden hair, “Ever more one. I tried to write the feeling down, and I could not come up with adequate words. I am so happy for you, becoming me must be splendid,” she giggles at herself.
“I do feel privileged. I felt privileged to become Janah, then Nishiko. Now you. With any luck, I won't be able to find me at all.”
“No problem, I will always find those incredible legs and bring you back to you, not for you, for me. Now fix my toes.”
I sit cross legged in front of her and paint them juicy plum. She is elegantly stretched out in bed, polish drying, I am next to her letting my hands drift up and down her tummy, her skin iridescent. We have intentionally neglected to dress.
Chloe comes bouncing in, “Oooohhhh, my lovers are clothing free, lucky me.”
She spreads kisses around, “Amaya has the most perfect feet, irritating.”
Amaya, “Amaya has perfect everything. Daphne did a thorough investigation after we bathed and finds me, as always, flawless. She will give you a bath, you reek of incense.”
“Don't you want to know what happened?”
“I already know what's important, Daphne and I had a deeper merging, everything else can wait until you have been deflowered. Go, you smell like smoky petunias.”
Chloe giggles, “What's the Japanese for smoky petunia, it sounds like a name they would give a girl.”
I write it, スモーキーペチュニア, then say it, “Sumōkīpechunia,” ( pron. Sumohkee-pechunya.)
Chloe, “See! May I introduce myself, Sumōkīpechunia.”
Amaya, “You are an idiot, Sumōkīpechunia.”
I disrobe Fairy Princess, Chloe catches my thought, “What's Fairy Princess?”
“妖精プリンセス, Yōsei purinsesu, (pron yosay preencess.)
“Sounds pretty cool, I like Sumōkīpechunia better.”
I bathe Sumōkīpechunia, then she's back to Yōsei purinsesu.
Chloe, “Did you have to reach into Janah's brain for those terms? I speak Japanese and I didn't know them.”
“Yep, my Japanese isn't as good as yours or Amaya's. But then I have instant translate with White Angel.”
Chloe, “That one I know, 白い天使 Shiroi Tenshi,” (pron sheer-o-e tenshee.)
“And I prefer the French, Ange Blanc, to Shiroi Tenshi.”
“Me too. Chloe isn't so great either, クロエ Kuroe,” (pron cure-oh-ay.)
“Mine isn't so great either, ダフネ Dafune,” (pron dafune-eh.)
Chloe, “No Dafuneh won't do.”
Chapter Sixty Six
Janah, Nikko, and Zi come over from their room, I have tea and snacks prepared, we sit around the low table and get a recap of the meeting.
Janah, “An elder priest, Taiko, approached me this morning and asked if I might join him and a few others in discussion. He didn't say why, I didn't ask. We jumped right into Shingon precepts and practices. They have a highly ritualized system of mantras and believe that the repetition of them leads to expanded mental capacities and ultimately enlightenment. My comments consisted of letting them know I am familiar with the Vairocana Sutra, and I quoted several passages relating to our discussion of emptiness and fullness, perceptions and illusion, all matters Buddhist.”
“I imagine you rather surprised them.”
“Not many Westerners can quote two hundred pages of sutra off the top of their heads. Obviously I didn't recite the whole thing, but the fact that my quotes conformed to the topics of discussion let them understand that I know it, and in Japanese. Once they were satisfied with that, they began asking me about our practices.”
Zi, “You told them about Shaolin?”
“I told them two priests are in our party, they are anxious to meet you. They aren't dumb, they questioned me about my association. Eventually I had to admit to being Abbess of a Shaolin Temple, but not a Shaolin priest. They thought that was hilarious. A priest named Joen said maybe they should have an Abbot that was not Shingon, it might keep them from getting into a rut. They also thought it was side splittingly funny when I said the rest of my friends are a samurai, a maiko and a geisha, only one a pure Japanese, the other two gaijin.”
Amaya, “Then they weren't offended.”
“These guys don't have a high horse, they are totally down to earth. Joen said the Buddhist Japanese believe that all are one, but that Japanese was somehow one plus, or first one. He said it was like a not-Shaolin, Shaolin Abbess, good for everyone to remove their blinders. Then they asked about Chloe, they didn't know her name, just the tall one with violet eyes.”
Amaya, “Sumōkīpechunia gets away with murder because of those eyes.”
Zi, “What is Sumoki...?”
Nikko's turn to laugh, “Sumōkīpechunia, smoky petunia, where in hell did that come from?”
“When Chloe returned, she carried the scent of incense, Amaya said she smelled like a smoky petunia, so we translated it.”
Janah and Zi giggle, Nikko says, “Now you know why I don't tune into Daphne when she's with you two, each one is weirder than the next.”
Amaya, “Spoken like a woman who beheads people.”
“They all deserved it. I recall you driving an SUV into a guy and smashing him against a concrete wall.”
Janah, “They did like the violet eyes, but that wasn't the reason they wanted to see her. The elder, Taiko, sensed that she has some capacity, he isn't sure what, but he sensed it’s not a common human capability. These men are like Sensitives in a way, they see people as they are. He said it was hard to describe, a feeling he gets in the presence of a master. He said everyone in our group carried themselves as ones who had been touched in that way. All of them felt that Chloe in particular is infused with such joy, it comes off in waves of energy from her.”
Amaya, “She is my lover, how could she not be joyful.”
Chloe leans to Amaya, strokes her hair, “I'm sure that's it.”
Nikko rolls her eyes.
Chloe, “They wanted confirmation, but I could see they were too polite to ask, so I told them.”
Zi, “About the aura?”
Janah, “She understates, she told each of them how they were feeling, one amazed, one doubtful, one pleased, one accepting, through the energy around them. She described the auras and the subtleties of expression, tone of voice and body language that went along with it. She didn't need a coup de gras, but she gave them one anyway. She said, looking at a priest named Gijo, 'One of you wants to know how I acquired these skills, or if I was born with them.' The rest turned to him, he said, 'It is so.' They got really quiet, now they all wanted to know.”
Zi, “And what did you tell them?”
Chloe doesn't answer, Janah says, “She revealed herself fully in her reply, she sat smiling, then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, said gently, 'The universe fills an empty vessel.'”
Amaya, “Hah! Bet that put some spice in their sutra.”
Janah, “Yep. Taiko simply said, “Bosatsu,” and they all bowed, hands on the floor, head on hands on the floor. Quite dramatic and touching. (Bosatsu is Bodhisattva in Japanese.) Bosatsu is an enlightened being that remains human in order to guide others to enlightenment.
Amaya is crying, Chloe hugs her, “You still have to outfit me so I appear immaculate.”
She envelops Chloe, “My heart overflows, you will be perfection itself, you are perfection itself. Almost as perfect as me.”
Chloe, “Dearest one, some bars may only be vaulted in subsequent lives, yours is far too high for me in this one.”
Amaya wipes her eyes, tears still flow, “And you better not forget it,” she reaches for Chloe and weeps into her shoulder, they are real relationship, without conflict, without agenda, without rules or walls.
We are quiet in the presence of such devotion, Chloe is Bodhisattva even to us, you can't be sort of Bodhisattva. You is, or you ain't.
Did they figure you out?
Janah, They are still digesting Chloe.
Good, then maybe we can escape without the pronouncement of a Buddha in the house.
Would be nice, we'll see. I’m not disposed to call myself anything but Janah.
Chapter Sixty Seven
We meet with the priests this morning after meditation. They are truly delightful, full of jokes, play and love of life. The elder priest, Taiko, is particularly interested in Shaolin. He’d traveled extensively throughout China, studying Ch'an which ultimately became Zen, then the varying branches that came to be a blend of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhism called Shingon. In Shaolin, we do not have Gods or Goddesses, do not do mantras, have almost no rituals to achieve higher levels of being, unless you count qi. Shingon is exactly opposite. And while we do not subscribe to it or it's rituals, we do not advocate ours or condemn another’s. You may come to your Buddha nature by many paths, Shaolin is one, Shingon is another.
Japan is what Japan is, kendo is ritual, Shinto is ritual, tea ceremony is nothing but ritual, sumo is ritual, geisha is ritual. The society of Japan is only comfortable if they know one thing leads to another in an orderly fashion, or if it doesn't, that there is a structure for dealing with disorder, to return to order.
The priests, instead of justifying, like they might if they were Catholic or other religious clerics, simply understand. In the midst of the rituals they perform for pilgrims, they themselves are less personally structured, not rigid at all. It is as if they provide what their converts and guests expect, without succumbing to it as a way to be. Are they going through the motions for something they do not themselves believe? Yes and no. They see that for many people, ritual keeps them on the path, just enough to remain engaged, not so much as to stifle. Some participants go overboard, get caught up in the motions, but that happens in any religion. Not everyone will find their true being in this life. Ritual is one way to begin, and the encouragement to continue until all ritual is discarded, then you will find yourself unbound by ritual or tradition or ways of being, that is liberation. The liberated have no need of ritual, they are free.
Janah discovered this instinctively. I found out by watching her.
Joen recalls branding, “I heard that a long time ago, Shaolin branded the tiger and dragon into their forearms after passing through a gauntlet. This practice does not appear to be documented anyplace, what do you know of it?”
“It is denied by Shaolin everywhere, except in one temple, ours.”
Joen looks at the sleeves of my robe, I ask, “Do you wish to see?”
He nods, I pull up the sleeves, he stares, I see his pupils widen, “It must have been quite painful.”
“Yes. We do it as a final test for priesthood. It is not a requirement however. A disciple who passes the gauntlet may decide not to pick up the urn, there is no loss, the gauntlet has proven the skills of stealth, focus, perception, response to challenge.”
Joen, “You chose the brand. Do many others?”
“About half take on the brand, Contemplatives, our scholars, often skip it. Priests who intend to remain out in the world tend to skip branding. When we return, I will suggest some of our Contemplatives come here to learn. They often return to us and spend their lives in study, meditation and contemplation. Some do administrative work, our temple is very orderly because of their diligence.”
Joen, “Could the brand cause injury such that the arm loses function?”
“The gauntlet might do that as well, so can crossing the street, even gung fu practice. In the case of the brand, it is hot enough to permanently mark, it does not destroy muscle, it does not come in contact with ligament or tendon. The urn is constructed such that only the part that brands is hot, where the skin is not marked the urn is only warm, you could touch it and there would be no injury. It can’t go but a few layers of skin deep.”
Joen, “How did it come to be a practice only in your temple?”
“Our temple is quite new, only one hundred years. At least one of the founders was marked, he came from China, a rather obscure temple near Fukien destroyed in the Boxer rebellion. It was thought the Shaolin were teaching the Boxers fighting skills, although there is no evidence of it. Many Shaolin took to the hills to live, temples were destroyed along with records and historical documents. In any case, branding was not widely practiced, hardly at all apparently.”
The priests nod, if they have an opinion, it isn't evident.
Chloe leans to my ear, “I have a text from Katsumi, I don't want to fiddle with the phone in here, be back later,” she bows to everyone with a, “please, excuse me,” and exits.
Gijo, one of the priests, asks, “If I am not too curious, how does a Bosatsu function in America? She is not in a temple, does she have disciples?”
I smile, thinking, 'well, only me and Amaya,' instead, “To those who are observant, she teaches by her actions, does not want disciples. People are drawn to her natural exuberance. In America they think it is her youth and physical attractiveness that bestow that lightness. They have no comprehension that she is the light, it does not spring from age or physical appearance. Americans think enlightenment is something to strive for, we say striving is the obstacle. She goes through her days effortlessly, the West assumes it is from acquired skill, they would not understand a Bosatsu.”
Gijo, “No. We get many Westerns visiting here. They all want to work everything to death. Japanese are the same though, it is why they stay caught in ritual and never move beyond.”
“It is intimidating to give up the familiar. Humans want to cling to their possessions and beliefs. The idea of shedding everything, including the self, to allow the true self to emerge isn't in the cards for most people. They want assurances there is a prize at the end.”
Gijo laughs, “So it is. The state of human nature everywhere, not just Japan, America or China.”
“There is no America, China, or Japan.”
Gijo, Joen and Taiko laugh, Taiko says, “It is good to meet my sister in the Void, although that is only another distinction. I should say it is good to meet myself in the Void.”
The priests have duties, we have taken enough time, we thank them and leave them to think over what they have seen as we shall think of their kindness and compassion.
Chloe runs up to me, clearly something has happened, “What did Katsumi have to say?”
Chloe's violet eyes sparkle, “The site went up.”
“How exciting, any subscribers yet?”
Chloe shows me the fan page on her phone, it’s really well done, she looks splendid surrounded by her new friends Katsumi and Mayumi. She clicks over to her subscription data, I stare at the screen, double check the number. She has twenty five thousand subscribers. I flip back to the wall, hundreds of comments, ten thousand 'likes.'
“Holy moley, now what?”
Chloe shrugs, “I haven't the faintest idea.”
We return to our rooms, everyone is on a laptop or netbook checking out the site, I send Susan an e-mail, not a text, it's two a.m. there, New York is thirteen hours behind Kyoto. I don’t want her phone to beep a message that can wait until morning.
Janah, “That is a cool page given Facebook's limitations, do you want to Twitter or Tumblr, G+?”
Chloe, “I don't want to have to tweet ten times a day. It's not like I'm the kind of model who is going to this party and dating that celebrity, or that I have opinions on animal rights and politics.”
Amaya, “Your fans could give crap about that stuff. They want to know what fashions you have discovered, what kinds of makeup and accessories you are into. Where you are now, for instance, I could tweet for hours on the things we have done in Kyoto. We will think over Twitter and the others. For now, Daphne and I will send the pictures we have on our phones from Koyasan, you can text in your comments about visiting the priests, meditation, the vegetarian food. Quit gawking, write down some stuff while we send the photos, I do not intend to spend my life posting your life.”
We send all the best photos from our visit to Koyasan, we even have pictures with the priests talking to Chloe, she looks adorably devastating in her robe.
Chloe forwards her comments on the trip, she intentionally doesn't do teen girl stuff, there's no 'oh wow!' no lols, she is highly complementary of the temples and the priests, our accommodations, the food and the atmosphere. The comments she makes about Buddhism in general and Shingon in particular reflect her intelligence on the subjects, not teen girl pap about things being cool, sweet, awesome, no adolescent clichés.
Amaya, acting on Chloe's behalf, reminds Katsumi and Mayumi that Chloe's comments should not be edited in any way. We also made sure we have access to the page as administrators in case we want to take down or add things. Amaya visited Tumblr, didn't see the point. We aren't marketing Chloe, she has nothing to sell, no brands, she is not compensated to recommend anything. That's another thing Amaya makes sure Katsumi has plastered on the site. Any product Chloe talks about is from her experience, she isn't on anyone's payroll when she says she likes OPI polishes, and there is to be no advertising connected to it. Facebook puts up enough of its own junk. Yes, Chloe models to sell some designer’s threads, but there is clear separation between a photo shoot for a magazine and Chloe’s saying she likes this or that color of nail polish. The designer is paying her, OPI doesn’t.
The whole business is of less interest to Chloe than it is Amaya. Chloe is a perfect vehicle for clothes and makeup, but she doesn't have any strong feeling about it. Amaya is all about fashion, makeup and accessorizing. Chloe is delighted not to fool with it, Amaya is delighted to fool with it. Despite her faux-arrogance, Amaya doesn't want the fashion comments credited to her, she is content to let them come from Chloe even though she creates the whole thing.
It’s nearly eight by the time Chloe is done sending her observations to Katsumi, her comments and the photos start showing up as we send them, apparently fans love a steady flow of their idol's activities. Comments come in as soon as Katsumi adds material to the site.
Sis is up early as usual, I get an email from her, 'Taylor is going to be giddy when she sees this. What in hell have you guys created? The page is crawling with comments, adoring messages, questions about Chloe, when is she going into movies, Buddhism. I've gotten four texts from clients who want to know if Chloe is a relative.'
I reply, 'Have to let it play out. She wanted to be Chloe Sylk, that was before any of this stuff. I guess you tell them she is in the family, a cousin or niece. We don't want anything about guardian or adoption.'
Susan, ‘I'll dodge with second cousin to you.’
'Good, take care of Taylor, girls send hugs.'
Chapter Sixty Eight
Ajikan, also known as Shingon-zen, is a form of meditation practiced in Shingon Buddhism. Kobo Daishi first introduced this meditation to Japan in the 9th century after he brought the teachings and doctrine of Shingon Buddhism from China to Japan. Ajikan meditation is performed by concentrating on the Sanskrit letter 'A' drawn on the image of the moon. Through this meditation, it is believed one is able to achieve enlightenment.
We try it one day at the Kongobuji Temple. I don't feel any different than any other focused meditation we practice, except I have the Sanskrit A plugged in my brain for an hour afterwards.
Our next foray is more my style, we copy a sutra. Making a handwritten copy of a sutra is called Shakyo, a quite common practice in Japan. Among the multitude of sutras in Buddhism, the Heart Sutra is one of the most popular. The Heart Sutra has only fourteen lines, short, simple and concise. Similar to the practice of chanting, copying a sutra is a form of meditation and brings the practitioner a calm state of mind. Calligraphy is my thing, this is enjoyable and direct.
The priest overseeing our work approaches me, “You have skill.”
I bow, “I had many excellent teachers, who allowed me many errors until I became acceptable.”
“More than acceptable. Would you like to do a more formal work?”
“I would be honored.”
I conjure up the Ajikan symbol, no moon, just the symbol and draw it on a full size sheet of rice paper. He holds it up. I suppose it was good, he leaves and returns with three other priests. They study it silently, turn as one and bow to me. Only thing to do is bow in reply, so I do.
Priest Two, “I am Norio.”
I bow again, “I am Daphne. I am humbled by your kindness for my poor attempt.”
Norio, “We can skip the Japanese humility dance, you are master.”
I don't know what to say, so I don't say anything, I bow again, expressionless.
“Where did you learn?”
“At my temple in New York, sir.”
“Ah, you are the Shaolin who accompanies the Bosatsu.”
“I have that honor, sir.”
“No need for sir, we are all equals here. May we be permitted to watch you draw?”
What can I say to that, no? So I draw. The kanji for Shaolin, for Koyasan and Shingon. I make my signature kanji at the bottom right of the page with a smaller brush.
The huddle around, a discussion of brush stroke, ink layer, flow, shading. I feel like I'm in a Calligraphy Bee.
Norio, “I have never seen such precision, yet you work quickly. You see the image on the page before you paint it, yes?”
“Yes, briefly, then I wipe the page in my mind and draw.”
For that, I get simultaneous 'ohhhhs' from my small audience. The others participating in Shakyo have surrounded us, looking over shoulders to glimpse the art. Norio holds up one and displays it to the small group, then the others follow. He gives a short lesson on why my work is unique, replaying their comments on stroke, flow and the other components. There is applause, I blink, it's for me, I bow again and again.
Norio, “May I ask, how did you learn such precision?”
“Practice drawing precisely.”
“Could you demonstrate, please?”
I hesitate, I don't want to show off, Janah steps in to help, “I watched her practice for years,” she turns to me, “show them the circle triangle and square.”
This requires a calligraphy pen, not a brush. I draw a square in the middle of the page, then a circle around the square that just touches the corners of the square, then a triangle around the circle such that it just touches at three points on the circle. A box in a circle in a triangle.
Janah, “Is there a ruler, or a measuring device?”
One of the priests finds a ruler, Janah hands it to Norio, he measures the square, then the triangle, each side is exactly the same length, the square is exactly in the center of the page. By definition the circle must be perfect.
Norio, “I have never seen such a thing drawn freehand, in less than a minute! It is a gift in my old age to experience your skill.”
Again, I bow, lots of domo and domo arigato.
Norio points to the art, “Shall I have these wrapped up for you?”
“Would you accept them as a poor gift to your temple?”
“We would be honored to receive them. My I use the circle square and triangle for instruction?”
“Of course, I hope it is useful.”
Norio, “As an example of endless repetition in practice. Such perseverance makes genius possible. May I have your name, to properly cite the artist?”
I spell it out in kanji, then in English, hand him the paper. With bows we move on, the priests studying the calligraphy, nodding to each other.
We bring our visit to Kyoto and surrounds to a close, the return flight is long, but uneventful, mostly eat and sleep, Chloe makes notes for her journal, Amaya outlines a new novel that will involve Japan.
We are delighted to be in our familiar surrounds of Greenwich Village, particularly our condo, our home. We call and text around to the family to let them know we’re back, it’s Thursday, we’re taking a day to defrag, then have the family over to dinner Saturday night. Our ten days of celibacy finished, you can guess what we get up to on defrag day.
The weekend is spent on a visit to the diner, the Jamaicans, the Epsteins join Lacy, Sis, Taylor, the Li family, Sonia and Black, at our place for dinner.
Taylor corners me, “Chloe’s off the charts for jobs, the money is stunning, I never commanded such compensation, one fragrance company wants her for a brand. A Japanese company wants to make a line of accessories for the Japanese market, she’s become a mini sensation for Japanese girls. What do you want to do?”
“Up to her. Let life settle through the weekend, she’s had a full and extraordinary month. It can keep until mid-week. Keep it to yourself for now.”
Taylor agrees, crikey, what next?
Janah, Don’t worry, things always fall into place. Good to suggest nothing for a few days, let the travel fog disappear. No decision is going to be perfect. At least she doesn’t have to let money cloud her vision, and she’s not into self glorification or fan worship.
Amaya would get her head screwed on if she were, she’s going to have a field day teasing Chloe over it. It will keep her real, although I doubt she’ll need it, she’s already figured out modeling is tenuous, big deal today, junk mail catalogues tomorrow.
Our laptops are surrounded by family checking out Chloe’s fan page, a hundred thousand subscribers, too many comments to make a dent in reading. She’s giggling through some of them, there are a few potshots about tall and skinny, but most are ‘luv u Chloe,’ standard for this kind of thing. Supportive, encouraging, pleas for a date from the guys, but ninety percent seem to be adolescent girls. There are a few notables on the bandwagon, fashion bloggers and an actress or two. Uh oh, fame.
Continue with our story in Book X