The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (7 page)

BOOK: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
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The boy raised his body with such energy that he seemed to be gouging a hole in the soft summer air which hovered about us; but when he saw me, he simply said: “Oh, it's you, is it?”

I had only been introduced to this boy on the previous evening. His name was Tsurukawa and he came from a prosperous temple in the suburbs of Tokyo. He was affluently provided by his family with school expenses, pocket money, and provisions, and had simply been consigned to the Golden Temple through some connection with the Superior, so that he might have a taste of the training given to ordinary acolytes. He had gone home for his summer holiday and had returned to Kyoto late on the previous afternoon. Tsurukawa talked smoothly in a splendid Tokyo accent. He was supposed to enter the middle school of the Rinzai Academy that autumn in the same class as myself, and already last night I had been abashed by his fast, cheerful manner of speech.

Now when I heard him say "Oh, it's you,"
my mouth lost its words. He seemed to interpret my silence as a sort of criticism.

"It's all right, you know. We don't have to sweep all that carefully. The place will get dirty in any case, when the visitors come. Besides, there aren't very many visitors these days.”

I gave a short laugh. This laughter of mine that I used to emit unconsciously seemed to make some people feel friendly towards me. Thus I could not always be responsible for the detailed impressions that I made on others.

I climbed over the fence and sat down next to Tsurukawa. His arm was bent round his head and I noticed that though the outside was fairly sunburned, the inner part was so white that one could see the veins through the skin. The rays of the morning sun streamed through the trees and scattered light-green shadows on the grass. I knew instinctively that this boy would not love the Golden Temple as I did. For my attachment to the temple was entirely rooted in my own ugliness.

“I hear that your father died,”
said Tsurukawa.


Tsurukawa quickly turned his eyes to the side and, without any effort to conceal how absorbed he was in his own boyish process of reasoning, said: "The reason you like the Golden Temple so much is that it reminds you of your father, isn't it? I mean, for instance, when you look at it, you remember how much your father liked it.”

I was rather pleased that his half-correct reasoning was producing no change whatsoever on my apathetic face. Evidently Tsurukawa accurately classified human feelings in the neat little drawers that he kept in his room, like boys who classify various specimens of insects; and occasionally he enjoyed taking them out for a bit of practical experimentation.

"You're very sad about your father's death, aren't you? That's why there's something lonely about you. I've thought so since I first met you last night."

His remarks did not repel me in any way. In fact, his feeling that I looked lonely gave me a certain freedom and peace of mind, and the words issued smoothly from my mouth: "There's nothing sad about it, you know.”

Tsurukawa looked at me, brushing up his eyebrows, which were so long that they seemed to get in his way.

"Dear me!” he said, “so you hated your father, did you? Or at least you disliked him.”

“I had nothing against him and I didn't dislike him.”

"Well then, why aren't you sad?”

"Somehow or other, that's the way it is. I don't understand why myself."

Faced with this difficult problem, Tsurukawa sat straight up on the grass.

“In that case," he said, "you must have had some other sad experience.”

“I really don't know,"
I replied.

Having spoken, I wondered why I so much enjoyed provoking doubts in the minds of others. So far as I was concerned, there was not the slightest doubt. The matter was entirely self-evident: my feelings suffered from stuttering. They never emerged on time. As a result, I felt as though the fact of Father's death and the fact of my being sad were two isolated things, having no connection and not infringing on each other in the slightest. A slight discrepancy in time, a slight delay, invariably make the feelings and the events that I have undergone revert to their disjointed condition, which, so far as I am concerned, is probably their fundamental condition. When I am sad, sorrow attacks me suddenly and without reason: it is connected with no particular event and with no motive.

Once more it ended by my being unable to explain any of this to my new friend who sat opposite me. In the end Tsurukawa began to laugh.

"You're an odd fellow, aren't you?” he said.

His white-shirted stomach rippled with laughter. The rays of the sun that poured through the swaying branches of the trees made me feel happy. Like the young man's wrinkled shirt, my life was wrinkled. But, wrinkled as it was, how white his shirt shone in the sunlight! Perhaps I too?

Leaving the outer world to itself, the temple continued according to the regular traditions of the Zen sect. Since it was summertime, we never got
later than five o'clock. Getting up is known as the "opening of the rules." As soon as We were up, we started the "morning task” of reciting the sutras. This is known as the "triple return” and we recited them three times. After that, we swept the inside of the temple and mopped the floor. Then came breakfast, known as "gruel session." We ate our gruel while listening to a recitation of the special gruel-session sutra. After breakfast We engaged in such "tasks" as picking weeds, cleaning the garden, and chopping wood. Then, on school days, it was time for us to set out for our place of study.

Soon after returning from school, we had our “medicine” or evening meal. This was occasionally followed by a lecture by the Superior concerning the sacred scriptures. At nine o'clock came the "opening of the pillow,"
that is to say, bedtime.

Such was my daily routine, and each day my signal for waking up was the sound of the bell rung by the priest who was in charge of the kitchen and of the mealtime rituals.

There was originally supposed to be about a dozen people attached to the Golden Temple, that is, to the Rokuonji. But as a result of conscription for military service and compulsory labor, the only inhabitants, apart from the guide (who was in his seventies), the woman who did the cooking (who was in her sixties), the deacon, and the vice-deacon, were we three acolytes. The old people were moss-grown and only half alive, while We young ones were virtually children. The deacon had his hands full with the temple accounts, which were known as "auxiliary duties."

Some days after my arrival, I was given the duty of delivering the newspaper to the quarters of the Superior (whom We called our "senior teacher"). The paper arrived every day at about the time when we had finished our various morning tasks, including the cleaning. For our small group of acolytes to mop every single passage in the temple, which contained thirty-odd rooms, in the short time that was allotted to us was rough work. As soon as I had finished, I would go to the entrance to collect the newspaper, cross the front corridor where the Envoy's Hall was situated, walk round the back of the Visitors' Hall, and make my way along an intervening passage to the Great Library where my Senior Teacher would be waiting. The passages were all still damp from the mopping, and where there were hollows in the floor boards, puddles of water shone in the morning sun and wet my feet up to the ankles. Since it was summertime, this gave me a pleasant feeling. Then I knelt down outside the library and called: “May I enter, Father?” "Huh!" came the reply.

Before stepping into the room, I wiped my wet legs with the hem of my clerical robes, a trick that I had learned from my companions. I was aware of the strong, fresh smell of the outside world that came from the newspaper print, and stealing a hasty glance at the headlines, read: "Is the Imperial Capital bound to undergo air raids?”

It may seem strange, but until then I had never thought of connecting the Golden Temple with air raids. Since Saipan had fallen, air raids on the mainland had been inevitable and the authorities were pressing forward with plans for evacuating part of Kyoto; nevertheless, so far as I was concerned, there seemed to be no relation between the semi-eternal existence of the Golden Temple and the disaster of air raids. I felt that the inherently indestructible temple and the scientific force of fire must be well aware of the complete difference between their natures, and that if they were to meet, they would automatically slip away from each other. The fact remained that the Golden Temple was in danger of soon being burned down in an air raid. Indeed, if things continued as they were,
the Golden Temple was sure to turn into ashes.
Since this idea took root within me, the Golden Temple once again increased in tragic beauty.

It was an afternoon in late summer, the day before school was to start. The Superior had gone somewhere to attend a memorial service in the company of the vice-deacon. Tsurukawa had invited me to go with him to a film, but because I was not especially interested in the idea, he immediately began to lose interest himself: such was Tsurukawa's way.

Having received a few hours' leave of absence, we left the Main Hall, wearing our Rinzai Academy middle-school caps and with leggings round our khaki trousers. The temple was bathed in the full heat of a summer day and there was not a single visitor.

"Well, where shall we go?” said Tsurukawa

I replied that, before going anywhere, I should like to have a thorough look at the Golden Temple, because after tomorrow it would no longer be possible for us to see it at this hour of the day, and because while we were away working in the factory, the Golden Temple might very well be burned down in an air raid. I faltered and stuttered as I explained myself, and Tsurukawa listened to me with an expression of surprise and impaticnce. When I had finished even this short speech, the perspiration was streaming down my face, as though I had said something shameful. Tsurukawa was the only person to whom I had revealed my strange attachment to the Golden Temple. Yet in his expression there was nothing but the usual fretful look that I was accustomed to seeing in people who were trying to make out my stuttering. These are the faces that confront me. When I reveal important secrets, when I appeal to people about the resounding feelings with which the sight of beauty fills me, when I try to bring my very viscera into the open-what confronts me is a face like this. This is not the sort of face that people usually turn on others. With perfect fidelity this face is copying my
own comic fretfulness; it is, so to say, a terrifying mirror of
myself. At such times, however beautiful the face may be, it will be transformed into an ugliness exactly like my own,
soon as I recognize this, the important tning that I wish to express collapses into something of no importance whatsoever, like a roof tile.

Between Tsurukawa and myself were the powerful rays of the direct summer light. As he waited for my words to end, his young face gleamed with fat. Each of his eyebrows was glittering gold in the sunlight and his nostrils were dilated from the sultry heat.

I finished speaking. And as soon as I finished, I was overcome with rage. Ever since I had met Tsurukawa, he had not once tried to tease me about my stuttering.

"Why?" I asked him, pressing for an explanation of his forbearance. As I have so often pointed out, derision and insults pleased me far more than sympathy.

An indescribably tender smile passed over Tsurukawa's face.

"I'm the kind that doesn't care about that sort of thing at all," he said.

I was amazed. Having been raised in the rough environment of the country, I was unfamiliar with this type of gentleness. Tsurukawa's gentleness taught me that, even if stuttering were removed from my existence, I could still remain myself. I thoroughly enjoyed being stripped stark naked. Tsurukawa's eyes, bordered with their long lashes, filtered away my stuttering and accepted the rest of me just as I was. Until then I had been under the strange illusion that to disregard my stuttering was of itself equivalent to annihilating that existence called

I felt a harmony of feeling and a sense of happiness. It is little wonder that I have never been able to forget the Golden Temple as it looked at that moment. The two of us passed before the place where the old porter was dozing, walked along the deserted path by the wall, and came to the front of the Golden Temple.

I can vividly remember the scene. We two boys stood there shoulder to shoulder by the Kyoko Pond in our white shirts and our gaiters. Ana in front of these two figures, not separated from them by anything, rose the Golden Temple. On this last summer, in these last summer holidays, on the very last day of them-our youth hovered dizzily on the edge. The Golden Temple stood on this same edge, faced us, talked to us. To this extent had the expectation of air raids brought us and the temple closer together.

The hushed sunlight of the late summer decorated the roof of the Kukyocho with golden foil, and the light that poured straight down filled the Golden Temple with a nocturnal darkness. Until now the imperishability of the temple had oppressed me and kept me apart from it; but its imminent destiny of being burned by an incendiary bomb brought it close to our own destiny. It might be that the Golden Temple would be destroyed before We were. At this thought, it seemed to me that the temple was living the same life as We were.

The surrounding hills with their red pines were mantled in the cry of the cicadas, as though countless invisible priests were chanting the vocation for the Extinction of Fires:
they sang,
, un nun, shifur
, harashifur

BOOK: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
2.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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