Frans Stiene’s Japan Journal

Frans Stiene's Japan JournalAs some of you know I just spent a week in Japan deepening my own personal spiritual practice with a Japanese Shingon priest, Takeda Hakusai *Ajari, who was once a Tendai monk as a disciple of the great **Sakai Dai Ajari, learning about Shinto, Shugendo, Tendai and Shingon.

Wednesday

What can I say about the training? I could use many words, but at this moment, only 3 days into the training, I would sum it up like this:  
many things changing...practice changing...insights changing...
Finally, I have a few moments of time to write some thoughts down about this intensive training. It started Monday with a 13 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns to Japan, landing at 7pm. That same evening I met my teacher at a hotel close to the airport where I went into the onsen, a hot Japanese bath, to refresh myself, then to dinner, and then straight away into a teaching pattern until about 11pm.
I awoke at 4.30am to get in a little time in the wonderful onsen before heading off early for a day in the mountains for waterfall practice explanations.
First, we went to a specific shugendo temple in the mountains near Osaka where my teacher practiced waterfall takigyo. Then off to Kurama Yama for a climb up the mountain. I've been here twice before but this time was certainly unique. During the climb I was told to practice the mantra which I had been taught the previous night, and as it was all new to me I found it really difficult to do - walking and trying to remember a long mantra is far more difficult than it sounds. My teacher makes me sit on the many benches during our climb to hear if I am reciting the mantra correctly. Not correct? Then no lunch, keep walking! And off to the next bench, until I perform it exactly how he wants me to chant it. Starving!
That night we stay in a small hotel at the foot of Mt Hiei (the famous Tendai mountain), and after dinner we drive around to have a look at some well known temples of prominent Tendai Buddhist teachers. I am learning so much about the Japanese culture, philosophy, religion and Ways - this journey is so much more than I could have hoped for. Back at the hotel we start with more practice and teaching. My teacher seems to only need about 3 hours sleep a night, but luckily for me he lets me sleep a little longer. After a long drive, during which we discuss Usui-san's teachings and more mantra practice, we arrive at the temple in which I am to stay for the rest of the teachings. Even though we have just driven through japanese traffic for almost four hours, the Ajari starts to teach straight away; there is no stopping him :-) After dinner I am sent to my room to review the practice and teachings, he knocks on the door at around 9.30 and sits down, waiting for me to do the practices for him in order to correct any mistakes I am making. I finally get to lie down on my mat around 11pm.

Thursday

I wake up after a strange dream at 3.30am and decide to review my practices (only to discover that it was actually 2.30am - my phone alarm was still on Sydney time!). At 6am I learn a water cleansing ritual and perform this with some cold buckets of water. Brrr. Then off to the main hall for the morning ceremony, followed by a review of my practice in which the Ajari corrects my mistakes again - and I am actually very happy that he takes the time to help me with this as I want to do it as correctly as possible. He is strict, yet very gentle and he slowly nudges me, gently helping me to push my own boundaries. Finally we have breakfast, and - you guessed it - after breakfast we go straight back into it again. This time focussing on Mahayana Buddhist teachings. Interestingly, I am starting to see links to Usui's teachings through the Ajari's teachings, some of which he points out himself. One time he says "Frans, this is like the Reiki precepts" or "This is like Usui-san's enlightenment".
We continue with this training till about 1pm when we have lunch. All the meals at the temple are based on these staples: rice, pickles, vegetables, miso, noodles- lovely fresh, healthy food. I am feeling great.
After lunch there are more Mahayana teachings. During the day my teacher sometimes stops and says, "Frans, show your practice". And I think, "Oops, how did it go again?" as my thoughts were so busy with understanding the other teachings. Eventually I get to take a walk outside at around 6pm for 30 minutes. When I get back, dinner is ready. Then I have just 30 minutes to have a shower, after which he will review the teachings and practices again, by now it is 9.30pm. What a day! The Ajari still has to visit another temple tonight so I am advised to go to my room and review the teachings and practices by myself.
I am told to be ready by 6am. By now it is 11pm so I had better get some practice in before I go to sleep...Tomorrow is a brand new day and I am really excited by everything I am learning.

Friday

This morning was intense. I head off to the main temple hall at around 6am for the daily morning ceremony. After breakfast, Mahayana teachings, and by 11 am I am chanting again. If I make a mistake my teacher stops me and I have to start from the beginning again until he is completely satisfied. This turned out to take one and a half hours of solid chanting practice! It feels like my whole body is shaking inside, and by the time lunch comes around I certainly need it. There is a small break after lunch and then we start again with chanting, followed by Mahayana teachings. Before dinner I have some time to walk around and get some fresh air. Dinner is noodles which we dip into a miso soup and slurp up, there are also some nice rice balls and a couple of corn fritters with a refreshing cup of green tea. I am satisfied and full. The Ajari shows me an addition to one of the practices and then I am free for the evening, as he is traveling to another local temple again tonight. I perform some of the practices in my room again so that I will remember them. It is unbelievably hot here, unlike home where it is winter, and after a while I feel the sweat dripping off my body. I take a nice refreshing shower and write some more. Tomorrow is another day...

Saturday

4.30am and I am wide awake, ready to start my practice. I shower, drink green tea and practice by myself. Before the daily morning ceremony, we do a water practice with buckets of cold water, which I find very clearing and empowering. After breakfast I begin to learn sutra copying, which is a very meditative practice. In the afternoon, we travel to an old temple, established around 750 AD. Here I perform some of the practices I have been taught. This evening I did a hands-on healing session on the Ajari. After about 40 minutes of the session I felt I was finished, so I sneaked out of the main temple hall where we did the session, and about 45 minutes later my teacher comes to find me, asking, "How long did you do that session for?" I answered, "40 minutes". He looks at the clock and says, "Well I know it is now almost an hour and a half later since you started the session, and even though you left the hall I felt you still sitting there with me, holding the space until I got up."
A couple of days ago I proposed to perform a reiju/attunement on my teacher. I found out that he had recently experienced a reiju/attunement with another Japanese Reiki teacher in Kyoto. In fact, before Takeda Ajari accepted my joining him for this spiritual practice in Japan, he had never had any interest in the system of Reiki at all. It was only after deciding to accept me as a student of Mahayana Buddhism for this retreat that he decided to find out what Reiki was. He went to Kyoto and received a reiju/attunement from a Japanese Reiki teacher who insisted he is directly transmitting the most traditional form of Reiki in Japan. Unfortunately, Takeda Ajari didn't like it as he felt it was just some kind of tapping and movement with the hands. He felt that the reiju/attunement that he received there was devoid of a 'great mind'.

Sunday

This morning at 5.30am I sneaked into the main temple hall where there is a wonderful statue of Fudo Myo, plus many other statues as well, and did my practice. It is so empowering to do your practice in such a sacred space. At 7am we performed the morning ceremony and now I am taking it easy as my teacher and his student are preparing the shrine for a Goma (fire) ritual. There will be just the three of us and it is said to take about an hour and a half. It is 10 am and the Goma ritual begins. First we recite certain prayers and then the Ajari starts performing the Goma; flames are rising higher and it is getting hot in the room, not just from the fire but also from all the inner Goma/Fire which is being stirred up by this ritual. At the end the Ajari blesses some objects which I will take home to Australia.
This was a moving experience, it felt as if I was watching an ancient ritual being performed that I could not only see, but that I could also feel deep inside. After the Goma we decided to take it easy (can you believe that :-)) and go to a local castle and museum, have some lunch and get some fresh air. When we get back to the Temple, the Ajari wants to review all the practices we have done in the last week to ensure that I practice them correctly at home. After reviewing the practices, he performed another ritual for/on me which completely blew my mind - that is all I can say!

Tuesday

It is 2 days later, and I am waiting for my plane at Kansai Airport. I am STILL feeling the effects of Sunday's ritual. Somehow I feel this is going to have a long lasting effect on me. Not only on my practice but also on how I lead my life. I certainly hope to go back soon for some more training :-). Before my flight back to Sydney I had another day and a half in which I visited some interesting temples, went again to Mt Hiei and meditated at my favorite temple, Shoren In, where there is a very quiet garden that is beautiful to meditate in; what a place to end my journey.

* Ajari means eminent monk of the Shingon or Tendai sect (the title I call my teacher)
** Here is some more info about Sakai Dai Ajari

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S06oMxdt40A
http://www.sakai-yusai.net/

COME AND JOIN FRANS AT A REIKI RETREAT IN EITHER THE USA, THE UK, AUSTRALIA OR BALI.


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Comments
  1. by Andrew Anders on July 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Wow. That sounds intense; that is one serious altar too. Wonderful write-up. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  2. by Tammy on July 28, 2012 at 06:24 am

    Dear Frans,
    Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing this deep , wonderful experience. I am printing this article out so I can really savor it and be there with you in spirit.

    Love,
    Tammy

  3. by Kris Azzarello on July 28, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thank.you.so.much.for.sharing.your,experience..It.is.truly.a.gift.for.ALL.of.us!

  4. by Scott on July 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing your time in Japan.  It is hard to imagine what you really experienced on the inside (and out/non-dual).

  5. by Frans Stiene on July 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Hi All,
    It was indeed and amazing experience. I still find it hard to know what I experienced on the inside, Scott, it seems to be unfolding as we speak.
    Then of course there is also the practice after such a trip, integrating the new teachings and meditations in my already exciting practice is exciting.
    So many layers to be peeled away, never stops.
    Hope to go again next year :-)

  6. by Scott on July 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Frans,
    Also, impressed with your dedication and hard work.  It will inspire me to work harder.  I’ll go practice now :-)
    Scott

  7. by kathi richards on July 28, 2012 at 01:09 pm

    Frans, that is so amazing and yes, inspires me to practice more and more. Wow. I am so blessed to have you as one of my teachers. But I have to know, how did you do it without chocolate? Blessings

  8. by Kathleen Prasad on July 28, 2012 at 02:22 pm

    Hi Frans,
    Thanks so much for sharing with us. Great photos, wow sounds like such an amazing experience. Yes that altar is intense! Beautiful fudo statue.  What a wonderful blessing that you have found such an awesome new teacher—it’s just the beginning, so excited for you!

  9. by Frans Stiene on July 28, 2012 at 02:44 pm

    Hi All,
    Yes the statue of Fudo Myo is very powerful, plus they often practice the Goma ritual in this temple which is connected to Fudo as well. You can feel it when you walk into the main hall.
    All of this is helping me to see yet another layer of Usui-san’s teachings.

  10. by Elly on July 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Wow, Frans! Talk about an intense experience. As you would say, what an amazing journey! I’m sure the changes are only just beginning, especially after Sunday’s ritual. I can’t way to see how this shapes your thoughts about and practice of Reiki!

  11. by Allison Chun on July 29, 2012 at 04:06 am

    Hi Frans,
    Wow! Thanks for sharing, it really is a gift to us to get a peek into such a profound and personal experience.  I am humbled and inspired.  Blessings & Aloha.

  12. by Lea Alexander on July 29, 2012 at 06:13 am

    Wow, thanks so much for sharing your very sacred journey with us.  Profound experiences like this are hard to put into words, so I thank you for sharing it with us.  I feel as if we too are able to bask in the energy of your experience! 
    Can’t wait to see you again. 
    Reiki Blessings!  Lea

  13. by Leah D'Ambrosio on July 30, 2012 at 03:42 am

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Frans!  Sounds like it was an incredible experience.  Looking forward to hearing more from you at the retreat!

  14. by Frans Stiene on July 30, 2012 at 07:16 am

    Hi Leah,
    I will share some of the things during the retreat from my trip to Japan.
    Was teaching yesterday and I felt so different now, looking forward how it will unfold further.

  15. by Mary on July 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Frans, Thank you for sharing.

  16. by Robyn on July 30, 2012 at 03:02 pm

    Hi Frans,
    It looks simply wonderful, thanks for giving us an insight into your time in Japan.

  17. by christine berry on July 30, 2012 at 08:03 pm

    That was amazing Frans. Thanks for sharing it with us. What a wonderful experience.
    See you soon

  18. by Robin Skov on July 31, 2012 at 09:54 am

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing and personal experience!  I’m looking forward to hearing more about the training and about your experiences since you’ve been back home when we are at the retreat in October.

  19. by Tony Sweet on August 07, 2012 at 04:10 am

    Frans, I meet you a couple of months ago in Cincinnati OH at Unity Church, a friend of mine brought me to the “talk”.  I’m fairly new to Reiki although I’ve done other practices.
    I want to thank you for talking me along on your journey…you probably don’t
    realize how ‘many’ people you touch.
    blessings
    Tony

  20. by Frans Stiene on August 07, 2012 at 06:39 am

    Hi Tony,
    Thank you for your kind messages. In fact we are just finalizing the details for next years Cincinnati courses and talks.
    Enjoy your journey.
    Frans

  21. by betty leigh on August 11, 2012 at 12:35 am

    The article is lovely and makes me feel as though I were there… actually wishing I were there. 
    I am sure that many of the eperiences such as the ritual on Sunday night were powerful. 
    Thanks Frans…

  22. by Frans Stiene on August 11, 2012 at 06:47 am

    Hi Betty,
    That Sunday was just amazing, still feeling it :-) and it is a few weeks later…

  23. by Seema Sahoo on December 27, 2013 at 09:50 am

    Thank you Frans , for sharing this deep spiritual moving experience that you had with your teacher.While reading your experience , I felt I was there in sprit and my eyes are wet with gratitude and love that you are my teacher. I hope one day I can write some thing of my own experience of learning from you- in person.
    Your teachings and mentorship have/ are helping me every day not only my reiki practice but my life.
    Love
    Seema

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