I am very drawn to the idea of what is ‘enough’ in the following quote by the Zen teacher Taisen Deshimaru.
‘Zen is not a particular state but the normal state: silent, peaceful, unagitated. In Zazen, neither intention, analysis, specific effort, nor imagination takes place. It’s enough just to be without hypocrisy, dogmatism, arrogance: embracing all opposites.’
I am intrigued at how and to what extent Deshimaru sensei embraced all opposites and overcame hypocrisy and dogmatism when, as a young man in the Second World War, he was assigned to the island of Bangka. Apparently, Deshimaru opposed the ruthless way in which the Japanese occupiers treated the inhabitants of Bangka and tried to protect the westerners, Chinese, and Indonesians living there. For this he was imprisoned as a traitor by the Japanese but was unexpectedly released and sent to Belitung, another Indonesian island. At the end of the war he became a prisoner of the Americans before being repatriated. I have been unable to find out whether Deshimaru was in Bangka in 1942 when 22 Australian nurses were ordered to walk into the sea and mown down by Japanese machine gun fire. Only one, Vivian Bullwinkel, survived and gave evidence at the war crime trials in Tokyo. In 1967 Deshimaru moved to Paris where he taught Zen and became head of Japanese Soto Zen for Europe.
As an Australian who has a deep connection to Japan, the Japanese, and the philosophy of Zen, I struggle to embrace the opposites that are present in this story. Were the opposites present on the day of the Bangka massacre those of innocence on the part of the nurses and brutality on the part of the Japanese? Or were they fear and hatred? Emotions, in all likelihood, felt by both the nurses and their slayers?
What feelings of fear and hatred can I identify in myself? How do I embrace both my fear and my hatred? Will that be ‘enough’?