Wednesday, May 27, 2009 by Dave Blum
Long before I became a team building consultant and corporate scavenger hunt expert, I was something of an international vagabond. Back in 1986, at age 23, my main focus in life was to see the world and accumulate “experiences”.
So there I was in Kyoto, Japan, at the gates of Tofukuji monastery, trying to meet the wizard. In truth, Fukushima Roshi is not a sorcerer, nor is he a practictioner of any particular magic. But the Abbot of Tofukuji temple is certainly “wizardly” in his sense of calm and equanimity…or so I had heard. After many visits at this lovely Zen temple, my Buddhist friend and college classmate, Tim, was absolutely sold on the Roshi’s “holiness”. As Tim put it, “You have to go visit him. He may not change your life, but then again, he just might.” High praise! Here was an “experience” I needed to have.
Knocking on the front door, with it’s heavy, brass knocker, was truly like arriving at the Emerald City…right down to the diffident doorman. Bald and wizened, in brown monk’s garb, my greeter was tall, thin and solemn–pretty much what you’d expect of the gatekeeper to a Zen monastery.
With broken Japanese, I asked to see the Roshi. Silence. I asked again, this time in English. “May I see the Roshi?” More silence, combined with puzzlement and a little impatience. At last I played my final trump card.
“I am a friend of Tim Armacost and Margaret Dornish (Tim’s Asian Studies professor at my alma mater, Pomona College).”
“Ah, just a minute!” said the gatekeeper, turning on his heels and rushing off on socked feet into the dark recesses of the temple.
Five minutes later he returned and, with a nod, beckoned me inside. I had passed the first test. It seemed I was off to see the wizard.