Tsutomu Yamagata: Ten Disciples

I had a child at an age far older than the age at which my parents had me. My son is my second generation. Around the same time, my aged father was diagnosed with cancer.

Searching for alternative medical treatments, I learned of a remote valley in Northern Japan where cancer patients go. The rocks in this valley emit intense radiation and boiling water flows in the river. In between rising columns of smoke I could discern recumbent human forms dotted around the mountainside. On first viewing I was reminded of a painting of Nirvana, the supreme enlightenment. The painting, where Buddha lay In the center of ten great disciples, depicts the final stage, where all Bonno (earthly desires) have entirely disappeared.

Looking at these people from whom all layers of protection and pretence had been peeled away, I perceived neither distress nor impatience. Even awareness of gender had faded away, and I sensed their hope in preparation for the world of peace and recurring life. I started to frequent this valley, which exists for me spiritually on a higher plane. There, I wander about, sit on a jagged rock, catch my breath, and think about my father and my little son.

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