Seeing that he was serious, Jimon shook her head. “No, Roshi. Please don’t ask me to do that.”
“Yes, yes,” he insisted. “I want you to dance on my grave.”
And she did.
Beautifully, movingly, with equal parts sorrow and grace, she bade Daido Roshi farewell in a slow, mournful dance that somehow brought into her body the entire audience, about eight hundred strong. As she took her bow amidst the tears and cheers, I felt a sudden rush of sadness mixed with gratitude toward Roshi for a life fully lived and so freely given away.
The last bow, however, was not formally offered until the next morning at the interment service led by Ryushin Sensei. Three to four hundred people snaked up the frozen road to the cemetery to witness the placing of Roshi’s relics next to his teacher Maezumi Roshi’s in the stupa. In addition to being a reliquary, a stupa is said to be a physical representation of the Buddha’s body, so we can say that Daido Roshi is now the guardian of the Nirvana Forest, one of his favorite places on Tremper Mountain. Yet his presence is much more ubiquitous than that. He can be felt in our daily liturgy, in every tree and every rock of the two hundred acres of protected forest that are part of our land, in the legacy of art practice that is such an important part of our training, in each individual who follows the Eight Gates of Zen training.
Roshi’s dharma extends everywhere, and hopefully, so will the dharma of his successors and that of their successors and so on through the generations, just as it has for the last 2,500 years.
As I write this, I can hear Roshi repeat that serious and deliberate refrain with which he ended so many of his talks, “Now it is in your hands. Please take care of it.”
Vanessa Zuisei Goddard has been in full-time residential training since 1995. She is currently the creative director at Dharma Communications.