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Silence and the Narrow Path

Don Symanski

One morning at the Kyudo program at Genjo-Ji, I was walking up the main path to the Zendo and noticed that the path seemed narrower than it was a few months before, at the time of my last visit. "Hm," I
thought, "Why does it seem more narrow?"

Late in the program, I was told that Kwong Roshi had intentionally made the path narrower, by carefully raking leaves and stones toward the center, so that it would be more difficult for people to talk while on the
path together, walking side-by-side.

Reflecting back, I remembered seeing people trying to talk while walking on the path, one behind the other, instead of side-by-side. Clearly it was difficult and irritating for them to talk, turning backwards, and walk on the path at the same time. It was too difficult, and soon they stopped talking. In its narrowness, the path caused them to pause and think twice about talking.

Yes, here was a skillful and gentle reminder to walk in silence...to just walk...the silence of doing. The narrow path was an extension of form outside the zendo. While narrowness and form could be confining, here it was offered to bring you to the silence of walking the Path. I'm reminded; engaging practice is up to you. The path is there to step onto.
Forms are filled with the support of reminders to look inward to the silence of just doing. Where the support of forms ends is of our own perception. Similarly in Kyudo, the form doesn't end with the release of the
arrow, but continues in silence and mindfulness as the archer retrieves the arrow and departs the defined practice area.
When one steps from the practice area does one leave the support of forms? Is there a narrow raked path one walks down to remind one of silence?