Such was the last thing Endo remembered before waking. Rather than gazing into the eyes of a woman, he found himself staring at the thatch roof above him. It took a few moments for his mind to catch up with his new surroundings. It was as if a curtain had been dropped, and a new act in a play which he was in was beginning. Time to get up, he thought, and face this world of form.
He arose slowly, still wearing his black koromo. It was his only possession, but even this did not belong to him, but to the monastery. It was all he was permitted to bring to the hermitage for his one-week solo retreat. There were over one hundred monks at the monastery, and the younger ones such as himself were sent here to spend time alone, away from the community, in order to strengthen their individual meditation practice. Unlike at the monastery, their days were not formally structured, and they were not under the watch of the abbot. The idea was that the young monks would take responsibility for their practice and continue to live as if they were under the watchful eye of their master. The day that Endo was to leave, his presence would be replaced by another monk beginning his retreat.
The hut had everything he needed. It was cold inside, and so Endo lit a small fire in the pit in the dirt floor. He placed a small iron tea pot on a rack above the glowing coals for tea. He had cooked rice the night before, and formed rice balls. He ate the cold rice on his bed, and listened to the birds. He was incredibly content, and happy as a monk.
A peculiar thing often happened shortly after he arose. For three days he had been here, and on each day, a voice had come to him, telling him that it was time for kenhin, walking meditation. At first he thought it was the voice of his deceased master Zenkai, but he did not recognize the voice. It was nondescript, unidetifiable, the voice of a stranger, but one who spoke familiarly to him. Endo poured tea into a small iron cup, and sipped it slowly while chewing on his rice. Then he got up.