I returned the dagger to its sheath and placed it at my right side. Then I assumed the lotus position. -- Jōshū had preached nothingness. What was nothingness? Damn that Jōshū anyway! I ground my teeth.
I clenched my molars tightly, and hot gasps of breath escaped my nostrils. My temples cramped and ached. I widened my eyes to twice their normal size.
I could see the hanging scroll. I could see the lantern. I could see the tatami mats. I could picture that priest's bald round head. I could hear his ridicule as he opened his big mouth. Insolent priest! I have to take that head off his shoulders. I must awaken my mind. Nothingness. Nothingness. I chanted at the root of my tongue. I chanted nothingness, but I still smelled that incense. It still aroused my senses.
I tightened my hands into fists and struck my own head as hard as I could. I ground my molars till they grated. Sweat poured from my armpits. My back grew stiff like a rod. My knees suddenly ached. Let my knees snap if they want. But I was in great pain. It was agonizing. Nothingness didn't arrive. When I thought it was near, pain pushed it away. I became angry. I grew resentful. I felt defeated, an utter failure. I burst into tears. I wanted to hurl my body against a large rock, reduce its bones and flesh to tattered pieces.
Even so, I persevered and sat motionless. I filled my breast with a heartrending bitterness and suffered on. That bitterness raced through my body, seized my muscles, and strained to shove them out through my pores. Every outlet, however, was blocked, and the cruelest of stalemates ensued.
At some point I lost my senses. The lantern and Buson's painting, the tatami mats, the staggered shelves, were there and not there, visible and invisible. Nevertheless, nothingness eluded me. All I was doing was going through the motions. Abruptly, from the neighboring hall, the clock struck its first chime.
I gasped in surprise. My right hand was immediately at my dagger. The clock chimed a second time.