吹禅 – Komuso: The good, bad and the ugly

 


Komuso : the good , the bad, the ugly

 
It was to be another hot weekend, in Osaka. This meant even worse in Nara. Yet that is where I was headed. It was the time I picked to make a second round as Komuso.
I was feeling much more relaxed and actually looking forward to it. Well, except for the Heat, which was going to be brutal. I had that set in my mind, but also knew I could survive. I work outside in this doing labor, walking around playing would have it’s issues, but still for me a cake walk compared to raking cut foliage on the side of a 45 degree or more hill and loading that onto truck, in the sun.
Now do not discount the unpleasantness and potentially dangerous issue with the sun and heat. I had already been told by Sempai, that he had been out early the other day and was beat down by noon. He does this every weekend and was beat down the last few days by noon. Nara can reach 95 and above in the summer, with high humidity ! That is what makes you feel heat!!!!
 
 
Ok, stage is set, I was mentally prepared to suffer, I was in the severe training mode mentally. I set off rather early to get started early. That sort of went to plan, other than me taking the wrong train, therefore arrived late.
 
I meet up with my Komuso Band members as they were heading out of our planned meeting spot to see if I would show up on the way. We returned to the Inn since I needed to check my stuff. So there at this Inn I got organized. I did not have the Kimono on this time, so I did not need to change. I was wearing my Samue, which was agreed upon. The visiting Shakuhachi player, a Shakuhachi sensei from Hawaii was also wearing a Samue, Sempai was wearing his white Kimono. The summer look for the Komuso. A wise choice in the Osaka area Summer. Our Sumae although dark, were open much more to air flow than a regular kimono. I felt this was a good balance, him in a kimono, us the novices in Samue, Sempai being the real Komuso.
 
I prepared my gear, this time I was more prepared for what was ahead. I had purchased shoes that were not only good for walking they looked proper.
I had heard several remarks about my sandals on the last Komuso walk. I also had a small towel, which I would wear on my head. It was thicker than my Japanese head scarf, so I figured that would take of the slippage I had to deal with constantly on the last venue. Another helpful item were the several paper clips I brought along. They kept things in place on my clothes, without damaging them or being noticeable. It worked out just fine!
 
I was set. However the visiting Shakuhachi sensei from Hawaii had a much more challenging time. Besides the heat really bothering him, he was struggling with wearing the sandals and walking with them. That was his challenge for this training run. We took things slow due to the heat and his sandals. We walked, played, and chatted. We saw the rent a guard from last time, who said nothing as he passed us. We were not stopped at the time, so there was no chance to see if the mistake, his, was corrected.
 
We spoke among ourselves about the role of a modern-day Komuso, interacting with the community, being an ambassador for Buddhism to the public, who do not in Japan get to interact with Priest generally. As before the elder Japanese were much more receptive to the “Komuso Priest” others were just curious and wanted photo OPs. Which is ok, it is getting the Modern image of a Komuso out there in regular life, not just for an event, a show…entertainment one could say. Since people mostly do not see Komuso except for some “event” where they parade to a temple, or through one. That is when the Komuso main force turns out for the “show”, to speak honestly.
One is hard pressed to find a Modern Komuso out doing engaged Buddhist practice. Then on the other hand according to many accounts, one did not generally find them doing that in the old days. It was about playing for food and for their own enlightenment. At least this is what most historic accounts say, I have read. There was some engaged buddhist practices but not like the other sects as much. The engaged Buddhist practice of Sempai seems to be a new development and in my opinion, which means little, is needed. Buddhism is waning in Japan. Which one of the topics we discussed on our walk. The engaged Buddhist practice is not alive in Japan. Temples are mostly closed places, or off limits. Hard to get questions answered, Buddhist priest mostly show up for funerals, etc. There is very little out reach to the public. Some Buddhist are understanding that and are trying new ways to engage with the public, doing rap, running bars, and in Sempai’s case being out there doing Komuso practice regularly, not just for events.
 
The day was good, even with the heat. Crowds were small because of the heat, which was to be expected. When I got off the train the sun was brutal! I found that being inside the Tengai was much more a relief.
 
Last time we had some negative experience from the guard. This time the negativity came after all was over. I posted picture of me, on Facebook as a Komuso in a fighting pose with the shakuhachi.
It was rumored that since many of the Old Komuso were former Samurai they used their Shakuhachi as a weapon. This can be seen in some of the old  Samurai movies. So I posted a pictured, with the good-natured caption Shaolin Komuso, since that is my Background training. It was commented on by the former Sensei of our little ronin Komuso band. Former because of a damaged ego by the Sensei. It said basically, Komuso practice is a serious study, it is not for entertainment! Wow! That pushed the wrong button with me. I did not think I was being disrespectful at all. I wrote a somewhat sharp reply for my wife to post in Japanese, since that is what he did. After some breathing and thought, I decided not to post that, and just did a simple response, “I am also a Zen Priest and requested any further comments be done via private communication”. I also posted a few pictures of Komuso in Art, and Movies by Japanese. His only reply was he understood and acknowledged me. I am not sure what that meant. However he had no further comments online or privately. My wife followed his link and said. This guy is strange, he said he was going to the police! I said so what? I did nothing wrong, nor did anyone else in our group. It was said to me later by the Sempai he may go tell the Abbot in Kyoto. Sempai said also but again so what. “I will continue what I do and follow my engaged practice. Even if I have to be associated with another temple or start my own.” It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I resently found out my Shakuhacho Sensei’s former student, who I will meet in Oct is a high Komuso in another temple in Wakayama. I will be checking with him on how to become officially connected to this temple. I need to have some official status before I can go out on my own and do this type of engaged practice. The down side, this may take years. Paperwork, licensing is a big deal in Japan. I can understand the reasoning behind this, fakes are everywhere.
This thing with the remarks from the Komuso Sensei on FB reminds me of the time a group from the East Coast of the US came to California and gave a private seminar to a group of us, who were having problems getting instruction in California. Well the local Federation had a cow! Even though we could not get help from them, were not in anyones school/ dojo turf, still it started a fire storm! It was both funny and sad. Egos are so fragile. No matter the title, rank, people are people. Ego is ego, you can control it, or it can control you! Zen master, Kyudo master, Kung Fu master, President, I have seen them all be ego puppets.
 
 

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吹禅 – Kobe Classical Shakuhachi Concert

 

Fuke today…

 
I was contacted by a friend another Zen practitioner, Shakuhachi player and blogger. He told me of another player and who lived near me. There was going to be a shakuhachi concert in Kobe. I could get in touch with his friend about the details. The timing seemed perfect, I had plans on being in the Kobe area on that day. So it was a well timed fated notice.
 
The concert was to consist of 45 players all hand picked to play. They came from different styles of playing. The Myoan school was to be represented. The Myoan school is considered from what I understand the Headquarters of the Komuso group. Well at least in this area. The temple is based in /Koyto/Nara. I have not yet visited but it is in my plan. A couple of years ago I contacted a sensei from there, looking to buy a flute. When it was made clear I did not want lessons, but to make a Shakuhachi purchase, the communications stopped. Weird, but…oh well. I found out more about this sensei later.
 
It took me a while to find the location of this concert venue. It was not an easy to spot location. However with the help of a friend I made it. It was all day affair with 45 players that is to be expected. I did not stay for the whole concert, I had other stops planned for that day. I was able to get a taste of some styles. I am not a fan of the very breathy style of playing. I enjoy hearing the pure note more-so. The breath tones to me are good for accents, drama, etc, but not on every note so most of the sound is breath. Like what I do when I can not get the note to sound. I wonder the reason behind the development of the sound, at least the heavy use of it. Perhaps the commitment to the issue of the note and not the note was the root.
 
I noticed many of the players were priest. Most had worn some type of traditional clothing, at least of those I saw. I did not check out all of the people in the room, but myself and the guy I went to meet in the first place were the only non-japanese. 
 
The room was a small hall. I have to change my understanding of the term “Live House” . I thought it was just to with a bar or club that had a live band, or music. Mostly I am thinking bar type place. This place was also called a Live House, but, not what I imagined. Mind expanded on term! WhooHooo!
 
It was a worthwhile little excursion. I learned more about styles and Hearing the differences. I like the Kinko style I am learning, More than the ones I heard this day. It is a good starting point for me. I would like to know more about the Myoanji philosophy and how /what is the inter-play with Shakuhachi and Buddhism in their sect? What is/are the Myoanji other practice forms? I have been wanting to ask Mutake-sama the Komuso of Nara, but we get busy with other topics of the moment. Slowly, small steps I am getting insights into the Fuke of Now.
 
 
 

吹禅 – Birth of a Komuso


A Komuso is born…

 
It had been my plan for a while to do some type of shakuhachi pilgrimage every year. The anniversary of my formal shakuhachi lessons is in April /May, so I am late this year…if doing it on the date matters.
 
I set off fairly early on the pilgrimage. I was nervous, and dressed in a traditional Zen monk’s work clothing a Samue. Even then I was a bit self conscious, no one noticed or cared, they were dressed in western fashion, me the gaijin was dressed in traditional wear. It is an interesting world view.
 
The trip to Nara was simple, and fairly quick. I was traveling ahead of schedule so did not feel rushed at all. I arrived and looked around for a locker to stash my backpack. However even though early the coin lockers at the station were full. Oh well, thanks to my Sempai, I was shown another place that was setup for people to drop off luggage. He had arrived shortly after I did. I found a toilet room and changed into my kimono, after which I put on the borrowed Komuso gear from my Sempai. He had given some basic directions about what to do while wearing the “basket”, theTengai. Do not talk while basket is in place, remove it on the temple grounds, when speaking lifting the basket was ok or taking it off. I found that a bit hard to remember, lift and talk. I forgot many times and thought oops! I rather liked having the basket down, I was anonymous and hidden. A no one, people saw the clothes, and heard the sounds, but me as me not so much. Not the Black guy in Japanese gear. At least in my mind.
 
We started slow, I followed Sempai’s lead. With the Tengai in place I could listen to my playing and his. Not see the people watching, or at the least ignore them better. I was pleasantly surprised we were able to play in harmony. I have heard recording of other Komuso playing and many times the tones do not match. In the Komuso world it is not supposed to matter. My Sensei also told me that in traditional Japanese music it is not about being in tune, harmonically with other players. It is more so with Shakuhachi Komuso Playing. However my musical roots come from a different place. Disharmony of tones can be an accent but not the norm. So, I was told that it did not matter, but to a musician it did. So yeah, not having to fight a tonal discord made it easier to follow the lead of Semapi on his phrasing of the Cho Shi melody. 
 
We played first near the train station, then slowly walked toward the park, stopping every so often. People always took pictures. Being in the basket, I did not care. I was not me, who I was did not matter, what I was doing mattered and I could do it faceless. There is a Kyudo ceremony I have seen that the archer covers his face while shooting. This way it is not about the shooter but the shooting. Here it was not who was sharing the dharma, but the dharma. The Dharma in this case is the musical tones of Cho Shi.
 
Once we reached the park we had our first negative encounter. I was told negative encounters happen. Not always, but they are out there, where there is Yang there is Yin. This is the Tao/Do of life. Sh*t happens! they say in the street.
A security guard or sorts made us the target of his day’s power trip. He basically told us we could not play there on the street in front of the Park. Even though we were not IN the park, it was considered part of the park. At least in his view. Sempai was quite surprised having been doing this for a number of years. Rather than hassle with this “rent-a-cop” on a power trip, we moved on and crossed the street. There was fewer people traffic, but it could not be helped. We walked on.
 
We made several stops to play after that without any further incidents. Our next encounter came from a couple of tourist girls. They said we were Co-playing. Sempai corrected them that we were in fact real priests. He was from a local temple. They were surprised and wanted pictures taken with us and them. The first of several group pictures throughout the day.
 
I noticed most times we stop, there was always a small crowd gathered taking pictures, even as we walked some times, pictures were common. This day much much more than donations. I was not really concerned about the donations, for me it was more about being out there. Playing and doing the practice. Turning inward and doing the song under the “Tengai” got easier as the day went on. I could block out, the photo ops crowds and just play. A couple of times a few people would get really really close like they were trying to see inside. Perhaps Chinese tourist, they are not known here for being subtle. I rolled with it. When you stand in the wind, you have to expect something to get in your eye.
 
One of the more difficult parts was walking and playing. That became a real challenge. There was the timing of the song, the musician me was concerned about the rhythm of walking and the playing of the song, the martial artist me was concerned about the rhythm of the breath while walking and playing. Should everything match? Meanwhile my Tengai was slipping down over my head and covering my eyes, and other parts of my Kumoso wear needed constant adjustments from slipping. Add to that some knee discomfort and foot discomfort. As with sitting Zen there was more to it than meets the eye. It is not Just sitting, it is not just playing, one as to over come distractions, internal and external. One can not attach to the distractions, one just does the practice.
 
I noticed during our travels, the different reactions to us. Tourist took pictures, kids pointed and had kid reactions, some just ignored us. Some of the older Japanese surprised me with their reverence. They would stop and bow. That was to me touching, not seeing me, but the spirit I represented.
 
One older man spoke with Semapi upon hearing us play. He said the sounds returned him to his childhood during the war. There was a legless Shakuhachi player in his town. He wanted to learn from him. However the cripple said he ( the kid) did not want to go on this path (of suffering/sadness? ). Later he was able to take lessons, but had not played in many many years. He said the spirit that we conveyed was beyond and more important than not being Japanese. I found that comforting.
 
In most of the tales about Komuso, it is about them wandering around playing. However it seemed the playing was about and for their enlightenment or money. They did not really do Buddhist Priest type of things. When I see and have donated to other Priest on the street they give some type of blessing to the giver. I was told when receiving a donation as Komuso, one bows and keeps playing or restarts the Cho Shi song. After the day was over, Sempai said to me, the donations you received it would be good when you got home to put it in your sacred spot and say a pray or chant over it to honor/bless those who gave. For me that struck a good cord and really gave a purpose to the collections outside of self to buy lunch or the train ticket. It was also doing something as a priest since I do not belong to a temple here or do outside charity work, here in Japan. I have not seen much of other Komusos other than for special events, so this to me gives meaning to being a Zen Priest. Something to support my vows.
 
Overall it was an educational and enjoyable experience. I enjoyed having a spiritual outlet for playing and being a “Ronin” priest. I have decided to do more of this and make it a part of my Lohan Chan practice. Even if nothing happens via teaching Budo and sharing dharma that way, there is this musical dharma outlet, that is not just me playing for self enlightenment. The Modern street Komuso playing touches people, more so the elders, perhaps they need it more these days. Perhaps also praying over the donations adds positive energy to the world conditions. Maybe on some level eases someone’s suffering… even if just in their or my head having a Priest pray.
 
 
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Pilgramage – Kamakura

Engaku-ji

 

 
I had been looking forward to this for a while . Even though my original hope was to be able to shoot there were dashed. It still had the making of an interesting trip. The agenda was, watch Kyudo, visit the temple, go to another temple to see the Great Buddha.
 
We catch a late bus out of Osaka. It was some 9-10 hrs ride. The bus trip was smooth, another still I /we were unable to sleep much. Me less than LZ , much less. The seats were uncomfortable, space was cramped. I watch a movie on my Ipad, “Logan”, Xcellent flick. Then tried to sleep.
 
Finally we arrived in Yokohama and had to wait for something or another, plus grab some breakfast. Finally we got the train we wanted, and off we went. Dropped off our bags in a coin locker and went to the fist temple. Engakuji a old Zen temple, were the Kyudojo was. We had no idea if the dojo was going to be open or when. I was prepared for that. Even if it was closed I could still look at some of the facility somewhat. When we arrived at the gate, which was a surprise to be right almost next to the train stop, they were just opening. We enquired about the dojo. We were pointed to it and told , if the path was unblocked we could go into the grounds. 
 
We made our way over to the area which was just a few steps from the entrance. Luck was with us and the path was un-blocked. There was a grounds person just starting to open it. We asked. Few question and were told the would be practice at 10:00a.m. Currently it was 9:30 or so. We said our thanks and our we’ll be back words. We headed out into the main temple grounds.
 
The grounds were huge, clean. It was a perfect time to visit. The temps were comfortable, it was not crowded, and there were some Sakuras in bloom. They were not in full glory yet but enough to give the sight a nice charm. We walked around checking out misc.buildings. For me interesting. LZ is usually not so into the old temple stuff but she seemed to find these grounds interesting. It was nice pleasant not having the crowds. As we were leaving more people started to show up. It was now 10:00 a.m. So we headed back to the Kyudojo.
 
As we arrived the shooter were just getting warmed up. A few of the older guys were doing some stretching. Another couple or so were getting their equipment together. I watched from outside as we were supposed to do. Aa couple of guys started on the makiwara. I noticed behind them were one or two people doing meditation or praying.
I think meditation, this is a Zen based Kydojo. I walked back and forth to view what I could. Finally I could take no more and asked one the shooters. “Are there different ranks here now? What is the average? Something close to that. I was told there are no ranks, they only do it for personal development. Then I remembered they are not part of the Federation. I was told we could have a seat off in the side yard. We were was ok, to move the barrier and go in the other area. We enter and Got a better view of the shooting area of the dojo.
 
More people started to arrive. Some noticed we were inside the yard and also moved the barrier and came it. I watched for a while, took more pictures from this angle and then we left. I found out later that some of my dojomates, upper ranks had no idea there was a Kyudojo in Kamakura. I was kind of surprised, but since they are not part of the Renmei they go unnoticed by the group.
 
The Great Buddha
 
Our next stop was the Great Buddha. It was only a short trip to the Temple of the Great Buddha. It was now around 11:00 am, the crowds where out. The “fun” quality of the trip diminished with the size of the crowd. Side stepping, dodging, we made our way to the Buddha. My only reason was just for historic value. It was big, I got a few good shots and picked up a few small omeyage. Then we headed back. A few stops were made at a couple of local shops. We had planned on visiting one other temple but changed or minds. Instead opted to go right to lunch. The Thai place LZ had picked was closed. However there was another within walking distance. It was run by real Thais, it was right across from the beach. I was surprised there was such a nice beach there. LZ said it is a famous beach , used as a back drop for many many Movies, TV, etc . The food was ok, so far I have yet to find any Thai as good as the place I was a regular at in Ca.
 
The next stop was our hotel. There we rested and had a great dinner. The room was small but comfortable. I say small because it was picked as a placed for LZ to do a report on. So we could basically write off our trip for the most part. There was a private jacuzzi time. The Jacuzzi over looked the water, it was only so so, to me because the weather was still chilly, so not really enjoyable. However the dinner as I said was good.
 
Yokosuka
 
The next day we visited, long term friends of ours from NorCal. Another mixed couple like us. The husband currently works for the Naval base there at Yokosuka. He took us to a spot that over looked the placed where Admiral Perry first came and threaten the Japanese.
Trade or die! We next went to the Military base and technically went back on American soil, by foot! We had a bit of an issue getting on base, we needed passes, and LZ did not bring a photo ID. It took a while but we were able to get a pass for the day. On base we got a tour, and did some shopping, of food stuff not easy to get in Japan. A gold mine score.
Next to their house for wine and cheese, chatting and laughs. I was given an interview for the website and facebook site, “Black Toyko” .
 
After all that we hustled off to the train/bus for the long trip home. Overall to was fun. It was good to hang out with our friends and kick it like we did in Cal.
It was a long trip but worthwhile in my mind. Even though could not shoot at the Kyudojo, it was still worthwhile to visit the temple and grounds. It was nicer we thought than Kyoto. The Great Buddha was “Meh” but ok to see once. I picked up a small gold plated Buddha statue for my home shrine.
more photos here –> X

Faces of Chan


Faces of Chan

 
In Kyudo there is talk of spiritual skills and technical skills. I have heard, seen, been in some heated discussions about Zen and Kyudo. I have always said there is religious Zen and there is Philosophical Zen, branches of the same tree. It was brought home to me recently the differences in real life. Religiously, no Zen is not Kyudo, Kyudo is not Zen, but Philosophically it is very much part of it. As Zen is all things, it is life, the operation of the universe. Everything is Zen, as everything is Kung Fu training, everything is Zen training.
 
I want to mention three different Zen practitioners. 
#1 Listed as a master, but has no compassion for the people who work for him. His concern is self, and his benefits from whatever the $ituation . He was a big disappointment to me. After his thoughtless, selfish actions almost got me killed and I received not even a thank you for my efforts. I have stopped attending his Zazen sessions or really any association with him other than work. If my Chan Shifu ( Sensei) had not asked to meet him I would not have been in contact with him for this meeting with my teacher. 
From the meeting we had the other day with my Shifu from Taiwan and the discussion of this “master’s” ( #1) sensei, I understand now why his thoughts and action are lacking compassion. He has Technical skills on how to meditate, but lacking the heart. Same as shooting in Kyudo with technique but no spirit. Yet…on the other hand, now that I know more of why, I should have more compassion toward him and his lack of it, as my act of compassion. I should clear my heart. Still his Zazen sessions are empty of meaning for me. I can just sit on my own.
 
#2. An Abbot with the Hsu Yun order, said to me that he would publish several articles I had written. I was asked to contribute to the website, asked! Yet when I did the articles were never published. Nor was the bio and picture I was asked to contribute as a new Priest. Even after I brought it up a couple of months later after waiting. I was told, oh things got in the way, with family problems. I will check them over tonight and publish tomorrow, if I have any questions or issues I will contact you. Now another 4 months later nothing. If the writings had issues, of whatever, something should have been said. Not just leave me hanging on his words. Point here, someone with a high title, such as an Abbot should behave, operate on a higher level than just Joe Blow the seeker, at the least be true to your word. Another person with the technical skills to have a title, but lacking the compassion of the heart, to earn respect as just a person of substance, trust, compassion. I have yet to figure out what the issue is, I can only wonder if there is something racial happening.

 

#3. An acquaintance had his sensei expel him out from his “wing” because he, the student was getting more praise than the teacher for his acts of compassion, and interaction with others. He was jealous of his student. This is how a master behaves? Disappointing.

The point here really is that people are people, regardless of the title, if you are a messed up person, your title no matter how high, or powerful it is, seems, without the heart it is just another word with one’s name and empty.

One can have the technical skills to meditate, teach others how to meditate and still lack the spirit, the heart of meditation. Or perhaps it can be broken down as this. I read something somewhere about the mindfulness movement, practice, how it is lacking “wholeness” without the Buddhist influence. Technique, but no spirit, no heart. It is an unbalanced practice. This is one of the reason why I was so attracted to the Heart Chan Group, they had balance with the physical and spiritual in training. Not just sitting facing a wall.

Balance is living, one’s actions are a big part of Chan. One’s life is a bigger example than preaching words. When they being basically do as I say, not as I do. One should walk the walk as well as talk the talk. The American government version of Christianity is brought to mind. They talk about being a Christian, following Jesus, but they will not help the poor, homeless, sick. There is no money except for raises for them and bombs to drop in war.

Well, as everything is training/practice, there is something to be learned from everyone, even those you lack respect for. Perhaps those have a bigger lesson to teach, a greater learning is to be gained.

World Chan Conference

World Chan conference.

 
I have been doing some study on-line with a teacher from the Chan linage of Sheng Yen. Beishi Guohan is the head teacher and founder in the Cosmos Chan Community. A few months ago Guohan Shifu mentioned that he was coming to Kyoto to see some Zen temples. I offered to help him get to Kyoto. This week he arrived, I was contacted and asked if he could met any Zen Masters or monks. I said, I only know of a couple and only one in my area. I was referring to Yoh Aoki. Even though I have some issues with him as a Zen Master, he still has the credentials, even if not the heart. In my opinion.
 
Moving on…
 
Although pretty much last minute, the arrangements were made. Guohan Shifu, his wife, and myself would go over to the Marina and meet with Aoki “Shacho” (company president). 
 
I was somewhat fretful the night before, I am not big on meeting new people. What will we talk about? Ok well Chan, but meeting with a master, am I suppose to ask some deep questions or something? Slowly slowly slowly I let it go, and just did what I needed to do, rolled with it.
 
I arrived at the agreed place but the Shifu was not there. He had arrived very early, him and his wife were out and about, looking at stuff. I messaged them and we hooked up. It was comfortable meeting him. He is sort of quiet, so I felt somewhat pressed to speak. I asked the general stuff and the three of us chatted comfortably. I really liked his wife, she reminded me of my Kung Fu auntie in Oakland.
When she found out I could speak some Chinese she helped me with a few things. At the end of the day she gave me a Jade, necklace for LZ.
 
One of the things I wanted to ask The shifu, well really the only thing. “What is the meaning of life? “
I have seen this question posted by a Buddhist Meetup group. I had seen this posted in another form by a Muslim, I recall this from my Christian days. Christians say “to bring glory to God”, Muslim: “To know God” ( something like that), my teacher’s answer was,” to know truth”. To me this could all be the same thing. It was not the mind blowing answer, I hoping for, but not a surprising answer. Hmmm perhaps in its simplisty.
 
We made our way over to the Aoki boat yard, where we were greeted and offered tea. There we chat a little before heading out to lunch. It was decided that we would go to the Indian Restaurant we go to was nearby and we could get veggie foods for Shifu and myself. Once there my friend the manager, made both myself and Shifu some thing special. It is good to have a connection.
 
So the world Chan conference began. China, Japan and American representatives 🙂 We had a nice chat about this and that, reasons for starting Chan, temples, masters, etc. At one point Aoki Shacho had to leave there were things to do back at the Boat yard. I found out later there was an interview. Anyway it was fine. I sat with the Shifu and his wife a while longer. Then we left.
 
We walked to the train station and I rode with them to the airport, where they made the connection to return to Kyoto where they were staying. I was invited to come visit them in Taipei. I liked them both. They were both approachable and down to earth. I will be continuing to study with Shifu Gouhan. Perhaps I have found my true Chan teacher…when the student is ready kind of thing. Some fate involved with him coming to Japan, otherwise he would have just been a voice on a internet conference. Too bad he is not a Kung Fu master as well, that would be off the hook…cool!
 
As for going to Taiwan, that could be a very cool thing and affordable for at least one visit. I can visit both my Chan shifus, I can stay at one of the temples for sure and people from the Heart Chan group will take me/us around as family. Also I have I believe a Kung Fu Uncle there who I could visit maybe train a bit with him. I am pretty sure Ling Sisuk sometimes goes to Taiwan for training, he could get me a hookup. I was told there are more and more vegetarians there in Tawain now so a lot of places to eat. I could get a lot of bang for a few days of low spending. Hmmm something to think about. LZ is up for a visit. I would need at least 4 days. One day for Kung Fu training , two days for the Chan temples, sight seeing one day, hmmmm. Ok maybe a week. Maybe we could go together and I can stay a couple of days extra for training. Something to think about anyway.
 
Anyway as far as Chan study, it is good to have a teacher again, someone I respect, I can grow now, I told my Abbott I would continue to train. My Heart Chan Shifu, Wujue Miaotian from Tawain does not speak English and I am not really in touch with the Ca group, it is hard to connect via on-line teachings, with the time factor. I am still connected but my path is different, I am not feeling somethings about that path. The group of Hsu Yun, my teacher there passed away. The group seems to have stalled, I see no future for me with them further. It is as Gouhan Shifu would say, a Karmic connection that has connected me with his group. (PS: Anyone interested in dharma classes free on-line drop me a note). I find it interesting that part of the training that I wanted to do in Japan was Zen, but my training is coming still from the Chinese path, even being in Japan.

Completion …Art tools as Art within Art


The forces are balanced, the water boils properly; but if the pot is too full and boils over, it puts out the fire. On the other hand, if the fire is too hot for too long, it can evaporate all the water. In maintaining the equilibrium that follows the completion of an arduous task, forces at work in the situation must be monitored carefully to ensure that a proper balance is maintained. The state of After Completion is a time for fine-tuning, for refinements and embellishments of what has been accomplished

…I-Ching #63



Things are coming together. Yoshiko the Bass, is doing well. All cleaned up she is great.  The day after she came back from the shop the parts I ordered came in . Gold plated tuning pegs and volume/tone adjust knobs. It adds some nice bling, but understated. It goes goes with the dark wood. Now I feel like it is “MY AXE”, my Bass!



Another, I have been waiting for item arrived yesterday, my Ya from the shop. Earlier than I expected, that is always nice. NOW they are perfect as I had in my mind. I wanted for a long to time get these ya, then when I got them , last year, they did not get part of the work correct. So every time I used them I was reminded, this is unfinished, this is not how/what I wanted, I am still waiting. I used a pair tonight at practice, and yeah it is pretty superficial to trip on a small thing like a color scheme, or a pattern. Yet each fleeting glimpse of beauty observed, yet un-named is a bit of Zen, and in itself a practice. Observe, Absorb, Release. See the flower, breath the scent, move on. Also, there is no mistaking mine at a large event in a barrel.

I had been giving some thought to my fixation with the bass and the ya. Besides being tools of my passions, I think a combination of things, I am self analyzing. It has been over three years since we lost almost everything with the Boat, the bankruptcy the year before that, the lost of the condo, job, etc, in the years just before that. People giving us stuff to start over since arriving. It has been a while since I have had something of mine, as I want it, even then it has been a bit of a hustle involved. We still have basically very little and own almost nothing. For real nothing expensive. It is ok, we have what we need and a little extra and health, life is good. I will most likely not have a Car, motorcycle, boat, condo, or well-paying job again. Not to put a jinx on myself, but reality is the mind of Zen. Under my present conditions, without some major changes anyway, yeah, so whatever treats I am blessed with these days is a big deal. Life owes us nothing and is not fair. All we can do is take another step and be thankful for the foot to do so.

 
I was inspired by the newness of my tools, to take some pictures. Another plus for the new tools is artist inspiration joy is where you find/make it. 
 
Tools of Art, as Art, art within Art…

Waiting

The wait zone…

 
I am deep into to that right now. Ever think about how much time we spend waiting on stuff, things, people. It is neither god or bad, it is just what it is, nothing. Like the taste of tofu, we add flavor. On its own, it is pretty bland, like what this post will be. Unlike the last post which for some reason got a large amounts of hits. Perhaps from the Tumbler readers, I have a lot from there, WordPress , not so much. Why? Well in the scope of life it does not matter, like this post…more so, since this is a free trip…for everyone.
I digress
 
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Waiting…I am deep in the waiting zone. As one who meditates daily, does Tai Chi, drinks green tea, hmm ok not so much the green tea part, but slowly down, calming the mind and spirit is part of my everyday training. I live there, it is not someplace I go to for a break. So one would think I would be more at peace with waiting, it is after all like doing sitting Zen. Being still, yet actively waiting…
 
I am in the waiting zone. There are things I notice as I apply Chan mind to behaviors. Sameness like doing zazen and being in the wait zone. The items are small, trivial, they will only be a scratch to an itch, yet desired. I know this and am not attached to item or out-come, still there is desire. Which makes me think about the Four Truth in Buddhism, suffering. More in this care the awareness of the act or case of a possible suffering. Is that a form of enlightenment? The awareness of self foolishness, illusion, attachment. It is not using un-attached mind because I am thinking and registering that I am doing it, and not just doing it. So not in the non-abiding mind state.
 
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My bass has been in the Shop for 10 days, I was told 10 days, then LZ says “about” 10 days he said…waiting…my ya have been sent to the Ya shop’s shop, for 30 days…waiting, my Abbot is going to find out what is the hangup with my Priesthood certificate and get it sent to me…waiting,..new Shakuhachi in the spring…waiting
 
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Life is waiting, we wait to be born, then we wait to die…Zazen should be easier.
 
 

吹禅 – Toyonaka – Another day another recital


Recital in Toyanaka

 
Another day another recital. Sensei had given me info on another teacher’s student recital. The teacher, Ishikawa Toshimitsu famous, in Japan. His teacher Ksuya Yokohama was more famous! My sensei told me tonight at class he could make the introduction for me to study with him…at a later time. As my skill as still somewhat low. apparently the honkyuko songs are his specialty.
 
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It required a bit of a travel to reach Toyanaka, however lucky it was not expensive. All local trains, then just a short walk to the venue. About three minutes, unless you get lost like I did I took sometime thinking about it. I only decided to do so the day before. I figured, hmmm ok, someplace I have not been, listening to different people who are not masters, my peers and sempai. It will give me some idea of where I am at. I have only met my one other sempai. Another thing about this recital it will be all HONKYOKU music. Just for Shakuhachi. I have only I believe heard one or two. Over the course of my appreciation for the instrument I am sure a lot , but now I know what I am listening to.
 
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It was nice it did not start until 2:00 pm . I did not have to leave the house until 11:20. Even then I had a casual trip. I did get lost trying to follow the google map LZ had setup on my phone so I would not get lost. My first time using it, and did badly. oh well. I made it. I arrived as one student was playing, I believe the same song I did for my recital. It was interesting hearing another amateur play it.
 
There were a fair amount of people there. Most of them students, most of them in my age group and older. No one seemed surprised to see me. I thought I was the only foreigner there, but when I was leaving I saw a guy who looked, East Indian. I did not get a clean look. I was also quite surprised when one guy, a Japanese came over and started talking to me. First in Japanese then in English, which he said he learned in High school. Very casual normal stuff and short.
 
 
 
The performance itself was good. Some very good, some so so good. I was surprised to see several of the player were blind. The sensei told of each player’s or most of them’s “dan” . I heard Shodan and Na na Dan several times. It was a worthwhile experience to go, educational.
 
 
 
The area of Toyamaka was not pretty or interesting at all. Now I know. 
 
Picture/videos link here. Videos are still being uploaded, ( not-easily ) so if you go look, stop back a couple times if you want to see the vids. Most of the vids (songs) are just short bits. Only a couple are full lengthThe pictures are nothing other than just a markers for FB and such :-). It is all about the music.

吹禅 – Owari desu…yokatta


Whewww, glad that is done…
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I was off, it was to be a full day with Kyudo, stuff, Guitar, and Shakuhachi in hand I head out…
It finally here the day I wanted to get over with.
It felt more like taking a test than doing a recital. I have a good grasp on most of the song, but not all the small parts. It was requested that I should memorize the song not read it. Hmmm, ok. I figured out why I am having trouble memorizing this song. Beside me getting old, so many things with just my playing , then to add memorizing …it is a lot for something that is new. 
 
Anyway, no matter. I had it down enough that only those who knew the song, would know I am not playing it “true”, There were other people there beside shakuhachi students. In fact mostly koto students and shamisen. This is what I was lead to believe…it was mostly right.
 
So, anyway, i wanted this over with that was part of it. It would be my first real playing live. I did play a section at my Ordination , but this was the whole song, in front of Japanese strangers, musicians. The “musicians” is the key in this case…peers.
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Also there was the requests from my Sensei to play a couple of other songs with him. One of which I was to sing. I am not sure why I dislike doing that song. That part was not fun , but the other song playing with Sensei was harder, and I did not have the time to practice it. So my guitar work was expected to be poor..It was! Embarrassing to me, maybe they did not care or even notice. I did, Sensei , hmmm, not sure. My timing was there but some notes and cords, where funky (sour) to me.
 
The day started early for me, even though the event was not until 2:00 pm. It was a 90 min train ride about. However since I had a stop to make i left earlier than needed. I was stopping by the Kyudo shop. I wanted my ya fixed. It has been a small thing, but the coloring design has not been right since I got the new Ya. Since the shop was on my way to the recital house it was a perfect time to stop. Finally, I can get that behind me. It is a very small thing , but it irks me everything I use the Ya. I am still attached to the vision of how they are suppose to look. No one cares but me, but it is part of my small joy of if not shooting well, at least looking good whilst shooting bad. 🙂
 
That part of the trip went well. I hope the guy understood !? It will take a month for it to be done. I guess their shop stays pretty busy for custom work. Or something. It took a month for me to get the original set. Hmmm maybe he said a week?! Or well. Not a rush anyway. So just wait, mode engaged. I have my everyday Ya to use anyway and I am not going to shinsa next month. Speaking if which, I went into practice on Sat night expecting quiet and aloneness to practice with my new-to-me winter kimono. Wrong wrong wrong, ran into a a big practice session with several Senseis had to join. Anyway, alway good, to learn something.
 
Yeah, after the Kyudo shop, a quick stop at Subway for a sandwich. That is one of the few things I miss about the states is the mixture of foods I can get. I would love to find a falafel shop. Yummm. Anyway. i got my usual. Flat bread, avo, cheese, all the veggies, with basil sauce. It was good! Then onward to the recital. We were to have a meal afterward but that would not be until 4:30 , it started at 2:00.
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I got on the train and headed to the house of the Koto Sensei where the event was to be held. It was almost to where we used to live when we first arrived and stayed with my Mother-in-law. I made it to the home with no problem, by following the map and a little common sense. My Sense had not arrived yet. There was a Sempai of mine their, I had met before. The rest were a bunch people I did not know. But it was ok, they were all pleasant and tried to be helpful to me, with my limited Japanese. Pretty soon , everyone was there , except for my Sensei. He was not late but it was close when he arrived.
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Once he was there we started. He was the MC it turns out. So he did the speaking. He started off with a small talk introduction of the players for the day and then began with his first song. I was to be next. Great, following the master!! Another reason to be nervous! Just Great! Ok, my turn. I took my music chart just in case. I put it on the stand , but not right in front of me. Just to the side, I could look over if I needed, but for the most part I would have my eyes closed and just play from memory. If I mess up, I just mess up. I will keep going. One thing I learn from playing so long live, just keep going, the mistake does not really standout until the player makes it so. I would keep rolling, and sure enough I got a part or two mixed up. Only my Sensei and maybe his sempai who was there noticed. Afterward, sensei said I passed, I did well. Most people fail to get notes out. I was able to play through-out. I think I also got an approval from his sempai. Although he did not say so to me, they were talking about me. I would get pulled into parts of it. It seemed positive. So I guess I had Shakuhachi Shinsa of sorts.
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The rest of the show was interesting, all traditional Japanese songs. Solo, duo, trio. Cool stuff. No young people in the event, all oldsters like me and older. Sensei told me there is a big event next week, where there are many players semi-pro and pro. I am guessing a mix of ages. Maybe I will go, for some inspiration or something.
 
I am to start a new Honkyoku song, called “Tamuke 手向.”. These are traditional “spiritual” shakuhachi songs. They seem fairly long and complex. Perhaps these are the ones sensei is picking out for me as a teaching path. He says we will be working on this next song of, which the name I do not recall, through the summer and into the fall…
Wow, long time for one song. It does not matter, I have no rush plans on what I learn or pressure to stop. I am just learning and will apply when ready. As for stopping, the universe will determine that. I will continue to play until I can not. Lessons may need to be adjusted due to conditions, but the playing does not stop. 
It just surprised from doing modern western songs. I never really studied classical music in-depth to compare. I will guess there is a mixture like in western music. There is a another honkyoku I am working on to play with the Nara Monk this spring, which I find short and fairly simple after what I have been learning. Which brings me to the thought Sensei is selecting complex works to use as a teaching tool, not so much for the music or to just learn another song. Like in Kung Fu the principal behind the technique is the important part. The soul essence. Understanding that, rather than the physical act at the applied moment is the pearl. Once you own it you can adapt it and needed.
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It is kind of nice studying with this shakuhachi sensei he is somewhat of a rebel, besides the greatness of him speaking English. As a rebel he does not give ranks (dans) to his students. That is still a practice in many schools with. A traditional background. One gets a Dan and also pays more with each Dan for classes. I do not really need a Dan, I have no plans to teach.
 
So now onward. New song, new adventure, new area of learning…yosh!
 
.more pix and vid here