Trips around the Sun…

 

It has been a while since I posted. Life happens! Since today is the anniversary of my Sun orbit cycle for this passage, it is as good a time as any to do a new post. Maybe the best timing.

A lot has passed since my last entry. It is hard to find a beginning spot that matters if any does. The last thing I recall here is I was just ready before going back to Nara. I did I bit of Takuhatshu there, before going to the temple to play for OMatsuri at Sempai’s local temple. That was interesting. I always enjoy these small local things. They are like a small mini time travel session. I did my small bit of playing shakuhachi for the group. which was larger than I thought. They were as always impressed that I could play and was there. Everyone was nice. Details are on the Komuso Blog.

Shortly after I went to the Kobe Blues session. I do not go often do to the distance and cost of travel, besides the next day hassles of early the night before if I do not stay over at a friend’s. It is fun the session, but there is usually a feeling of empty at times. Hard to explain sometimes it is great, other times…lacking

And now after my birthday dinner and most of a bottle of sparkling wine, I can not recall must of that time anyway.

Ok, so rather than trying to fill in what I do not recall I will start from where I do. Yesterday, for my birthday my wife took me a Greek restaurant. There have been very good reviews from the locals. There are very few Greece places in Japan. This is one of 3 that had good ratings. Also, they usually had a mix of Italian food not just Greek. Coming from The bay Area where we have a lot of Greek deli type places I give it a rating of 6 on a 1-10 scale.  10 being the best! it was good and a nice change, but the Greek in better in Cal. Even from the Deli. I really wanted a Falafel !! Oh well.

The other night there was a session at Snafkin. It was really a night were the IYO band was playing. However, we were going to slip in a practice session for my band, which was performing in an upcoming concert at the beach for Snafkin. It is an annual thing. So we were going to get in a practice before and after the AYO band played. He, the keyboard player, plays for them mostly and a solo acts himself. That is the thing in Japan no one just plays for one band unless that band has a national name.

We, my new band, got in some practice time and it went fairly well. One song sounded like we practiced it more than just once today. I was surprised. I was expecting to play once more or so after the AYO band finished, but I find out I am requested to play as a part warmup act for the IYO band. I was not expecting that. Ok quickly considered what to do. I drafted the Bass player from IYO’s band. He was very hesitant! Saying he did not know the song. No big deal I said. It was weird. He was reacting the same way I do when asked to sit- in on a Jazz piece. This was just a Blues and I gave him a chart. Anyway, he agreed finally. I was going to play a song where I got to use Shakuhachi. I always need the practice live. We started the song slowly, I was having a lot of trouble getting a sound from my flute. OHG, so embarrassing!! This was a was my Zen and Kung Fu training kicked in. Do not panic, breathe, think! I fiddled with the mic and tried several times to blow but no sound. Ok, I got a drink, as if I needed it, then just started to sing. As I sang I gave the flute a few tries, and finally was able to connect. I played for just a small bit, and then I lost the sound. As in Kyudo when you miss the shot it is usually something about “you” that is the issue, not the equipment. In the case of the Shakuhachi, this is so very very true. the problem was me! There are no parts or anything with the Shakuhachi, it is a tool of truth, you can get a sound, or you can not, it is not the lacking of within the flute.

I play a little then again lose it, I did not panic, never panic. I decided to switch up and play the Harmonica. I went over to the table to get my harp and as I reached for it, I knock over my Bass which was next to it them. I laughed, the keyboard player laughed. I rolled with it and kept singing and made the switch. Things went well… of sorts. I Kept having issues with the Mic adjustment location. As the Keyboard players were doing his solo, he started dropping papers and stuff. Again we laugh, but the song goes on. That is how we roll. LoL!!

Overall even though I still had a few issues with hearing myself, we finished the song and for the most part it turned out ok. I did not realize that until afterward when I listened to the video. All that stuck out for me was the suck parts when I could not get a sound! After listening to the recording I find it was not so bad 🙂

Our next song, was really just the new band. Really a trio today as we had no percussion. We did a cover song by Stevie Wonder. This our second time playing ever, today. Surprising it turned out good. Like we knew just what we were doing, helps when the band members lesson to each other. I did this same song with one of the other bands, the Kuruzeders, we did not sound as good then as we did with this Trio!

The next day I am chilling, very limited Facebook interaction. I am planning to enjoy my birthday break. I spent the day, a small bit of gardening, mostly just working on my ceramic pieces. I hope the person in charge of firing at “club”  did /does so over the break. I now have about 8 pieces that need to be “baked” before I can take the next step and do the glazing before putting them up for sale and seeing if there is any interest. That would really really give me a boost if there was interest in buying. I could actually have something artsy that was marketable. Music is a difficult Art route for more than pleasure.

Speaking of music that is the other thing I did over my Sun circumnavigation trip anniversary. I discovered a song I want to do as part of my solo set and maybe with the new band, I am just recently asked to Join. So I worked on that song. I put down a beat track and a bass track on my looper to give me something to work from. It went well, that another song which I started with one of the other bands.  I just realized I am connected to several bands: The Kursaders, The Saki Band, Mr Joe’s girl band, and my Kaze Band, oh and sometimes the Dirty Deal Blues Band.

The other big musical thing I did was some work to my Bass. I have been thinking about changing my bridge to a Gold Brass one. I have been putting it off and off, finally, I went for it. I was nervous about doing it correctly, there are many adjustments to set and this was my first time. I took my time and it went well. I could tell a difference in the sound right away.

After all my years of playing, this is the first Bass I have made truly mine! Not just mine as in owning, but mine as in changing stuff just to my taste. Cool it is!

So all in all at this time in Life, things are pretty good. Making music, Kyudo, Ceramics, My WaterWorld life is pretty much a wash:-(, as is my Kung Fu teaching. I guess I should just consider myself retired from those fields. Oh well, one can not have everything they say. I am sort of getting a new change of plan for Japan travel. Since I can not do it by sailboat, perhaps by motorcycle. Since I have had my eye surgery I am pretty sure I can pass my eye test for a Japan drivers lic. However I do not have a motorcycle, but it would be easier to get and keep than a boat. Still, there is the money thing and with a set budget, it is pretty much in the same realm as a boat…an out-there-dream! Yet, things change as you live and breathe. One never knows what the tide ( Heaven ) will bring in…Amituofo

 

 

Advertisements

The local news…July


Wow, time flys! I just noticed it has been a while since I posted. The blog quandary, if you do nothing there is nothing to blog about. If you do stuff, you are too busy to blog. The last post I see was the monthly Shakuhachi meeting, and now that has just past for this month.

 
So I will need to backtrack and do a multi-section update.
 
Starting from the last post. This month’s meeting of the Shakuhachi Society was interesting. There was another new person and one less than last time. Our group is growing. The new person this time was another new player. My new friend the priest returned again. He will be a regular I am guessing. I have been invited to return to his place next month for another dinner after the Zen Cafe. I am thinking, I will need to miss this next month as it will be held on a Friday. Bummer. Oh well another month, if God wills and the creek don’t rise.
We went through our range of songs a usual at the meeting, then had drinks and snacks. It was fun. I had thought briefly about not going. The only English speaker was not going to be there this month, so I would have no help. Then I thought that is ok, I can deal. I am glad I went. It was all good. I got by easy and I was given a new Shakuhachi by Omoto-San the flute maker. It is different from my others. It has a large bore. It is also cracked. Which is why I was given it, free! It has been repaired and still plays well. Once at home I went through several moods with it. At first, I liked it, then not so much, then liked it a lot.! I have a spot of it in my Shakuhachi arsenal.
 

On other Shakuhachi music and such. I was asked to play at the club one of my bands has as a home base location. I was asked to play in a Bon Odori event. Sort of Japanese summer festival.

I was asked to play bass with the band on three Japanese folk songs. Also to play something on Shakuhachi as a solo. Ohhhhh. I was surprised by that but agreed. Learning the Japanese songs was tricky, but I was able to pull it off. One song I only had a couple of days to figure it out. I was lucky my wife was able to find the song music chart.
The Shakuhachi solo part was interesting. I had to speak to the people as an intro. That is always scary for me. The groups always have a chatty section, my Japanese is not that good. So I always shy away from that but get in a few words an have some type of connection with the viewers. I played two songs. One song I explained was an old Komuso song, I would play it two ways, once again n a traditional style, the second time with a hip hop beat from my “looper”. The second song was a classic American song, Summertime. I played all the backup instruments on the loop beforehand so I was set. Both songs went well.
 
On other band news, things with the Seiki band have been quiet. However, there was an event with the Kuseders band at the pub Chicago Rock. That went over ok. We had fun. I did not think we sound that good. We really need to practice more. Still afterward, listening to the recording I did, parts were good. We had a sax player sit info a few sets. I am not a big Sax fan, but it did give a nice another dimension to our sound. It would have been better if the Sax player had also done a rehearsal with us.
 

I have been told the sax player with be joining as a member another band the keyboard player is forming for a show in Late Aug. I do not know if it will be a one-time affair or what. This is the idea of the Club owner to form this band for a show there at the club. The keyboard player and I will carry all the lead vocals for this project. It will be nice to have a bit of different sound.

In other news, I have been going to the ceramic club for two months now. It is ok. I am pretty disappointed in the speed, of the firing sessions. I have completed three forms that have been ready to fire (bake) for the last month. I can not continue with the next step, the glazing until they get the first firing. Now we are on break until Sept!! Crap! I want to get at least these three (four, soon) done so I can see if there is any interest in them. I have figured out to market the items under the Osaka Lohan Chan Charities, as a way to help bring in donations and support for the organization. Seems fitting, a charities setup via donations from Shakuhachi, also support by another Art form dealing with shakuhachi. I will not go into what that involves because I do not want my idea taken as yet. So no pictures of the Projects.

I will a fair supply soon, enough to test the interest. Time to give some thought to what other things I want to do. in clay. Perhaps it is better not to have a wheel so everything will not be based on having to “throw” something. More interesting things can be built by hand. I do wish I could mix my own glaze like we did in school. Also being able to do Raku was nice. Anyway it is all new here and yet old having done the foundation in college.

I did pickup something the other day from watching one of the members. I got the idea to make my own slab form press. I did a quick one as a test the other day it worked well. I just need to get the right size sides. The test was thicker than I wanted but still usable.

 
I am back to labor work for the city for the summer. Two days a week. It is helpful for the house budget and me getting up and out early. I have been lucky so far and the temp has been reasonable…so far!
 
Kyudo, no change, just practice…daily! Even just three arrows, same as with the Shakuhachi, even if it is just 5 minutes of one or two notes. Like Meditation even if just 10 min, daily discipline is the key to improvement.
 
Amituofo

The Bamboo path


The Bamboo path

The Classical Shakuhachi Society
The Shakuhachi journey has various roadside stops. It is interesting along with the people one meets. We had our monthly Classical Shakuhachi Soceity meeting last week. This time we had a full house. I had invited a new aquitence I meet, via my Komuso Sempai. He is a priest, of a Jodo Buddhist temple, as is another our of group. Another member had bring along someone who had contacted him and there was a new player/student of another member there as well. He was new to playing Shakuhachi. In total there were nine. Three more than usual. It was a nice size.
We did a round of introductions, I got very little of the info, of course. However it did not matter I got the gist of it! Afterward we played together a few songs and individual songs. Afterwards we had the refreshments. Misc foods, wine, sake, words and laughter. I am not suppose to be drinking, but I still had some. Just did not over do it. Once in a while is ok! It was a good session, we all had fun. One nice thing about this group we are all about the same age.

Zen Rhythm Cafe
The following Sat, my new friend the priest’s temple held their monthly Cafe session. I went this time. It was my second visit. This time I had prepared some songs. The cafe is held inside of his temple on the second floor of a wonder building. There are a few tables set up for buying gifts, coffee, a small meal, foot and or back massage, and fortune telling. Also there is floor space for music acts.
I arrived later than I planned, but still in time to do several songs. I played Shakuhachi with myself as backup. I had made a recording of myself on Sansen, piano, bass, an guitar. I wanted to test how it would go, as part of my plan for solo performances. As I arrive late there were not late many people there, but it was well received.
I hungout afterwards and spoke with a few people. I spoke with the fortune teller as she was starting a group session. I learned she was doing the Japanese version of Tarot Cards. She said she is the only one in Kansai who does them. She also said it is a Shinto tradition, I did not know that. I passed on joining and just watched.
Another guy comes to me, he is a friend of the priest. This person speaks English. He is like a Japanese Caropractor. He studied in the states. He was invited by the priest to act as a translator so we could speak easily. The guy was interesting. We spoke of natural healing and energy flow as well as sound vibrations.
After all was done, and the “cafe” was over, we went downstairs to the kitchen. There the priest’s wife made a “Hotpot” ( Nabekura) meal for the priest, his friend, the new student from the Shakuhachi group who had also come and myself. We ate a lot and drank. There was a lot of wine and some sake, but I did not feel over loaded. We chatted and drank. After eating we went to the garden area and sat on the porch and listen and watched the rain fall on the garden. We spoke spoke of gardening and life. The priest’s wife brought us dessert and tea, the men sat and talked. It was very Japanese.
A nice way of spending a Sat night…Amituofo

Playing in the mud


Playing in the mud 

 

When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

Chonzenji revisited thoughts

 

It is interesting the impact Chozenji has had on my thoughts, ideas. Re-evaluating ideas, goals, training. Before going I was hoping for a deep impact. Afterward, I was unsure I had any and if so it was small, little by little it surfaced. In my meditation, in my Budo training, Shakuhachi. yeah, it was a deep experience. However subtle. Afterward, due to my expectations a little bitter.

Now after some time has passed I have a more positive outlook. It is still doubtful if I would plan to return. I say doubtful because sometimes, many times, in fact, the Universe has different plans from mine. Man plans, Heaven ordains, something like that is the saying.

I had pretty much though let the thoughts pass. Even after my dearest friend’s comment on my post and her agreement “manners” should have been better from them. Anyway, suddenly a letter shows up in my email box. A reply to the letter I sent after my return. I was surprised.

An apology for the delay in reply. Also an apology for the Roshi being out of town. “No one here is on “payroll” so sometimes things come up which need to be attended to, sometimes travel is needed.” “And in general, we are geared more towards local students who are training long term or folks living in for an extended time.” Yes, as I surmised afterward. Lastly thanks for the referral to others seeking zen practice. Which I had done in a couple of places, as I thought overall it was a worth while place of study, depending on one’s goals. Fair enough I felt much more compassionate after reading and time has passed. I appreciated the writing intent.

Lastly, the question I had asked was about why the hand position. I reader and friend replied privately to me he was aware of that style of hand mantra from other Rinzai sects. The explanation I received from Chozenji: the hand position in zazen — it is a yang position that builds strength. Many other hand positions are more receiving, yielding and yin in their energetic effect.

Ok, now I know more. I understand it is more fitting with the overall philosophy of the temple, “Kiai first”. Building that Yang energy, Ki. It fits their sect.

So now I can close the chapter on the Chozenji Pilgrimage.

 

 

Focus shift : External to Internal

External to Internal

 

In the world of Kung Fu, there is a false calcification of Internal and External Kung Fu. Hard (external) and soft( internal) Kung Fu It’s really all Kung Fu, with the purpose to arrive at the same place, top of the same mountain you could say. The difference is one trains from the external development toward internal development. The other Is the opposite. Example, Tai Chi is considered an internal art it works from inside power to outside power. Ki, breath, centering, then develop external power/strength. Shaolin is an External style working on outside power first, then to an inner power.

What this is about is Kyudo. I consider Kyudo and boarder line art. It is both external and internal at the same time. My opinion. Up until now, I have been focused on the external part. Fixing my form. In Zen there is the thought of form and formless, practice, action. etc. The form is chanting, sitting Zazen, reading sutras. Formless is acts of kindness and compassion, sharing.

In Kyudo I believe the stances, the grip of the bow, the draw, elbows, all forms. Formless would be the breath, the Ki, the mind, the spirit. After much time and frustrations in advancing. I have decided to change my approach. After reading the Book from the Chozenji master, where he states Kiai first, I figure I need to change my training direction. Even if it is is wrong, it can not hurt. I have decided once again to put off the next Shinsa. I am not ready.

I am now putting my focus into my internal workings, the use the building of chi, internal balance on not just shooting, but on all things.

More focus Chi and the waist when doing my Chuan Fa, more focus on Chi, Tan Tien, Hara when playing Shakuhachi. More focus on centering when doing Kyudo. Compacting the breath in the Hara, expanding from there and not the muscles. Sinking more.

I have been at this for the last month since returning from Hawaii. My wife says she thinks I will pass the next exam, my “Ki” has changed, I have leveled up. I do not know about that, but even a small step forward is a step forward.
It is easy in Kyudo, well Federation Kyudo to get caught up in the goal, seeing the rank as the purpose for shooting better. Not just to shoot better, just to shoot better. It is challenging to keep one practice pure. That is one of the nicer things about Kyudo study outside of the Federation. That rank distraction is removed. Practice is simple, you practice to practice, you practice to better your self. Sort of like Soto Zen, when you sit you just sit. In Rinzai there are Koans, breath focus, in some sects, Chi building and movement and just sitting, but the posture needs/should be “right”.

So yeah the struggle with Kyudo continues. It is sort of my Koan, passing to Yondan. I dislike koans! The result of my pilgrimage to Hawaii was I wanted to understand the connecting link between Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Kung Fu better, now it is a matter of applying it, better. That was my lesson from the trip. Everything is connected via the breath, Kiai, the spirit. Really a reenforcement, not a new revelation. As I retrace my shooting past, I shot better when I was focused more on the Formless of shooting instead of the Technique of hitting. Even now, when I just go up to the line and shoot, no care if it hits…I hit. When I care and I get lost on the parts, the mechanics of shooting, I miss. My thought I need to stabilize my Chi more, sink and balance. It is said if one is missing, then it is an internal issue. I am finding inspiration from re-reading some old books. The One Arrow, One life book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and the Ten Shin Myo book.

Overall I am rebuilding my lost budo “spirit”, restoring some forgotten Kung Fu, in front of the Makiwara daily, more walking meditation. Even making shakuhachi practice part of that oneness training. There is no separation, no duality, even though one is not one or two. The whole is not one thing, it is many things, but it is one thing. I have understood this mentally but I believe I need to put this more into actual physical practice when practicing.

ok so I am giving this a shot (hahah), let’s see where it goes…Amituofo

 

Ten Shin Myo

Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind

Since I have returned from my pilgrimage to ChoZenji I have been piecing together the value, the lessons of the Hawaiian Shugyo. More thought to my Practice, the parts and whole. In recalling some of the words of those I was in contact with during the visit come from the late master Tanouye Tenshin.

After reading his book Ten Shin Myo, I have come to understand more of his path, his philosophy.  I think purchasing the book was the next best thing to getting the classes I wanted. Perhaps in someways better.  I first saw this book and thought it looked interesting, but was not going really buy it, based on what I just glanced at. I am glad I asked the “Resident Priest”, the young one who I thought was … well never mind. He told me the book was a new release and was the life story of the Roshi and how ChoZenji came to be now. Ok, I thought it could be a good read. I was not really expecting alot from it, but, I was wrong…

After I read the book a lot more made sense about the Center. and words the instructors used. One of the things, were Posture, Breath, Focus. These things were part of the core of the Roshi teachings. Also after reading the Ten Shin Myo book I re-read the book by his student, Kenneth Kusher who runs the Wisconsen Chozen archery program. The book called “One Arrow, One Life”. It was the book that got me interested in Chozen. It had been so long, I had forgotten. In re-reading the book, I recalled the desire to study there. It was kind of sad to understand having been there, that part of the study there is gone. Although if one is looking for this Zen/Budo/fine Art training via Kendo or another Art other than Kyudo, I say go for it!
The is no real place other than the Wisconsen for this type of Zen training in Kyudo. At least on a live in bases. There are good programs and teachers around. Such as Sensei Rick Beal out of Ca. Who holds workshops and seminars around the globe. He is a Zen Priest, a Martial Artist, and a Kyudo Sensei. If he was a musician it would be perfect, but no! 🙂

A far as Hawaii Chozen, and the book “One Arrow One Life”. A lot of things said in the arrow book made much more sense now. Not only because of having been there, read the master’s thoughts, but my own Cha’n and Kyudo growth.

I had gone to Chozen with the hope of improving my Kyudo. Then with the off chance hope of making some connection with Kyudo, Shakuhachi and Zen. Other than my own mental theories which I could not quite put into words.
Unexpectedly I was able to find that link in training. The thread of spirit that runs through them. It is partly in the statement of Posture, Breath and Focus, a good training focus for everything, but it goes deeper than that. As the Roshi said “Kiai first”, with that in the front, Zazen, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi, Sword, Ceramics, Tea are all linked tightly. All are expressions of one’s CHI. How you tap into that is via, Posture, Breath, Focus.
In Kyudo when I focus on drawing, opening the Bow only… my muscles are used. I can feel my power balance high. When I focus on Tan Tien and expanding that, my muscles are more relaxed power is lower, expanding is a full body experience not just a muscular,  balance is more stable. It is said in the Kyudo handbook that proper breath within the moves of Kyudo brings life to all the movements and shooting.

With Shakuhachi, breath is stronger, but more controlled, note has life, is stable.

In Kung Fu/Tai Chi, Movements have more power, spirit when used with the breath, center is lower, stances are more stable.

The Arrow, the Music Note, the punch, the kick, the clay bowl, the grouping of flowers, the brush stroke, the pouring of Tea, all are outward expressions of our Chi. The stronger our Chi, the better our control of it, the better, clearer, more accurate, sublime, colorful is it’s expression. The core of understanding, tapping into, controlling that is meditation.

Another unexpected meal of knowledge from the books came in the form of the Roshi’s speaking on Sound, vibrations, and connecting with people. He spoke of touching their spirit with sound, with the vibration of the sound. He was also a musician, so his understanding of it was in depth. His referrals to sound were in his thoughts on chanting. He felt not enough focus was given to chanting to older people, beyond the age of starting a hardcore physical Shugyo. or even as a “DO/Tao” !

Although aimed at chanting as a “Tao/Do”, Shado, Kendo, etc. All he was saying to my mind also related to Shakuhachi playing or SuiZen. The sound as was something I had thought of about when doing Komuso practice, a wordless transmission of dharma. However I had not thought of it in terms of vibrations as a label. I had thought of tone effecting Chakras, and healing, but of course that would be in the realm of vibrations. Some tones vibrate the head more than others. Bass is a low vibrations, earthy, one feels it in your body. This is how one touches people with sound, matching their vibrations. We are walking electric patterns and vibrations.

When doing Komuso Takuhatshu something ( the vibe, sound, note) “touches” people, something harmonized with their spirit, personal vibe enough, they feel moved to donate. Even if not the sound pleasure, vibe, was their gift for that moment. Maybe some vibration was given to them that was helpful, up-lifting in some way. Some songs can do that even without having words. It is the cords, the tones, the vibes of that/those tones. That is the Modern Komuso Takuhatsu, we give, without asking for anything. It is the Buddhist giving to humanity, being engaged, through sound. Abiding in the Law of Cause and Effect, engaging the Six Paramitas. The Komuso Takuhatsu is also our Shugyo.

According to Tanouye Tenshin enlightenment is not limited to a mental experience. It can be via physical as well. Once one goes into the “field” or Mindset of Samadhi via whatever the means, meditation Sitting, motion, picking weeds, doing Kung Fu, washing the dishes, the break through comes because you are in a receiving state of mind.

So in a final wrap ChoZenji was a worthwhile pilgrimage. I did receive some enlightening insight from it all. However not the Sensei for Kyudo I hoped to find in the flesh.

Another good note from Kyudo acquired from the trip is I did receive some helpful advise from a Senior. What he told me about the thumb pressure I would not have been able to understand in Japanese. It may not be a big game changer for getting to Yondan, however little things add up. So I ended up with something for the outside and inside to work on to improve my Kyudo.

For the Kung Fu efforts in Hawaii. I was able to get a vid of a Sihing doing a form I wanted to relearn. It was done slow enough that I could follow and review. Some parts are a little different from my Shifu. but it is ok. Reactivating this set, will help fill out my personal training “Tao”.

I do feel more reactivated myself for training since the trip. So it was good to get me re-energized with training.

So although not as I had planned, the Pilgrimage was successful. It just took me until now to figure out just how it effected me. While I do not recommend Chozenji for everyone. To all those doing any form of Budo, Art and Zen, I do recommend their book:

Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind.
The Way of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin

 

“Zen is to transcend life and death (all dualism), to truly realize that the entire universe is the “True Human Body”, through the discipline of ‘mind and body in oneness’. Miyamoto Niten (Musashi) called it iwo no mi (body of a huge boulder-going through life rolling and turning like a huge boulder), Yagyu Sekishusai named it Marobashi no michi* (a bridge round like a ball- being in accord with the myriad changes of life). Besides this actual realization, there is nothing else.”

Zen without the accompanying physical experience is nothing but empty discussion. Martial ways without truly realizing the “Mind” is nothing but beastly behavior. We agree to undertake all of this as the essence of our training.”*

…Omori Sogen Roshi

Gathering @ Tofukuji

 

What is Tofukuji you ask? click the link. It is the main Zen temple where Myoanji is located as a sub-temple. There was just held a Komuso gathering. It was sort of low key as there were no Tengai. It was a nice event to attend for my first playing attendance to Myoanji.

Good weather, not crowded, nice after mini party with other olds school Komusos.

Since it is Komuso I am just giving it honorary mention here as a place marker and doing the full writeup on the Komuso blog for those interested.

The next day a visit to the second hand Kyudo shop was in order. Since I was in Kyoto and not too far away. I headed over to the shop. We took the Japan version of Urber. Only I went to the Kyudo shop.
The shop was open I only had one interest. I replacement Makiwara ya. I had broken mine at home and wanted another Bamboo. I found it and was surprised I had a even had a choice this time in my size. I made my score and called it a successful journey ended.

…Amituofo

…and Now for Something Completely Different

 

 

Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo

 

Return to Paradise…Epilogue – the good, the bad, the meh

 

Epilogue

I have been back in Japan for two weeks now. I have had really mix feelings about the trip as it all digested.

Honolulu left me kind of sad. So many homeless and poor living on the street, yet so much money all around. I had not noticed it so much when I was living there, or even on return visits. Did my eyes open more or there is just more of it…
I did get to see some examples of the Aloha spirit. Also most of the people I encounter were nice.

The visit to Hsu Yun temple was positive. Also relaxing in a different kind of way. The temple was impressive. It felt good to get some prayer time in and honor my elders. I would have like to have found a spot to just sit Zazen. They do not have a park just the temples. I could have sat there in the lower level, but I was too self-consequence at the time.

The Kyudokai people were great! I enjoyed shooting with them. If I ever go back I will take up the invite to return and shoot with them. That was fun. Nice folks, felt welcome.

As for Chozenji the main part of the visit. Hmmmm. Very mixed feelings. The instructors that I encountered were kind, friendly and helpful…The staff…hmmm…

hmmm. I had told the young woman I first met up with that I had been trying for 10 years to come there and train. I told her on the first email contact, I was interested in Kyudo, Tai Chi, Ceramics, beside the Zazen which I had experience in all of them. Then I asked if there was a shakuhachi person there as I had seen/heard shakuhachi in their pictures/video. I also played that and was interested in speaking to the teacher. I was really looking forward to practice there. To find a Sensei who did, Zen, Kyudo and Shakuhachi and spoke English was like a dream come true..

I had also told her I had a background in teaching Zazen and yet she stuck to the rule of having everyone attend the intro to meditation class before anything. Even when there was a just Zazen session I could have attended to put in part of my quota for admission to classes. This Intro class was supposed to be an hour. I received a tour of the grounds and some background on Chozenji. We talked, I thought we had a connection.  After the tour, it took her 10-15 min to explain a very few formalities to their sittings. We sat for maybe another 10-15, then we joined the main group as it started. There were two of us in the intro class, her and me…

I was told during our email conversation that after my orientation we would talk and discuss what path(s) would be available for me there. However, after orientation I was simply asked when I wanted to return and dismissed, kendo class was starting. The talk never happen, I never knew what I could do. I had to just rolled with it…

I asked to be allowed to just hang out and practice on my own for one day between classes. I was told no, by the Young manager priest. We have rules, he says. Not a good idea he says…

There is a story I heard about the founder. He had studied many Marital Arts. On one of his trips to Japan he wanted to study Hojo a form of Kendo a two person form. He asked the master for lessons. He was told, you do not have time in your three-day visit. Come back when you have three years! He requested since he had come from Hawaii to learn could he at least be shown some basics. The master agreed, bending a Japanese rule, which is rare. The story goes he learned so well and fast that in the three days he completed the training, then returned to Hawaii to add that to his other training styles. Japan is the land of sticking to the rules. However the master gave Tanouye Tenshin some slack because he had travelled far. So therefore taught him. Yet, I travelled from Japan to Hawaii to learn, I was unable to attend the classes I wanted, but would not even be given permission to practice on my own, instead of spending hours riding the bus back and forth…

Perhaps that too was a form of training, and I was/am too young to understand…

Maybe it was the three times asking test and I failed…

I upon my return to Japan I wrote a thank you letter to the person I contacted at first. I thanked her for allowing me to visit. I said, although I was sad I could not get the training I wanted or speak with the person I wanted, I still learned somethings. Even some were indirectly that I could relate to my Shakuhachi. I was grateful for that experience. I said also appreciated the contact I had with certain Sensei(s) even though limited. I then asked a question about why at that school they sit with their hands in a certain position, holding the left thumb with the right hand. Which is completely different from other Buddhist hand positions, I have encountered. I also apologized for any disharmony I may have cause unintentionally. This was almost two weeks ago, I have received no reply…

No replies to polite sincere questions always irks me…

One of their motto’s is “Kiai first” where does manners come in?

It is common practice in the Buddhist community at least and/or perhaps more so in Japan when someone Gassho bows to you, the bow is returned. Even just a head nod. This is a Renzai Japanese Buddhist Sect, I did not receive any such respect from the Young Priest who seemed to be acting head Priest or maybe just some type of managing staff priest. Certainly not an elder. Ok, perhaps it was just a cultural thing. Once he just walked by like I was invisible, after I bowed…rude. Although a few of the young monks in training there did return the gesture. So what’s the deal…

The more I reflect on these things, as I also reflect on the lessons learned, the more irked and saddened I become. Would I return…hmmm

That maybe a moot point, once/if they ever come across and read my blog. I may not be allowed back…LoL, banned for life. I have gotten in hot water before for speaking my mind on my blog. LoL. Oh well, my experience, my thoughts, my truth, my blog.

If I lived on the island yes, it is the place to go for Zen and Budo training, more so since the fee is by donation. The donation is not pushed at all, one has to ask about making a donation. That is admirable and unusual. They get points for that. It is mostly all about sharing their path, more points. People can volunteer work effort as well as money.

Would I recommend it…if one is coming to Honolulu and has the interest in having that experience, Yes. In fact I already have to an old friend.

If one is going to fly there with the solo purpose of training there, NO…
but that is depending…on your background and desires.
Just because it was lacking for me does not mean it will be for someone else.

Would I return there, doubtful, unless I have another reason to be on Honolulu, NO!

If I could return and do a sesshin with the base of actual Kyudo and/or Tai Chi, as the focus of the marital training, Yes!
However their Tai Chi is not a Martial Art base style. So that will not happen. Their Kyudo, is not Kyudo any more. I was told they still do Kyudo, but that is not often. A seminar maybe 2 times a year.

Also a week of a diet filled with hot dogs, other meat, and junk food for substance does not appeal to my basic Buddhist Philosophy. Or my personal “Tao”…

The philosophy of everything, all arts, everything is Zen, there is no duality between movement Zen and sitting Zen. All is Zen, Zen is both mind and body this Philosophy at Chozenji is pure and good.

However it stops are what you put into the body???
At Sonoma Mtn Zen Center they grow their own veggies. The week of Kyudo Sisshen/Shugyo spent there was great.

I had before going there some dream of this being a place I could go to train advance levels of Kyudo! Then finding out there was also a shakuhachi master, who did kyudo. I thought gold mine. Zen training, Kyudo and Shakuhachi in English, a pot of gold. The ceramics, Tai Chi and Aikido were icing. I was disappointed with the truth/reality. However truth is sometimes, perhaps many times like that…Disappointing! Truth is truth, regardless of our perception or vision or desire of it. It is what it is, and our perception of it gets shattered, is our suffering. However I would still recommend the experience to a beginner who lives on the Island.

 

I am currently reading a book I purchased there at Chozenji. I will be near finished when I post this. It is called Ten Shin Myo. It is basically the story of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin and the development of Chozenji. I believe at one time Chozenji was a wonderful place to make the pilgrimage to for Zen and Budo training in America. In a way it still is, as it is a unique place. One should hold no vision of what it is or should be. A blank sheet, a mound of clay. Be water going into that place.

However for me, from my brief visit there, it is a ghost, a shadow of what it once was…or could be. However to be fair my involvement was sadly limited. Perhaps if I was able to have more contact with some of the elders I would have a different opinion. There is another Chozenji it is in Wisconsin. I have no feeling, no draw to there, so for me to go there seeking training is worthless. However perhaps for another it will be enlightening. I wonder about their Kyudo though. To me Hawaii had a special draw. The Chi of the Island, the native people are special…

Another thing I was drawn to about Chozenji is the founder Tanouye Tenshin. I heard great things about him. A native Hawaiian, a man of color. A Zen Master of color, who established a Zen society and did wonderful things. Like my late Abbot also a man of Color, of Native American and Mexican blood. I am finishing up reading Tanouye Tenshin story and the story of Chozenji. Wow, a musician, a healer, a Zen master, a visionary, respected by many and all he encountered. I read some about him in the Kyudo book. One Arrow, One Life. I wanted to experience some Kyudo at this placed called Chozenji. Kyudo beyond belts and rank, with focus on the Zen aspect.

I started to re-read the book that got me interested in Chozenji, “One Arrow, One Life”. Yeah, sad how it has changed so much since then, the master Passed away, a Wonderful Kyudojo going to waste. There is something I find interesting…the current head of the Archery has a background in Kyudo, but I was told he prefers shooting multiple arrows in the time it takes to shoot a couple of kyudo arrows. More is better, however this “head” is also a shakuhachi teacher , and tells his students, at least one I spoke to , that one can spend thier whole life playing just one note to get it right. Shakuhachi is a Zen tool not an musical instrument. Hmmm So how is it different with Kyudo and The philosophy One Arrow, one Life…SuiZen: One note, Enlightenment…

Sigh…

A friend of mine also visited Chozenji, he had a week of intensive training. He is a Kyudoka, priest and Karateka. His experience was different, and this was many years in the past under different leaders and teachers. Things change it the way of life.

Chozenji Hawaii, If one is there, or going there to Honolulu it is worth the effort to visit, take a few classes, sit with them to form your own opinion. Mine is neither fully positive nor negative. I am of both minds.  Zen is about finding one’s own “understanding ” of truth, not blindly accepting another’s view, vision, understanding. Not Buddha’s, not mine. Buddha said question everything and find your own answer. One must experience truth to fully understand it.

All of this is just my opinion and perhaps is just full of broken illusions and I am still grasping attachments which are shadows. Silly me, perhaps I need a smack…

Amituofo