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
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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.

Terra Zen


Terra Zen

 
This is a new term I have coined. There I standing Zen, motion Zen, SuiZen. I am now referring to gardening as earth meditation. Maybe it should be Terra Fauna Zen. Hmmm. Doubt if it matters.

It is that time of the year for planting here at Osaka Lohan Buddhist Hermitage.

I am actually almost done. Having tested things for the last several years I know what I can grow and plant according. Kale, Tomatoes, basil, Shiso, peppers, lettuce, are the main crops. With a few herbs here and there. I am also keeping it down to 1 plant per pot this year mostly. The multi in one pot did not seem to work well. Therefore growing several plants of the same in different containers is my next step. Hopefully, that will increase my harvest. Another thing I am doing different this year is by using chicken manure instead of fish emulsion. In just a couple of weeks, a couple of the plants have really taken off.

 

There is a simple pleasure and peace about growing one’s own foods, even if just a small amount. Care for the plants, nurturing them. It’s all very Zen. Of course, everything is Chan. It is everyday life. Even though I am working on a tiny balcony garden, I feel like I am in my mountain field. Just outside the temple grounds doing my Zen work practice for the day. I can for certain can feel a connection to the earth and nature when doing gardening. We are all part of the same source-ness. It is that same type of feeling form doing ceramic working with clay. I understand how the Late Roshi at Chozenji would include that as part of their curriculum. If I had such a Place I would have. Chan ding ( Zazen), Ceramics, Gardening, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Shakuhachi, Tea. It was a dream at one time to have such a retreat on an island in Japan.

 

I never dreamed when I was a child on my grandparent’s farm helping in the garden behind the house, I would be in Japan growing in my little home garden. Life is interesting, things we carry from Childhood into another time. I was just getting started at that time in life and now I am putting the wraps on it. Interesting.

A Garden is one thing I found to be missing from Chozenji grounds. Unlike Sonoma Mountian Zen center which has their own garden and most of the vegetable dishes are prepared from that.

Anywho…the Hermitage garden is off to a good start. Soon the bug wars will start…not fun.

 

…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

Return to Paradise – My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun

My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun
My next stop for Sat which was a two-part adventure was to visit the home temple of my Chan sect in the States. Hsu Yun Chan temple. This is where my late Abbot was ordained. I wanted not only wanted to visit there but to pray for my departed clan members. My Zen/Chan teacher and my Abbot who ordained me.

I made my way to the temple which turned out to be on the same street as the Kyudo group’s meeting place. When I approached the temple I could hear chanting and prayers being said in Chinese. Ohhh. I hope I will not be Interrupting something, I thought. I could see people inside walking around in a ceremony, I could see a couple of people outside taking pictures and one person involved in the ceremony doing some filming with an iPad. Earlier I saw someone with a phone camera outside taking pictures. So I figured it was ok to take pictures and walk around. I would, however, try to be low key about it. Which is kind of funny when one thinks about it. A Black guy hanging around a Chinese temple taking pictures, being low key!! hahaha. Not disruptive, and respectful as possible would be a better thought, wording.

I walked up the main steps as walking on rice paper. I hung back from the doors, yet, even so, I was out in the open and got looks as the line inside walked past the open doors, as I made my way up the stairs. Just observing, trying to be small. I slowly walked around the outside. In a moment of boldness and a break in the line, I took a few quick pictures. Thinking to myself this listed as a sort of tourist place, people come to see the temple, so I should not be so self-conscious. I slowly walked around the front grabbing a few shots of the building.

I walk around to the side, as I am starting to feel the call of nature. I spotted a woman just sitting on a chair by the steps, looking like she was just relaxing or waiting for someone. I asked her in Chinese if she spoke English? She looked at me like I just landed from the moon. Sort of like when some people of color say they get the blank look when they speak Japanese to a Japanese. Perhaps she was in shock that I spoke to her in Chinese. So I asked in English where is the toilet? She snapped to awareness and smiled and gave me directions. I thanked her and bowed in Gassho, she smiled.

I walked around to the side and saw more buildings, smaller, and they also were open and no people, nice I thought. After making my pit stop I went exploring. I went into the first one and saw it was some kind of memorial hall I am guessing for the departed souls. There were a lot of plaques on the wall and an Altar in the center of the floor, with a stand, marked offerings. Ok, cool this would be easy enough. I went in slowly, checking things out grabbed a few pictures and went up to the altar. I did the multi-bows thing and finished up. I moved on to the next building. It was the same. However, there was a man sitting outside. I wondered would he say something about me being there. I went by him with my palms together and bowed. He returned the bow and motion. Something I did not get from the Young Priest guy at ChoZenji, in fact maybe from anyone there except one person who was just on a stay there. It is felt in Japan if you bow to someone and they do not return it is rude. I also did not get it from the monks there at the temple when they looked at me from inside the temple. In their defense they were busy. I am guessing they also just saw some strange black tourist dude, watching the show. Still… Anyway…I digress.

I continued into this building, it was open and had misc food on trays and bags on the floor. It also had groups of birds eating stuff off the offering trays around the room. I did a repeat of actions of the first building and departed.

Now I went up to the rear of the main building, again took pictures. Next went around to the front of the main building. I watched more and made my way around to the other side. Many eyes watching. I am not sure what they were doing at that point. Not walking around still singing and chanting which had been going on the whole time I was there, even before I arrived because I could hear them when I was still up the street.
I walk around now with palm facing. I watch some of the proceedings from the other side of the building at the open door. I couple of the monks who are doing the ceremony look at me, I bow, they continue with they are doing, chanting and beating on a drum. I think hummm, kind of rude, but this is not Japan.

I head down the stairs on the other side, I had seen another open set of doors when I was first coming up. Some kind of lower level room. I walk by and peek in. It is mostly empty except for a couple of Nuns. I notice there is a small library of books and statues in a corner. There are several Altars. and some chairs and kneeling benches as in the other building. Ok, I figure it must be ok to go in here. I go to each of the Altars and make full bows. Another nun enters, I continue. No one says anything or gives me more than a brief look. I figure I am ok. I take a few pictures and look at the photos on the wall. A couple of other Nuns come and go. No one says anything. I leave, I am considering looking into one more building I saw, I am unsure it kind of looks like a kitchen area or something. I start to walk as someone comes out of there. She sees me and comes over to me as she is walking by. Are you here to see the temple, she asks in English. I say yes and show her a print out of the clergy on our sect’s webpage. I point to the Master, she says yes that is him. I point out my late teacher, she says I do not know her. I explain why I am here and to pray. She says yes, go inside and pray. She says there are people up there, go in and join them, they are praying. I say thank you. However thinking, no way will I just walk in there. I do not know what is going on. I will just hang outside and observe.

I did that, taking a spot just offset from the door, but I could see, I could also be seen. When the group bowed, I bowed, I stood palm together, quietly. Now inside the were taking something off the wall and stuffing it into a large trash can. Then the group came outside. I stepped back, but still stayed, now standing with the group. I watched, the can was taken down to the parking lot and the insides set ablaze. I knew what was happening and spiritually became part of it standing off to the side, a part of, yet apart. The group afterward went back in. Then the monks left out the side door along with many others leaving by front and side doors. I am thinking ok it is done. I can go inside once everyone leaves.

It is then I am approached by a man. Who says something I could not understand. He is handicapped. I reposed in Chinese “I speak English”. He nods and says something else. It took me a moment to understand his English because of his voice deformity. He asked something that sounded like are you from Tibet? Are you something-something, I had on my Kyosho at this point, when I had come to stand outside because I wanted to be seen as not just another looky-lo tourist. I had something to do with Buddhism.

Ok, so the guy is talking, much of it I am not getting. I am thinking he is nice but maybe just a bit mental. I cannot be rude and just blow him off so I try to listen and understand. I am starting to get something about the Dahli Lama visiting and also some other ranking Buddhist Monks. Did I see them I was asked? No, I said I missed that. He continues. Then I am getting to understand I can come inside and sit. Hesitantly I do that. I ask, may I go to the main Altar to pray? He says no, but here where he is pointing is ok. I thank him and do the Chinese full formal bows. I kneel, bow, then open and raise both palms. Three times I do this. When I am finished, he comes again. He now takes me around to each of the smaller Altars and explains what each of the Buddha’s represents. I full bow at each. We make our way around the main hall, with him explaining as we go. He waiting while I do respects at each. We are back to the main hall and floor. He is explaining now about the three main Buddhas and their function and colors and meanings and some other things that I was not quite getting. The Monks return, he says something about me to them, they smile, and nod a bow, the ladies seated in the hearing range also smile nicely and nodding their heads. A kind smile, like welcome not like a weird smile. Another ceremony starts. The guy leaves me and returns to where he was in the beginning. I stand off to the side and follow along, chanting the sounds but not the words. I do this for a while then slowly make my way back to the other side of the hall stopping at a couple of the Altars to bow again and grab a few snapshots. I am ready to slip out the door. The guy that greeted me was there, also the woman who told me where that toilet was there. I bowed, they bowed. Then I figured I would take one last picture of the Altar of Kwan Kung. The guy motioned that I could go over to it to take the picture, while he still stood as part of the now started chanting and ceremonies group. I did so then make my way out the door bowing, they bowed in return. Chinese I have encountered tend to be much nicer once they know who you are. Some say they are much more real, some Japanese come off as nice at first but it is a fake nice. This has been told to me by Japanese. There is an old song that comes to mind. “Smiling Faces they sometimes tell lies”

Outside I am thinking …

WOW! That was a trip!
Amituofo!!

A link to the full photo album for this post can be seen here:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Yav8hFujrgMcd9Af7

Return to Paradise…finally Kyudo

Once again, I just killed time in the hotel. A little Tv, and some napping, well, a lot sleeping. I was surprised at how much napping. I think I went out and did a little shopping for some misc stuff. Nothing important at all, it was just a kicking back day. Waiting to go to visit the Hawaii Kyudokai.

Finally, the time came and I set out again on the bus. Bus rides give one the real view of the locals, not the well off, or the very comfortable. The bus has everyday people. The Kyudokai was located in the Soto mission. I am not sure if it was a Soto Zen temple or just what it was, maybe just some kind of school, or academy just named Soto.
Anyway, I found the place with not too much effort. The Kyudo Kai club was meeting in the basement of the community center. When I entered I was approached by a couple of people. It took me a while to explain who I was and who I had spoken too. I dug up the email, Someone named “Ai” via email and an introduction through other Kyudo friends. I was told by the elder there I could change and join the group.

I was told early by the person I had spoken with via email that there was a special second part of a beginners class being held that night. I would not get to shoot the indoor distance range they had set up most likely, but I could use the Makiwara! Ok, I figured it was better than nothing. More so since the shooting at ChoZenji seems unlikely, with the Master out of town and them really doing western archery. So, while I was changing I found out the person I had spoken with was a girl. A very energetic young lady I was told, who arrived while I was changing. When I came out we met. She was Japanese, and very nice, a happy sort of person. We exchanged greetings and I also spoke with another Japanese lady and some guy. People were nice, I was asked by a couple of people if I had shot before. I simply said yes in Japan, I still practice there. Ohh, was their surprise.

Class started we lined up and I was pleased and surprised to find they did a few minutes of meditation before shooting. Ahhh, it was like the old days back shooting with the Shibata group and Rick Beal Sensei’s group. I liked it. Next, there were announcements, I was one of them. A visitor from Japan, would I do a demo? Ehhhhhh! Not expecting that, reluctantly I said ok.

Then more talking and answering questions which were submitted from the newbies. Ai-Chan was a good leader, she explained things well and very down to earth. I found out later she was not a Renshi, which I thought but a Yondan. The only Sensei was the elder I spoke with when entering. He though was not a Renshi with the Federation. So I am not sure where he learned. Ai-Chan I found out later from her learned in Japan, she was only in Hawaii for about 6 years. The same amount of time I had been in Japan. Sort of we traded places We laughed about that later as she gave me a ride back to the hotel.

Ok, so the explaining went on, finally another Japanese woman said to Ai-Chan it was getting late they should start the training…Ai-chan was energetic about talking.

 

However first the seniors there were going to shoot for the new folks, a demo. I was asked to shoot with Ai-Chan. Hmmmm ok. We shot last after the first group of three. I did sadly I thought. Form-wise I was ok, but my first time there… I was fairly off target, also our Tai Kai was not together. It did not matter as it was somewhat casual, and the new folks knew nothing anyway.
After that, they started to train the new people, as it turned out there was so many I did not have a bow to use the Makiwara. I Just sort of missed out, the theme mostly for the trip it seemed.

Having no bow, I just stayed off to the side in front of the mirror and practice with my imaginary Yumi. Watching my shoulders. Feeling my alignment, making the best of the time…yup, rolling with it!

Then the class was over.  A few people who had not earlier came over and asked me questions. Curious about me and Japan and how that happened. Friendly sort of stuff. Like I get in Japan but the reverse. I replied as we cleaned up to close for the night. I changed and meet up with a few of the old members in the parking lot. I was getting a ride to the hotel by Ai-Chan and we all just chatted in the lot. I was invited over for shooting at one of the member’s private dojo on Sunday. Cool, I thought, finally I can get some shooting in. I was not going to get the help with corrections I wanted but,  I would get to hang out and shoot. That was the next best thing.

So finally I was able to return to the hotel feeling pretty good about the trip. So far it had been meh and fairly disappointing. The training at Chozen was not what I had planned, or that interesting, interesting , but not that interesting. So far nothing of what I was hoping for. I would not go back on Friday. There was a Kendo class, which had no real interest in for a one-time thing and another 45 min Zazen. I did not need an Hour plus ride in both directions, to do Zazen, which I could do at the hotel.

So Friday I just spent the day at the hotel.

That evening went out with my wife to a restaurant and did the happy hour thing with her. The PuPu ( small meal, snacks) there was pretty good, we enjoyed those with a drink.

So day 4 and 5 were Pau ( Done/finished in Hawaiian).

Return to Paradise…the Pilgrimage so far


Return to Paradise…the pilgrimage so far

 
Alohaaaa. Made it back to the islands. It was a loooonnnnngg trip. Yuk! The first day was miserable! 8 hour flight. That was not so bad, tiring, but smooth and faster than planned. We had a good tail wind I am guessing. We arrived 1.5 hours ahead of time, so really only 7 plus hours of flight. Next off to the hotel. The shuttle was way more expensive than planned or told in the guide book! Once at the hotel at 8:00am we had to wait until 3:00pm to check in. Yuk yuk yuk! We went to IHOP for breakfast! Another price shock!! Breakfast at IHOP use to be fairly cheap, maybe still is on the mainland. Not, not, not in Hawaii! More pricing shock! I was also surprised, hmmm forgot how fat Americans can be! Most of those in IHOP were as big as the native Hawaiians and Samoans here! Wow!
 
Back to the hotel afterward to sit in the lobby for the rest of the day! I was not in a good mood! Cranky! We had left our bags at the check-in in the parking lot. I had no books, no iPad, no internet! I just sat! Not the Zazen type of just sitting. I did not use the time wisely. I should have just went into a Zanzen state of mind. That would have been wiser than the irked just sitting state. Oh well… I did manage to nap a bit. I did not want to walk around the area, we were in tourist land, and I had no interest, so I just sat, breathed, sat, settled, breathed… not a happy camper. Finally decided even if it was a hassle to do for the people at the storage. I would get my hand carry bag, with my books, I could at least read. I got my bag with no hassle for them or me, and when I returned to the lobby, the room was ready! 2:00 pm …Sigh.
 
The room was ok, it was a free room due to the points my wife had, so could not complain. Noisy street view. However, free is free! Only there for two days so….oh well, roll with it. We Settled in.
 
Finally ChoZenji 
 
The next day after chilling most of the day. I located how I was to get to ChoZenji and took the bus. It was to be an over an hour ride by bus. It was different riding the bus with the locals, all kinds, all kinds, imported and domestic! Some interesting, some scary looking. Public Trans people are the same all over the world. I rode to the end of the line with the bus on the route I had. Then I had to walk about 15 min into a valley to get to the ChoZenji temple. I was early.
 
The person I had been in communication with came out to meet me. She had me fill out some form and was told I could just walk around and hang out for a while. She said she would change and come out to find me. I was told a little about the location and the small hill which was sort of the center of the grounds of two acres. It was deemed a power spot by local spiritualists!
 
I walked a bit up the hill to feel the vibe and take in the view. I took a few pictures and looked at a few of the statues. My guide came shortly and she took me around the grounds and filled me in on the history of the place and the founders. It was impressive the backgrounds of them. I was shown the shrines, the house built for former Abbot, told the story of the peace bell, and the Chinese fat monk statue. Then I was taken to a small meditation building. I was surprised I was the only one. I was told the formalities of their style of meditation. We chatted a bit then did meditation. I was surprised when she stopped us, as I was expecting 45 min but we stopped early, really only about 15 min. I was told we would now go to the main hall and join the group there. Ohhh I thought!
 
Over to the main hall, they were just finishing the setup. There were about 15 people, myself and another woman were new. The other woman said this was her second time, I heard her say when we were getting the lineup to enter the hall. She did not want to be first in line. So then we entered, bowed and seated ourselves with the formalities.
 
My meditation is usually done with eyes open, this was done with eyes partly opened. I was told so to be aware of one’s surroundings but still not be attached to them. Not sitting facing the wall, but still the half-closed eyes sitting in a square in front of a small Altar and the leader of the session.
The room grew dark as time passed, the wind blew, it was “interesting”, aware, not attached, alert, not attached. Then the lead person came around. My guide bent over and receive the stick smack. Hmmm I disliked that, but figured unless I asked I would not get hit. I was told later another time and session that it could be a choice or not. When it was not it should be viewed as an act of compassion for various reasons. The lead came in front of me, then walked behind me, then back in front of me. He adjusted my position, placed the stick behind me for alignment, adjust me more, then left. I was now much straighter, and not comfortable, but correct. So I stayed still. I was told earlier once in a position they do not move. That is part of the training. Very Japanese. In the Chinese style, if you need to adjust yourself one does so, but in a manner not to disturb the others. So I forced myself to be still, go beyond the pain, discomfort, whatever. I knew that stuff already. Ignore the itch, the loss of feeling in legs, pain in the back…become one with stillness.
It was interesting to sit with eyes open, yet lose sight of anything, watching it fade into nothingness, and snap back when I thought of it. The wind blew, the building spoke with the wind, the trees joined the song, as the rain fell. Then finally the bell, the clappers sounded and it was over. I made it. For me, it was an hour sitting, the other 45 min added to the first 15 at the other smaller Zendo. I was not sure if my leg would allow me to stand. I did so without falling, a success. I notice another person limp as we returned the mats to the stacking place.
 
The group readied the area for the Kendo class. I would not be allowed to join any classes until after my second meditation session. I was asked when I wanted to return. I said I would return tomorrow and stepped out into the night.
 
I walked back down the hill to the bus stop. It was dark and quiet. After a while, a woman comes and sits on the bench with me. She speaks, hello and then goes into her own world. I could hear her talking to herself as she wrote on a piece of paper. Hmmmm. Another one who talks to herself aloud I thought. Jheeze. She talks and writes…I ignore her.
Then it starts raining again. Oh crap, oh well. I think nothing I can do about this, other than get wet. There was a big tree across the street but no leaves hardly. The woman opens an umbrella from somewhere and slides over next to me so I am covered also. The Aloha spirit! I thank her, after a moment she says you can hold it, so I did and she returns to writing and talking. Now I can see what she is writing, it is not something readable. It was also all over the place, sideways, between lines. Totally weird! I thought hmmm oh well. I also notice that the umbrella is falling apart, spokes are broken in places. Hmmmm, oh well, just be alert, I thought. The rain stopped after a while and the bus arrived. She discarded the umbrella and boarded the bus with me and took a seat.
 
The bus, for the most part, was empty. One other person who was chatting with the driver a regular local. I made it to my stop and I got off the bus, as did the umbrella woman. We both were transferring, but she went across the street to take another bus. I waited on the opposite side since I was going in another direction.
I found my bus stop and waited. Another woman I had passed while looking for the stop was there. She was dressed lightly. She did not look so homeless like the last woman, but still for sure not uptown. She wore a dress/skirt and a shoulderless top. The wind picks up and the rain starts again. This time, we are under a covered bus stop. Still, with the wind, we felt the rain. After a short while, another woman comes up. This one is dressed casual “normal”. The wind picks up and so does the rain. The woman in the light dress reacts to the wind and rain, the new woman, who has an umbrella, looks at me and figures out we are not together and holds the umbrella in front of the other woman to shield her somewhat from the elements. She thanks her and says, it was nice when I left the house!
 
About 10 minutes later the bus arrives and we all board and ride off into the night to our different destinations. Ships passing in the night…on the same sea but different courses…Amituofo
 
 
 
Next return to ChoZenji, “the adventure” day three.
 

弓道 – The continuing long and winding road…

Long and winding road.

 
Before my eye surgery. I was starting to feel like I was making serious progress. Like things were coming together. With some tweaks here and there, I would ready for June Shinsa. A few days ago a went by the dojo. It was closed for a while due to repairs from the Typhoon. It is now re-opened. I went by, and shoot. Only a couple of people were there. For the most part other than some chit chat, I just got to practice. I did poorly. I worked at a few things, there was a slight betterment. It is not my eyes. I never really thought seriously that was the problem. However, if it did make a bit of difference with focusing. It was in my mind, due to the distraction of not seeing well. I can see clearly now, a bit of unfocus is there, but at my age it is normal. Maybe some to do with my eyes still healing. Anyway. I can see and I still do not hit! Hahahahaha
 

So Thurs I take my tired act to the dojo to practice in front of Watase Sensei, the main guy, my for real sensei. Always watching when I shoot. He is the head of our sector with the Federation although not the highest rank. Yamashita Sensei is the highest that I know of, connected to our school.
Yeah, so I arrive later than I planned. Not a problem. I thought I would just miss Sensei and just practice. Even though I wanted Sensei to check my shooting, at the same time I did not want him to. 
I am walking through the park on the last section before arriving at the dojo, I encounter a classmate, Emi-Chan. We chat a bit. She is testing for Yondan next week. She said had been practicing, there are still a few there practicing, including Watase Sensei, who was bugging her. We laughed. I understood, so it is not just me. He is always watching, correcting. It is good, but still “Urusai” ( bugsome)
Matane, we say as we walk on our ways. I go into the Dojo, greeting some long time no see friends and settle in. Sensei is busy shooting. Part of my task of the day is to restring my bow. The string broke the other day at practice, I didn’t replace it then. I do so today. Go to the side area and settle in for the task. I find out the string I am storing in case one breaks, which I did not have with me the other day. This string is not broken, but close to it, it is frayed. I did to prepare two string today. I have at it. It takes a while to do two strings. The group kept practicing, some left.
I am just about finished. Sensei comes down my side to go to the rear. We chat a bit, he askes about eye is it better now? Can train for the next Shinsa? Hai, Keiko, I say, more training!
 
I notice everyone is making ready to leave. I am asked what mato do I want to shoot? I pick one. I always have trouble with how to say. “I do not care, whatever.” I just now remember a way. Great I will use it next time.
With everyone leaving, I figure I will not change and just wear a dogi and shoot.
I warm up a bit then go out on the floor. Sensei is busy doing something with a wheel barrel going to the back area. I make ready to shoot. From the side o my eye, I can see him in the distance off to the side watching. 🙂 Arigatou sensei.
 
I continued with my shooting, badly for the next three sets of ya. I am feeling discussed with myself, but slowly trying to understand what am I doing so wrong. I make some corrections, thing improve some, bit still suck! Sensei comes over and watches, he tells me several things I am blowing. I thank him and continue to practice. I am back and forth, Makiwara to mato, Mato to Makiwara. Sensei asks me how many times do I come to the dojo, 2 times or 1 time? I say for now one, but I have a Makiwara at home I practice on. He nods.
 
I got a lot of info that day. All in Japanese of course. A lot of it, I did not understand, work for word. However, I understood the points being made. I will work on them hopefully it will bring me back up again, maybe higher.
I decided also to seek some extra help at least once. I recalled the sensei who spoke to me in English back at Kishiwada one time. I thought she was someone else, I found later just who she is, from the person I thought she was. I asked a friend at Sakai Dojo, was there a sensei Named Sato, who spoke English there. Yes. She said, bingo! I said I want to meet with her, I have spoken to her before she invited me to class me to NZ to a seminar. I want to meet with her here and look over my shooting and give me feedback, in English. In case I am missing something in Japanese. My friend says in May that Sato sensei and some other top guy from NZ will be here in May, I could speak with them both. I said great, I will contact you again after my stateside visit.
 
I have made arrangements to study a bit of Kyudo at Chozenji temple in Hawaii, also with the Hawaiian Kyudo Kai on my upcoming visit. I will also get in some Kung Fu practice time with Tai Chi Mantis family. It should be a good training pilgrimage.
That, plus meeting with these Kyudo Sensei In Sakai, and back to serious practice I should pass this summer’s Shinsa. Yosh!