published June 4, 1996
Cover Image by Don Ed Hardy
The oversight of the first wave of Western Zen and East-West culture enthusiasts in the 1950s and Sixties was its neglect of the basic Asian example by which Self-realization is achieved: Practice. Practice means following a regular path. A true path is learned only sketchily from books; it requires a teacher. Acquiring mastery ourselves involves acquiescing to the example of one knowledgeable in the path we wish to tread. In agreeing to follow the teacher’s example we offer our tacit approval of the means of instruction he or she employs. In essence, we submit.
Submission is problematic for Westerners. It is hard to call another “Master.” The West is a highly individualistic civilization; from our early years we are educated to cherish the Self and not to surrender it on pain of annihilation. Spiritual submission though does not involve “surrender.” We can view it as an alchemical reaction in the way that clay submits to the potter in order to become an urn, or that gold submits to the forge to emerge as a chalice.
The most comic part of the process is the discovery of how effortless the correct path really is. Hard work we go through to achieve what is really only a small and simple reward! Enlightenment after all is no big thing: the real challenge as three thousand years of mystics remind us lies in simple everyday living. The reward, however, is astonishing: The Great Jewel of Thanks. — Trevor Carolan, On Mastery
Peace or war? This is really the ongoing dilemma that has persisted throughout the entire history of humanity. Across the centuries, throughout the unlimited development of literature, millions of pages have been dedicated to the subject of peace, to the vital necessity of its defense. People have always understood that, as Lord Byron said, “War endangers both the roots and the crown.” But at the same time wars have continued unchecked. In most cases, when disputes and conflicts arise, reasonable arguments have receded in the face of arguments favoring brute force. Furthermore, the legal norms elaborated in the past and still existing until recent times considered war to be the legal way to do politics.
Throughout the Orient the white, crimson-headed Sarus crane is known to be heaven-sent. Unlike the West, where cranes, storks, herons and the ibis are traditionally sacred as bringers of life — delivering new babies into the world and nesting in the chimneys of happy homes — in Asia they ferry departed souls to the eternal realm. Because it mates for life, the white crane is also revered as a symbol of domestic felicity and conjugal love. More significantly, it is one of five principal animal models studied in the martial arts.
Orthodox histories of the shakuhachi generally dwell upon the evolution of this five-hole bamboo flute in its later manifestations, after reaching the shores of Japan near the end of the 7th C. A six-hole, end-blown instrument that originated during the Tang Dynasty in China is thought to be an early forerunner of the modern shakuhachi. Its reedy voice can be discerned in gagaku, the orchestral music of the Imperial Japanese Court. Much later, during the Muromachi Period (13th-14th C), a short, single-jointed flute called the hitoyogiri (also thought to have emerged through China or southwestern Asia) gained popularity amongst a class of beggar priests.
I have lived the past twenty-four years of my life as a federal prisoner with the Bureau of Prisons’ number 35316-136 appended to my name. For those of you who have never been inside a maximum security penitentiary, it might be difficult, if not impossible, to imagine it as a place where the plaintive sounds of shakuhachi can be heard. Ah! But it is true.
Isang Yun’s position in contemporary music is too often allowed to rest on an unfortunate episode of history. By 1967, Yun had settled in Berlin. He had constructed a career as a respected composer. He was a frequent visitor to Darmstadt and other major contemporary music festivals. He was well-known as a teacher. Then he was suddenly arrested. Abducted by the South Korean regime, he was repatriated, imprisoned and sentenced — on charges of sedition and treason — to life. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to ten years. Then, after a petition signed by Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Boulez, Otto Klemperer and others, he was released after just two.
The Journey East logo describes it as “a cooperative of artists, musicians and scholars from China, Japan, Korea and Russia,” but it really is more an idea, or set of ideals, than an organization. It’s a belief that the creative energies and imaginative spirits of the arts can bring people together in a positive way while clearly demonstrating an internationally-minded Asian solidarity that is so essential for a peaceful future.
Every time we straighten a picture frame, reorganize the cutlery drawer or reposition a cushion for a guest, we perform tiny heroic acts of purification and initiation that stabilize psychic life. In Japan, this is ritually performed on a monumental scale through the practice of Shinto shrine reconstruction. The Grand Shrine at Ise, which is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-Omikami, has been rebuilt at twenty-year intervals sixty-one times since 690. This act of destruction is simultaneously a way of bracketing a generation and ensuring that time-honored practices are preserved.
The Mitsubishi Boycott Campaign –
“To observe businessmen who come to Burma with the intention of enriching themselves is somewhat like watching passers-by in an orchard roughly stripping off blossoms for their fragile beauty, blind to the ugliness of despoiled branches, oblivious of the fact that by their action they are imperilling future fruitfulness and committing an injustice against the rightful owners of the trees.” — Aung San Suu Kyi
Kyoto people, I think, are not aware of what is really great about their culture, because they are flattered when people say, “Kyoto is great!” They are not aware of the fundamentals of the civilization in Kyoto; from what origin the good things in Kyoto were born. Not only in the historical sense, but also in a grander sense; Kyoto was born from various fundamental elements, such as a certain view of nature, what it means to be a human being, and why humans create such a culture… The raison d’etre will not be clear until people become aware that Kyoto was born within a global network. Kyoto people are not aware of that because they have managed to do OK within a narrow range of tiny details; however, it will not be OK anymore, I think.
In the arrival lobby of the Osaka airport Billy Simms waited for the frosted-glass doors to slide open and for his mother, Claire, to appear. It hadn’t been his idea for her to visit him, and if Billy had his wish she would be back home in Alabama that very minute, but wishing made nothing happen. At least he could show his mother what he had learned about Japan.
The word ‘fuzei’ is usually understood to mean “taste,” “flavor,” or “elegance.” But if we tease out the individual meanings of its two characters, a more subtle sense can be invoked — a breeze of feeling.
Other Side River: Contemporary Japanese Women’s Poetry, by Ed. and trans. Leza Lowitz & Miyuki Aoyama — Taylor Mignon
Peace and its Discontents, by Edward Said — Philip Grant
The Book of Happiness, by Bo Yin Ra — John Koerner