Hold It All

Category: Japan

Meditations

 

 

Written in the Margins of Ginsberg’s “Why I Meditate”

There are 10,000 reasons
to meditate (at least)

There are 10,000 beings
to save (for starters)

There are 10,000 demented states of consciousness
to purify (carpe diem)

There are 10,000 dreams
to snap out of (thank Buddha)

There are 10,000 ways
to befriend ourselves (go slowly)

There are 10,000 opportunities in 24 hours
to wake up (let’s do it) Read the rest of this entry »

Totally Alive

A book I am most looking forward to reading is not due to be published until November 10th of this year.  The title:  Sarasvati’s Gift: The Autobiography of Mayumi Oda–Artist, Activist, and Modern Buddhist Revolutionary.  Although I had been exposed to her artistic work back in the late 80s in some of Nhat Hanh’s earliest books with Parallax Press, I was reminded of her at the turn of this year when reading Kazauaki Tanahashi’s Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis. (Some of you have received excerpts of this from me via the mail.)  He dedicated his inspiring book to Mayumi.  Eager to learn more about her, I  then read  Divine Gardens: Mayumi Oda  and the San Francisco Zen Center.  To provoke your interest in her forthcoming  autobiography —I’d like to bring together people to read her book and Kaz’s—here are a few testimonies from  people associated with the Zen Center about Mayumi…

 I think that her Buddhist practice and having grown up under very difficult circumstances in Japan greatly influence the work. She has always had a deep commitment to the peace movement, having experienced the ramifications of nuclear warfare—the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the firebombing of Tokyo and the Japanese cities. Those images never leave you. Buddhist practice gives one a way of putting some of these experiences in a  deeper context.  —Renee Des Tombe

… I understood how modern and original Mayumi’s work was in contrast to traditional Buddhist images. I realized how rebellious she must have been to paint the goddess in this way—it was such  big step away from traditional subjects and methods of painting. There’s such a vibrancy and playfulness to her work that goes against the formal tradition. —Audrey Halle Read the rest of this entry »

Art = Survival

I had my second son Jeremiah in 1970. Between taking care of two children and the house, I had very little time to create. I felt like I was going to lose myself. Out of desperation, my art became a survival force. Without creating art, I couldn’t be myself. The children forced me to see myself as positive and strong. Through creating Goddesses, I became stronger. Art was a means of survival.

Goddesses are a projection of myself, my desire and my dreams. They help me to see who I am and who I want to be. Through my creative process, I have been creating myself.

–Mayumi Oda, Goddesses, 1988

Share the Wealth with Justin Lorenz: Shinkansen, Onsen, & Zen–Japan from the Inside

Allow me to take you on a train ride from Tokyo down to Nagasaki and back, as I did in Japan for three fascinating weeks last fall. Encounter my promotional campaign for the “Pocari Sweat” beverage, make laundry detergent with the L’Arche community in the Shizuoka farmland, visit the lake town of Fujikawaguchiko where I have family residing (and climb Fuji-san), take in “Kirishitan” (underground Christian) and atomic bomb history, check out the firefighting competitions and love hotels of Tokyo, and be changed in even more ways. I’ll welcome stories about Japan that others bring to share as well.

Justin is a Cincinnati native, St. Louis transplant, recreational poet and broomball player, and explorer of worlds inside and outside his lanky 30-something year old body. He studied Social Work and Public Admin at SLU and has spent most of his adult life in L’Arche communities in St. Louis, Mexico, and Florida, where people of diverse abilities befriend and transform each other. He is currently aspiring to manage L’Arche St. Louis’s physical spaces and finances and attempting to charm his way through Missouri’s formidable state bureaucracy.

Join us
Sunday 16 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Justin begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Ellen Curry and Cami Kasmerchak
4256 Botanical Avenue
Apartment #5 [Third Floor]
Saint Louis, MO
63110

All Part of the Great Life Force

Mayumi Oda, I Opened the Gate, Laughing: An Inner Journey

Mayumi’s inner journey meant getting divorced from her husband (John Nathan) and reconnecting with the Buddhism of her youth, as well as finding her path through gardening and connecting to the earth. This book has many colorful prints of her garden, fruits and vegetables (radishes, cabbages), other creatures (frogs, spiders, and insects) and strong women role models, aka goddesses (Green Tara).

I realize I first encountered Mayumi back in the late 80s and early 90s when I was reading the first books of Thich Nhat Hanh published through Parallax Press; she contributed the drawings. In addition to revisiting and enjoying them, I will continue to reflect on the following passages from I Opened the Gate, Laughing

We both maintained exciting professional lives in NY. Life was very exhilarating, but somehow it didn’t make much sense to me.

Everything I have done is in the service of Gaia’s garden.

My heart was calm and my eyes were open.

Many times I felt like a failure at living my life.

My heart still pounds with the mystery of this blossoming out of wet, black soil. Read the rest of this entry »

Japaneseness

In the 90s, phrases like “global village” and “global economy” were increasingly common. The technologies that have emerged since then allow us incredible possibilities of connecting and learning.

Think … besides anime, what do we as US people know about Japanese culture?
Are we so collectively refined that we don’t need examples of fūryū?

Does kenjō seem irrelevant to the greatest nation on earth?

Would we be impressed by a person who exhibits deep gyō? Read the rest of this entry »

Trying To Be One-Pointed

In the autumn, on retreat at a mountain temple

Although I try
to hold the single thought
of Buddha’s teaching in my heart,
I cannot help but hear
the many crickets’ voices calling as well.

–Izumi Shikibu
Translated by Jane Hirshfeld, with the aid of Mariko Aratani, The Ink Dark Moon

What’s Possible

1.
If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an “artless art” growing out of the unconscious. D.T. Suzuki

The inward work, however, consists in his turning the man he is, and the self he feels himself and perpetually finds himself to be, into the raw material of a training and shaping whose end is mastery.

Steep is the way to mastery. Often nothing keeps the pupil on the move but his faith in his teacher, whose mastery is now beginning to dawn on him. He is a living example of the inner work, and he convinces by his mere presence.

Those who do not know the power of rigorous and protracted meditation cannot judge the self-control it makes possible. At any rate the perfected Master betrays his fearlessness at every turn, not in words, but in his whole demeanor: one has only to look at him to be profoundly affected by it. Unshakeable fearlessness as such already amounts to mastery, which, in the nature of things, is realized only by the few.

Every Master who practices an art molded by Zen is like a flash of lightning from the cloud of all-encompassing Truth. This Truth is present in the free movement of his spirit, and he meets it again, in “It,” as his own original and nameless essence. He meets this essence over and over again as his own being’s utmost possibilities, so that the Truth assumes for him—and for others through him— a thousand shapes and forms.

— Eugen Herrigel, Zen and the Art of Archery Read the rest of this entry »

Transmitting Beauty

Donald Keene, Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan
Columbia University Press, 2008

The first sentence of George Steiner’s first book (on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) reads: “Literary criticism should arise out of a debt of love.”  Donald Keene’s fascinating  Chronicles of My Life tells the story of his love for Japanese literature over many decades. A few selections from the book point to his ardent commitment to reading, writing, and teaching.

____________________

When I think back on my life, it is clear that luck, rather than any decision made after long deliberation, has governed my life. The accident of sitting next to a Chinese in an undergraduate class awakened an interest in his country and later in all of East Asia, which has grown with the years until it is now the most important part of my life. The outbreak of the Pacific War, just at a time when I had begun to study Japanese, determined my whole life.

 Japanese, which at first had no connection with my ancestors, my literary tastes, or my awareness of myself as a person, has become the central element of my life.

For me, the complicated way in which Japanese is written was one of its chief attractions. In fact, if Japanese were written in roman letters, I probably would not have felt the urge to conquer its difficulties. 27 Read the rest of this entry »

Three Questions

Gregg Krech, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace,  and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (Stone Bridge Press, 2001)

I learned of Naikan through consulting the bibliography of Patricia Ryan Madson’s book, Improv Wisdom.  Therein, she cited books on Constructive Living by  David K. Reynolds, and Gregg Krech’s manual on this “Japanese art of self-reflection,” which was the brainchild of Ishin Yoshimoto.

On retreats in Japan, one is encouraged to answer three questions about the most important people in our lives, typically beginning with one’s mother:
What have I received from my mother?
What have I given my mother?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused my mother?
The aim is to be factual, detailed and specific as possible in addressing the questions. Read the rest of this entry »