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...just thought I'd share a little directionality I've been wondering about...
The Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada, which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much an outlet for teachings of the Pure Land flavor, published a little yellow paperback in 1995 entitled, The Prajna Paramita - Heart Sutra, translated by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Tsang, with commentary by Grand Master T'an Hsu.
In the glossary of this book, the term "Dharani" is defined as, "Extended mantra used in esoteric branch of Buddhism to focus and expand the mind. Its words, or sounds, should not communicate any recognizable meaning."
Now, I find this pretty interesting.
As one who has been involved with Buddhist mantra for many years, and knowing that lamas are always saying that they don't know what many mantras mean, it came into my mind that the use of the shakuhachi may rightly be considered a link between the more tangible aspects of Dharma practice and those levels of refined mental/spriritual activity which transcend "recognizable meaning." In other words, playing a shakuhachi is a very refined form of Dharani... a mantra refined beyond language... other than the sheer language of sound.
Also, I'd like to point out that the Pure Land systems are concerned with staying focused on nembutsu, the repetition of the name of Amitabha... and if we were to recognize a link between the Buddha name and the silent twirling of a flower before the eyes of Kashyapa, then the shakuhachi just might be the perfect vehicle to do this, and also bridging any percieved gap between Pure Land and Zen.
This therefore elevates the use of the shakuhachi to the level of extremely refined nembutsu, and for those who seek rebirth in Amida's Western Paradise, the use of the shakuhachi might take one to the highest levels.
Some of us may have already intuited something like this, but I just thought I'd articulate it a little bit.
Your intuition is at work and you'll need to keep it intuiting away to get at a working definition of sound for yourself now. There has been the perspective in regards to Darahni/mantra chanting and sound, the idea that SOUND(s) are living entities for a long time. 'Sound', is one dimensional in nature and therefore is seen as the essence of everything. To have these 'sounds' inside you is supposed to be healthy. In an objective point of view, they vibrate through your organs making them healthier, add support and balance to the central nervous system and every other system in the body. In a different point of view, they ARE your organs at the time your are chanting or playing. You are just adding some juice (or KI) to what already exists. In other words, every cell is chanting away from it's own state of consciousness. To accept such a view of sound, through one's experience, of course, is to begin to realize that the capacity of the viewpoint and the reality of sound are one and the same, at least for a moment, till your experience adds something new to the working definition you have of sound. This will keep determining the functionality of sound itself for you. In other words, you play or chant, you experience, you define accordingly to experience, (not according to western precepts of sound), and then continue to experience anew based on the definition.Of course this all happens in a split/split/split second. And the only way to be self referencial in this manner is during the activity of playing or chanting. The definition may evolve into use of sound as a nembutsu. This gets into the area of INTENTION being tied up with the newly found awareness as a result of a goal oriented question and answer session with yourself. This also brings in RESPONSIBILITY: OH NO! To chant is to be involved in the creation of these and yet also to be able to experience them at the same time; something beyond subject/object duality (am I the subject or the object? ) therefore having no distinction between sound and consciousness. One can experience there being no difference between the two but when you go to talk about it the logical gears start turning to put out words to appease the mind that one normally uses. So. a good question for beginners and everyone is always, "what is sound"? But don't ask a teacher. It's not real unless you answer itself from your own experiences. It may not result in something for public consumption either.
For me, it's healthy & respectful to take the viewpoint that I don't really know why someone else actually plays shakuhachi since I don't know the specifics of what they are experiencing, how the perceive this, how they tie it in to this worldly life, etc., etc. That gives room for everyone to do their thing.
I hope that this post will not confuse people but I felt that some of the terms that have been referred to needed to be detailed and explained so that we could have a better grasp of what Buddhist concepts we are dealing with in this topic and bring more clarity to the place and us of those concepts in relation to Shakuhachi.
Nen 念: 1. To recall, remember 2. To think intently, fix one’s thought. 3. Thought. 4. A thought-moment; a moment.
Nenbutsu 念佛: ‘Thought of the Buddha.’ 1. Meditation on the Buddha. 2. Recitation of Amida’s name i.e. to say ‘Namu Amidabutsu*’ 南無阿弥陀佛, which means ‘Homage to Amida Buddha’. 3.Refers to Nenbutsu-Shu* 念佛宗, the Nenbutsu sects, i.e. the Pure Land sects, such as Jodo-Shu,* Jodoshin-Shu* and Yuzu-nenbutsu-Shu*; it particularly refers to the Jodo Sect.
Shingon 真言: Sanskrit: Mantra 1. A syllable, word, or phrase, which contains a mystic truth. 2. The Shingon sect; see Shingon-Shu.
~ Darani –陀羅尼: Sanskrit Mantra Dharani; mystic words and phrases, a spell.
Tariki 他力: ‘The other-power’; refers to the power of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva, especially Amida Buddha, as opposed to the aspirants own power Jiriki.
Jiriki 自力: ‘One’s own power’; refers to the practitioner’s own power, as opposed to the power of a Buddha.
The main reason why I added the definition of Tariki and Jiriki is actually because since the terms Dharani and Nenbutsu where actually discussed in a possible relation with the Shakuhachi practice. I would say that there could be tow main factions that could be presented here on how it could be used within the Shakuhachi context.
When reading a Dharani or Chanting the Nenbutsu we actually try to focus ourselves in order to gain contact with some mystical truth/entity and sometimes petition and ask for multiple merits for other people. So in this case we are dealing with Tariki. Bear in mind that this is not the only way to see this since there is also the visualization part in which this does not involve 100% Tariki.
So basically when doing Shomyo, Mantra or Dharani we can either be trying to connect to some special energy or just trying to focus and visualize those entities in ourselves. So this can lead to different approaches and uses of those concepts in the Shakuhachi practice of someone who tries to have his Buddhist path linked with it.
Now for just sheer visualization outside of Buddhism. My first Teacher Masumoto Yoshio when referring to Honkyoku told me one day that it has to be like a painting that you are making in your mind and since the beauty of the painting cannot be totally expressed by word your challenge is to put out sounds that will touch the heart of the audience at a deeper level than just music. For example when talking about Tamuke he was telling me to imagine from the first lines of the song some old lady naked dressing up in her kimono and going out of the house, when she is out picture her walking in the mountain roads very slowly since she is old and has a hard time walking, picture her thinking of her young age and happiness with her family etc. Then when the end comes picture her kneeling in front of the tombstone of her husband doing Gassho being taking away by a great fog the great he told me should refer to the last line of Tamuke.
So since that day this is what I try to picture and refine when I play Tamuke.
Hope this post helped clarify some Buddhist concepts and open the door to more insight from others.
Gishin, thanks for the vocabulary. I'm sure your post was "post confusion" since it followed mine. I forgot about the Tariki /Jiriki words. Buddhism became the eyeglasses that I used predominately at an early age to view my experiences with but sometimes I forget I'm wearing the spectacles! Your explanation of Tariki is useful for explaining what I wanted to say about putting your energy into some form with intention, such as chanting Nembutsu, etc.
The story about the old lady and Tamuke is on the Tariki side of things. I wonder if this was his mother? If someones leaves this world that is part of you then you can remember them and it will become Jiriki and be VERY personal and intimate.
Last edited by chikuzen (2007-08-01 08:51:03)
Going back to the visualization that Masumoto gave me about Tamuke and his general advice about playing Honkyoku as if we were doing a painting in our mind I started to think that he might have picked up this way of thinking from a part in the Kegon Kyo.
Here is further info on the Kegon Kyo.
Japanese Name: Kegon Kyo
Chinese Name: Huáyán Jīng
Sanskrit Name: Avatamsaka Sutra
English Name: Flower Adornment Sutra
Since he was quite knowledgeable about Buddhism I suspect he took part of his mind Painting concept from a part of the Kegon Kyo used by the Hosso School.
The name of the part in Romaji is: Kegonkyo Nyorai Rin Bosatsu Yui Shinge.
The English Translation I have done of this part goes like this. Sorry if it is cryptic and if anybody has a better way of translating it please correct my mistakes.
The Heart (Spirit/Soul) is like a painter who draws all kinds of beautiful patterns.
Everything in this world is created by the principle of the universal law.
The human spirit and the Buddha are as one.
The Buddha and all human beings are as one.
The spirit, Buddha and all human beings are 3 separate concepts but are really as one.
All the Buddhas know that all concepts are creations of the human spirit.
If we explain the Dharma in this way everybody can meet the true Buddha within his or her heart.
The body is not the spirit, and the spirit is not the body.
All these are concepts that do not exist outside the human spirit.
If you want to truly understand the Buddhas in the 3 worlds.
You should understand this theory:
It is the human spirit that created all the Buddhas, Gods etc….!!!!!
when talking about Tamuke he was telling me to imagine from the first lines of the song some old lady naked dressing up in her kimono and going out of the house, when she is out picture her walking in the mountain roads very slowly since she is old and has a hard time walking, picture her thinking of her young age and happiness with her family etc. Then when the end comes picture her kneeling in front of the tombstone of her husband doing Gassho being taking away by a great fog the great he told me should refer to the last line of Tamuke.
This is such a heartening, romantic approach! Very inspiring. Painting with tone. Thank you:) -kerry