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#1 2008-01-18 00:35:21

Jim Thompson
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From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Ajikan

Ajikan being a meditation of the Shingon sect, I'm curious about the historical connection between the honkyoku Ajikan and the Shingon sect. I guess I'm assuming there is one. Gishin,  this one's got your name all over it but if anybody knows.....


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#2 2008-01-18 02:24:39

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
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Re: Ajikan

Kurahashi Sensei used to say, "Ajikan is not Zen, it is esoteric Buddhism. It is like a mandala."


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#3 2008-01-18 03:20:54

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Ajikan

Tairaku wrote:

Kurahashi Sensei used to say, "Ajikan is not Zen, it is esoteric Buddhism. It is like a mandala."

As a schlubby but sincere Shingon practitioner and a shakuhachi player, that statement deeply intriques me.  I wonder if he was speaking poetically or literally. If literally, I'd like to know how to get my beak a little further into that.

Last edited by Jim Thompson (2008-01-18 03:23:25)


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#4 2008-01-18 03:48:30

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Ajikan

Ok well I dont have much time now to elaborate on the subject since I will be quite busy for the rest of January and february as well. I need to finish the room for the coming baby in May and get the Dojo construction Finished also for the end of February so managing all this plus work and priesthood it seems like I am going to blow a gasket anytime soon. Just hope to finish everything in time and get back to normal operation.

Now back to the subject. Here is a cut from the Zen and Mikkyo thread . I believe this should help clarify the Ajikan concept. Now I also suggest reading those 2 threads since there is a lot of info and good exchange on there. Now at the great rik of repeating myself. My opinion on this is that even if the Fuke-Shu were politcally linked with Rinzai many of the titles and stories that come with some of the songs have the whole Mikkyo flavor and not a Zen one. So this explains why Ajikan was used as a title. Now when Kurahashi sensei says its is like making a mandala I would like to know what he really means about this or maybe he was just being poetic about it. I will ask him next time I visit his place. As for the exact connection between Shakuahchi and Shingon well Muhon Kakushin was a Shingon priest that went to Chian i search fro Zen and was supposed to have brought back the practice of Shakuhachi as Suizen with him so I would see this as the original connection with Shingon.


http://www.shakuhachiforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=414

http://www.shakuhachiforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=643

For those interested here is the Definition of the term Ajikan from the following dictionary

A Dictionary Of Japanese Buddhist Terms 5th edition
By Hisao Inagaki
Publisher: Nagata Bunshodo
ISBN4-8162-0201-3

Page 3

Aji 阿字 the first sound, 'A', In the Sanskrit alphabet. In esoteric Buddhism, the belief is that it embodies the mystic truth, and that one who meditates on it will attain on it buddhahood.

Ajihonpusho 阿字本不生 The letter A (indicating) the originally unproduced (state of things)'; the esoteric principle that all phenomena are originally unproduced. This principle is represented by the first sound of the Sanskrit alphabet 'A'.

Ajikan 阿字観 'meditation on the letter A'; Also gatsurin-Kan* 月輪観 'Meditation on the moon-wheel', Ajigatsurin-Kan  阿字月輪観 'meditation on the letter A in the moon-wheel', etc. In this meditation a practitioner sits in the lotus or half-lotus posture with a painting of the moon in front of him which measures 16 inches in diameter and in which is drawn a lotus with eight petals;on the lotus is drawn a Sanskrit letter A in gold. He keeps meditating on the letter while uttering 'A' as he breathes in and out, until he is able to see the letter in the moon whether he keeps is eyes open or closed. Then he practices meditation on the 'A-moon' in his mind, which is the real substance of the painted 'A-moon'. When this meditation is completed, dualistic views regarding evil passions and enlightenment, the realm of birth and death and Nirvan, etc., are destroyed and Buddhahood is attained with the present body Sokushin Jobutsu 即身成佛.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#5 2008-01-18 19:00:54

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Ajikan

Gishin wrote:

when Kurahashi sensei says its is like making a mandala I would like to know what he really means about this or maybe he was just being poetic about it. I will ask him next time I visit his place.






.

I would love to hear his answer if you remember. Thanks.


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#6 2008-01-18 21:56:05

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
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Re: Ajikan

Jim Thompson wrote:

Gishin wrote:

when Kurahashi sensei says its is like making a mandala I would like to know what he really means about this or maybe he was just being poetic about it. I will ask him next time I visit his place.






.

I would love to hear his answer if you remember. Thanks.

Something about "visualization". I will send him an email.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#7 2008-01-18 22:13:11

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Ajikan

Well if it is about visualisation then it means that it has a strong connection with the Ajikan meditation from the Shingon-School. If anyone is interested in getting the stuff I would be happy to type some of the manuals I got that explain this practice. It might take some time but I can manage doing it when it is quiet here at work.

Ooops I did not realize I had edited your post instead of doing a reply.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#8 2008-01-18 23:04:55

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Ajikan

I was taught Ajikan(meditatation) 13 yrs. ago by Bishop Taisen Miyata at Koyasan Temple in Los Angeles. My curiosity was more about the possibility that the honkyoku Ajikan could used as a mandala and had some particular function as such. I can't imagine what that would be and maybe thats not exactly what Sensei meant. But if there is someway of using honkyoku as a mandala I'd like to know about that.


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#9 2008-01-18 23:39:41

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Ajikan

Well we have to remember that Kurahashi Sensei is not a Shingon priest and I strongly feel that the mandala reference is more related in the same fashion as saying this is Zen music or this is like Zen etc..

So when dealing with Mikkyo both Shingon and Tendai so many time I have heard a reference to this or that being like a mandala without any clear explanation or reference etc.

Anyway for Ajikan quite honestly I cannot see how this can really relate to a mandala. If so which mandala and how does it need to be visualized at what point in the song etc etců..

Maybe this will be abstract to others but since you have been practicing Ajikan and have had an interest for Shingon for quite some time I think you get the point I am trying to make.

Ajikan when going to the Honkyoku piece just seems to make reference to the Aji concept and thatĺs about it.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#10 2008-01-21 06:46:25

Riley Lee
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From: Manly NSW Australia
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 78
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Re: Ajikan

For what it's worth, this is a translation of some notes about certain honkyoku pieces,  which I acquired (from Sakai Chikuho II?) in the early 1970s:

Ajikan (Vision of AH): It was originally called "Sashi" but was renamed "Ajikan" in the Meiji Era, about 100 years ago. The three Chinese characters "Ah" "Ji" and "Kan" are Buddhist terms, forming a mantra. The first syllable, "AH" is the first letter of the sanskrit alphabet. It is considered to be the first sound uttered by the human mouth. It symbolizes the unproduced, impermanent, and the immaterial. It is also the first syllable of "Amitabha" the Buddha. The second syllable, "Ji", is a seed word possessing power through the thing which it is associated with. The third syllable, "Kan", means to look into, to study, to contemplate, to consider illusion. It has long been associated with yoga. "Ajikan" is also the name for the highest and most difficult of meditative practices of the Shingon Nikkyo sect of Buddhism, and is in three steps. The first step is a practice involving rhythmical breathing and chanting "AH". Step two is visualizing the sanskrit letter "AM" inside one's heart, surrounded by the eight golden lotus plants, while deep in meditation. The third step is the chanting of the mantra "HUM"

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#11 2008-01-21 07:26:10

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Ajikan

Riley Lee wrote:

For what it's worth, this is a translation of some notes about certain honkyoku pieces,  which I acquired (from Sakai Chikuho II?) in the early 1970s:

Ajikan (Vision of AH): It was originally called "Sashi" but was renamed "Ajikan" in the Meiji Era, about 100 years ago. The three Chinese characters "Ah" "Ji" and "Kan" are Buddhist terms, forming a mantra. The first syllable, "AH" is the first letter of the sanskrit alphabet. It is considered to be the first sound uttered by the human mouth. It symbolizes the unproduced, impermanent, and the immaterial. It is also the first syllable of "Amitabha" the Buddha. The second syllable, "Ji", is a seed word possessing power through the thing which it is associated with. The third syllable, "Kan", means to look into, to study, to contemplate, to consider illusion. It has long been associated with yoga. "Ajikan" is also the name for the highest and most difficult of meditative practices of the Shingon Nikkyo sect of Buddhism, and is in three steps. The first step is a practice involving rhythmical breathing and chanting "AH". Step two is visualizing the sanskrit letter "AM" inside one's heart, surrounded by the eight golden lotus plants, while deep in meditation. The third step is the chanting of the mantra "HUM"

When it comes to the Kan 観  in 阿字観  indeed it means meditation and is not unique to Shingon. In Tendai seated meditation is Called Makashikan/摩訶止観 as formulated by Zhiyi/智顗  later on reused to his own sauce in Japan by Dogen in his Shikantaza 只管打坐. Now when it comes to the Ji/字 part I dont quite get the point Sakai Chikuho is trying to make. In the word Ajikan the JI is used in the same fashion as saying KANJI/漢字 (Chinese Characters) or BONJI/梵字 (Sanskrit Characters) it only means Character since the Ajikan meditaion means to concentrate on the A syllable.

As far as the Amitabha reference yes it has the A sound but in Shingon A refers to creation so it would refer to Dainichi Nyorai/Vairocana which is way different and has a different meaning and usage than Amida.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#12 2008-01-21 17:29:22

Riley Lee
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From: Manly NSW Australia
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 78
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Re: Ajikan

Clarification: Sakai Chikuho didn't write the above-mentioned note; he just gave this to me, if I remember correctly.

In any case, the text merely observes that 'Ah' is the first syllable of Amitabha. It doesn't say that it refers to Amitabha, or implies anything else. It's interesting how we (collectively) tend to see implications that frequently are not there.

The phrase that you don't get the point of, "a seed word possessing power through the thing which it is associated with" is easy. That is, Gishin, a beautifully poetic way of describing a word that functions mainly in a grammatical sense, with little meaning on it's own, a bit like the possessive. These words can be the bane of foreign speakers, an English example being the word, 'of'. Strictly speaking of course, the word 'ji' is not a possessive, but could be considered an adjectival noun in this context.

But how boring and pedantic is that!

I like the phrase, "a seed word possessing power through the thing which it is associated with".
It makes one stop and think, "Now what the hell does that mean? Must be profound...."

Someone else (I forget who and when) told me that Ajikan also had something to do with the meditative practice of first picturing/feeling a tiny seed of a glowing, golden Buddha at the center of one's heart, then gradually expanding that image/feeling to encompass one's entire heart, then chest, then one's whole body. The image continues to grow, spreading to fill the area around one, then as far as one can see, a blinding Buddha eventually filling one's entire universe.

Finally, an interesting thing in my original note, is that Ajikan is the name that was given to a honkyoku called Sashi 薩 (Buddha), and that this occurred only 100 years ago (or 130-140 years ago from today), that is, around the end of the Edo period and the end of the Fuke sect, too. So, any relationship that the honkyoku has with its present title, Ajikan might have originally the creation of one individual's imagination.

Tukitani says that that individual was Miyakawa Nyozan. Nyozan, an ecletic komus˘ from around the time we're talking about, created Ajikan from elements of pieces that he learned from three distinct lineages, that of Higuchi Taizan of the My˘an Taizan ha,  Katsuura Sh˘zan of the My˘an Shinp˘ ryű and Hasegawa T˘gaku, a komus˘ of the ďshű lineage as transmitted at the temple Futaiken (布袋軒) in northern Japan.

Assuming Tukitani is correct, then the piece Ajikan is yet another one of those mongrel honkyoku, and a youngster at that. This contradicts that 'note' of mine, which says that the piece already existed and just got a name change. Tukitani gets around this by saying that Nyozan took the existing Sashi and added to it, to create Ajikan.

Getting back to the original question of this thread, Tukitani doesn't say if Nyozan had any connection with the Shingon sect. Back to square one.

Last edited by Riley Lee (2008-01-21 17:30:08)

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#13 2008-01-21 19:57:56

jb
Member
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 24

Re: Ajikan

Hi.

A seed syllable contains the essence of something. A meditation deity is first visualized as a syllable out of which the deity arises.

The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, for instance, exists in 80,000 lines, 8,000 lines & other forms. Then there is a form of this teaching as one syllable.

OM is one such seed syllable and you can find all kinds of explanations for it, depending on the system used to explain it.

Find a teacher if you want these teachings.

Regards,

jb

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#14 2008-01-21 21:04:37

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Ajikan

Sounds all good but the fact of the matter IS that when we begin to be poetic or try to write or define technical terms that belong to a field that we did not study in or that we never practiced it can only lead to misconceptions /misinterpretations to the general public.

I have seen this happen too many times in Martial-Arts and Shakuhachi when Master X states that this Buddhist word or concept means this and that without having a direct and tangible knowledge of the term its usage history etc. This only misinforms their students or audience and since they are Japanese or fully licensed masters people tend to believe any word they say when it comes to anything coming from Asia.

Now am I a pain in the BUTT? Most likely but my mission here is to bring clarity and explanations to Buddhist matters on this forum. Do I have the answer to anything most likely not so when I try to make it clear to the readers what is the difference between what I think and fell and true historical and technical facts.


So back to Ajikan/阿字観

So here is the definition again.

Aji 阿字 the first sound, 'A', In the Sanskrit alphabet. In esoteric Buddhism, the belief is that it embodies the mystic truth, and that one who meditates on it will attain on it buddhahood.

Ajihonpusho 阿字本不生 The letter A (indicating) the originally unproduced (state of things)'; the esoteric principle that all phenomena are originally unproduced. This principle is represented by the first sound of the Sanskrit alphabet 'A'.

Ajikan 阿字観 'meditation on the letter A'; Also gatsurin-Kan* 月輪観 'Meditation on the moon-wheel', Ajigatsurin-Kan  阿字月輪観 'meditation on the letter A in the moon-wheel', etc. In this meditation a practitioner sits in the lotus or half-lotus posture with a painting of the moon in front of him which measures 16 inches in diameter and in which is drawn a lotus with eight petals; on the lotus is drawn a Sanskrit letter A in gold. He keeps meditating on the letter while uttering 'A' as he breathes in and out, until he is able to see the letter in the moon whether he keeps is eyes open or closed. Then he practices meditation on the 'A-moon' in his mind, which is the real substance of the painted 'A-moon'. When this meditation is completed, dualistic views regarding evil passions and enlightenment, the realm of birth and death and Nirvana, etc., are destroyed and Buddhahood is attained with the present body Sokushin Jobutsu 即身成佛.

IT CANNOT BE ANY CLEARER THAN THIS.


As a Buddhist priest I cannot afford to be poetic about this. Ajikan is plain and simply this

A/阿 = Sound of A or Letter A in the Bonji/Sanskrit/梵字

JI/字 = Character

KAN/観 = Visualization

There is none of what you are stating in this part  just take each Kanji one by one as they are and you get the clearest explanation of the word itself there is no need to be creative on this one (The phrase that you don't get the point of, "a seed word possessing power through the thing which it is associated with" is easy. That is, Gishin, a beautifully poetic way of describing a word that functions mainly in a grammatical sense, with little meaning on it's own, a bit like the possessive. These words can be the bane of foreign speakers, an English example being the word, 'of'. Strictly speaking of course, the word 'ji' is not a possessive, but could be considered an adjectival noun in this context.)


Now as far as the relation or mentioning Amitabha/Amida this can only lead to the general public making reference to Amida later on. This is very misleading since again as I said previously even if the sound A is present in Amida it has NO relation to the Ajikan practice we are not talking about the practice of Nenbutsu or Visualization of the Pure land Mandala.

In Ajikan the A sound/Character relates to Dainichi Nyorai and not Amida.

Sorry to sound hard here but we need to be clear with those terms in order to start with a valid common denominator and by having this it gives us the chance to see what other teachers write say etc. with a more critical understanding and see if they really studied Shingon Zen etc.. by being able to filter by checking if they have a strong basic knowledge of terminology or if they are just saying whatever they fee or think it is based on their own assumptions.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#15 2008-01-22 13:51:35

nyokai
shihan
From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613
Website

Re: Ajikan

Riley Lee wrote:

Finally, an interesting thing in my original note, is that Ajikan is the name that was given to a honkyoku called Sashi 薩 (Buddha), and that this occurred only 100 years ago (or 130-140 years ago from today), that is, around the end of the Edo period and the end of the Fuke sect, too. So, any relationship that the honkyoku has with its present title, Ajikan might have originally the creation of one individual's imagination.

Tukitani says that that individual was Miyakawa Nyozan. Nyozan, an ecletic komus˘ from around the time we're talking about, created Ajikan from elements of pieces that he learned from three distinct lineages, that of Higuchi Taizan of the My˘an Taizan ha,  Katsuura Sh˘zan of the My˘an Shinp˘ ryű and Hasegawa T˘gaku, a komus˘ of the ďshű lineage as transmitted at the temple Futaiken (布袋軒) in northern Japan.

Assuming Tukitani is correct, then the piece Ajikan is yet another one of those mongrel honkyoku, and a youngster at that. This contradicts that 'note' of mine, which says that the piece already existed and just got a name change. Tukitani gets around this by saying that Nyozan took the existing Sashi and added to it, to create Ajikan.

This makes total sense. The Jin Nyodo version of Sashi and the Jin Nyodo version of Ajikan are very closely related musically, with Ajikan seeming like a sort of extension of the basic Sashi material, some of which is unique to those two pieces. I thought Miyakawa Nyozan was a teacher of Higuchi Taizan, but I guess that doesn't necessarily mean he couldn't get material from him.

As for the title thing, musicians in all cultures create evocative titles very loosely, without intending an exact fit with any particular technical spiritual practice.

Last edited by nyokai (2008-01-22 14:03:34)

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#16 2008-01-22 15:31:17

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
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Re: Ajikan

nyokai wrote:

This makes total sense. The Jin Nyodo version of Sashi and the Jin Nyodo version of Ajikan are very closely related musically, with Ajikan seeming like a sort of extension of the basic Sashi material, some of which is unique to those two pieces. I thought Miyakawa Nyozan was a teacher of Higuchi Taizan, but I guess that doesn't necessarily mean he couldn't get material from him.

As for the title thing, musicians in all cultures create evocative titles very loosely, without intending an exact fit with any particular technical spiritual practice.

One of my former students is studying Myoan from a Myoanji player. He learned Ajikan but the teacher calls it "Sashi".


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#17 2008-01-22 20:34:42

jeff jones
Member
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 113
Website

Re: Ajikan

The version of Sashi I am playing is very close to Ajikan in the beginning, maybe the first line and a half, but after that there are some pretty big differences. I've been learning the version written by Tomimori Kyozan who has a student of Kobayoshi Shizan's who also was a student of Higuchi Taizan's. I haven't seen Kyozan-sense's version of Ajikan, I will ask to see it the next time I'm there. To see how or if it differs from the Myoan-ji versian.


Beauty is ugly at rest

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#18 2008-01-25 17:28:52

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Ajikan

I asked Kurahashi Sensei to clarify:

His answer:

"Ajikan means Looking at a Letter of A.
It is a name of a kind of the mental trainings of Shingon Mandala Budhism."

Thanks! He is in America at the moment, everybody should try to see him if they have the opportunity.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#19 2008-01-31 01:32:27

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Ajikan

Thanks for the spirited discussion fellas. It was helpful. I'm a sucker for the playing shakuhachi as a meditation myth, but I guess common sense tells me there is entirely too much volition and mental activity in playing shakuhachi for it to be a meditation.  But a funny thing for me with Ajikan is when I finish the piece it seems to leave me noticeably more zoned out, or what ever you want to call it, than any other piece. I don't if it's the power of suggestion, the fact that the piece seems to be an extremely simple melody played in an extremely florid manner or just the fact that I've been wobbling my head around so much.  Cheers.


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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