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#1 2006-09-12 05:45:23

Harry
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Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

"...Rinzai Roku terminates with an account of master Fuke. Fuke was not a monk, nor was he a layman. Fuke's name has remained famous even until today.
A Fuke sect existed in Japan up until the Meiji revolution. In Japan at that time there existed the Obaku, Rinzai, Soto and Fuke sects.
In the Fuke sect they never practiced zazen; they practiced the flute. Fuke followers always carried a flute with them, and they entered samadhi by playing it. Before the Meji revolution, about one hundred years ago, the Fuke monks held a lot of power. They were used by the Japanese, and they became government spies. But after Meiji their sect was forbidden. Their masters continue today as shakuhachi monks. But they are not monks. They are now professors of shakuhachi. Shakuhachi is not Zen."

(from: "Sit: Zen Teachings of Master Taisen Deshimaru", edited by Phillippe Coupey, Hohm)

Regards,

Harry.


"As God once said, and I think rightly..." (Margaret Thatcher)

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#2 2006-09-12 22:01:20

shaman141
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From: Montreal, QC.
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Nice. Thanks for that.

-S.


Find your voice and express yourself, that's the point.

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#3 2006-09-13 13:51:29

dstone
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From: Vancouver, Canada
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Harry, this research is interesting.  But I think the author's conclusion is a terrible generalization.  (Perhaps he's done that to help balance other, overly Zen-romancing, Fuke tales.)

Shakuhachi is not Zen.
Sitting is not Zen.
Walking is not Zen.
Meditation is not Zen.
Breathing is not Zen.

No activity "is Zen" because of what it's called or its tradition.  But, my opinion... if a person sheds their monkey mind, allows everything but the moment to fall away, and then engages mindfully in an activity (be it painting or fixing a car or honkyoku), then that is Zen. 

There can be Zen in a Fuke monk of past.  There can be Zen in a master today who teaches, plays in concert, and doesn't live as a monk.  Why not?

-Darren.


When it is rainy, I am in the rain. When it is windy, I am in the wind.  - Mitsuo Aida

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#4 2006-09-13 14:00:09

Tairaku 太楽
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

I must admit I don't quite get it.

If a monk makes a Buddhist statue it is Zen. If an artist makes a Buddhist statue it is just a statue?

If a monk plays shakuhachi it's zen, but if a layman does it's just music?

Is that the point of his comment?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#5 2006-09-13 14:48:58

Harry
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

I don't know. But when Zen masters make seemingly definitive statements I am sure there is some reason. Maybe we had to be there?

Regards,

Harry.


"As God once said, and I think rightly..." (Margaret Thatcher)

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#6 2006-09-13 15:32:21

jb
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Zen is a transliteration (via Chinese) of dhyana or jhana, the word used for the transic stages of concentration meditation.

Zen was appropriated by the hierarchy of Japan & became a description of high art.

There is a series of books about Zen in English Literature, so the appropriation did not stop at the borders of Japan.

During the 1960s, Japanese corporations sent some promising managers to Zen monastaries for training. 

I would say that Zen has been used in so many ways that definition is futile.  Use it as you please.

jb

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#7 2006-09-13 16:13:06

Karmajampa
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

"Zen is a transliteration (via Chinese) of dhyana or jhana, the word used for the transic stages of concentration meditation."

I mentioned in the 'doughnut' thread the influence of any state of absorbtion in an activity, and that resulting bliss is experienced. These states are referred to as 'jhana' and in the Abhidharma noted as being of several depths with 'nimitta' or signs associated with them. These signs are sometimes indecated by koan.

I would interpret any activity that results in absorbtion as 'Zen', and blowing shakuhachi can be a very useful activity to assist this. Particularly to deepen the absorbtion.
Buddhist meditation practice starts with meditation on the breath.

Blow Ro.

There is a deodorant called 'Zen'.

Kel     


Kia Kaha !

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#8 2006-09-13 22:32:13

edosan
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From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Harry wrote:

I don't know. But when Zen masters make seemingly definitive statements I am sure there is some reason. Maybe we had to be there?

Regards,

Harry.

Even Zen masters can be nitwits.


     Everything is Zen.


     Nothing is Zen.


...


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#9 2006-09-13 22:53:36

Tairaku 太楽
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

If we play shakuhachi to the best of our ability the Zen will take care of itself.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#10 2006-09-14 02:27:58

barokgs11
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From: istanbul
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Posts: 26

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

I think what we call zen here and what the author calls zen are different things.

There is a historical or "traditional" zen with sects, zazen, koans, monks... When the author says "Shakuhachi is not Zen" he points to that traditional zen.

Then there is the philosophical zen emerged from that tradition, a way of life... Living now, going with the flow, becoming the activity... If we point to that zen, then any activity is zen if you do it with the zen attitude.

"Fuke sect they never practiced zazen; they practiced the flute. Fuke followers always carried a flute with them, and they entered samadhi by playing it." This sentence makes me believe that author made the distinction between the two zen, at least in his mind.

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#11 2006-09-14 04:39:45

Harry
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From: Dublin, Ireland.
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

edosan wrote:

Harry wrote:

I don't know. But when Zen masters make seemingly definitive statements I am sure there is some reason. Maybe we had to be there?

Regards,

Harry.

Even Zen masters can be nitwits.


     Everything is Zen.


     Nothing is Zen.


...

Indeed, and nitwits can be Zen masters. I should point out that the said master goes on to tell stories of Fuke where he is not represented in a particularly flattering light. The section is called "Fuke had the Manners of a Mule", and Fuke is represented offending people with boorish behaviour and 'stupid' answers to questions... enlightened activity? I don't know, I wasn't there. Even if I had been it mightn't have seemed that much clearer to me!

Wonderful!

Regards,

Harry.


"As God once said, and I think rightly..." (Margaret Thatcher)

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#12 2006-09-14 05:10:38

Karmajampa
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Harry, you might enjoy the tales of 'Mulla Nazrudin" by Idres Shah, stories from the Sufi tradition.

Kel.


Kia Kaha !

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#13 2006-09-14 07:22:33

Kerry
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From: Nashville, TN
Registered: 2005-10-10
Posts: 183

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

The Fuke
were focuzen
on their flute
blowin'...


The temple bell stops, but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers. -Basho

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#14 2006-12-08 22:37:42

Jordan
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Um well... not exactly.  Zen is a shortened version of Zazen,  Translated from The Chinese Chan. 
This is seated meditation.  The Shakuhachi is an excelent tool for practicing right mindfullness.  Part of the Nobel Eightfold Path.
So no, the Shakuhachi has nothing to do with Zen but, can have everything to do with Buddhisim.


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#15 2006-12-09 05:24:28

Tairaku 太楽
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Jordan wrote:

Um well... not exactly.  Zen is a shortened version of Zazen,  Translated from The Chinese Chan. 
This is seated meditation.  The Shakuhachi is an excelent tool for practicing right mindfullness.  Part of the Nobel Eightfold Path.
So no, the Shakuhachi has nothing to do with Zen but, can have everything to do with Buddhisim.

So "Suizen" is not Zen? Zen why does it have "zen" in the word?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#16 2006-12-09 06:39:32

amokrun
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From: Finland
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Posts: 413

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Tairaku wrote:

Jordan wrote:

Um well... not exactly.  Zen is a shortened version of Zazen,  Translated from The Chinese Chan. This is seated meditation.

So "Suizen" is not Zen? Zen why does it have "zen" in the word?

I think the danger here is, once again, that we are approaching some kind of no true scotsman problem where nothing is really Zen at all if you keep pushing the limits. Say, if we would talk about Zen as seated meditation, is the sitting part Zen? As you keep narrowing the definition down, you eventually have nothing left to call Zen. Then again, that kind of clever play with words has little to do with what Zen is or isn't.

Personally I feel that Zen is not about what you do but rather trying to approach certain state that is considered ideal. I recently talked with people who run a local Zendo. I was told that different people end up doing different things as part of their Zen practice. Some things simply work better for some people than other things do. I'm sure opinions differ here, but at least I don't think that it ultimately matters what you do if that pushes you towards the Zen ideals.

I guess it comes down to what you include in the term Zen. To some, it's a state of mind or a "goal" to reach. Others include the typical ways of practicing Zen (suizen, zazen etc.) into the mix and just collectively refer to these things as Zen. It's pretty much the same thing as debating whether "going to church" is Christianity or not based on some definition of Christianity.

Edit:

Just after I hit "post", I began to think about something. The concept of arguing that something isn't really something else comes up on these boards pretty often. I would like to propose a new term, "no true Zen", which would at least make my life easier the next time I need to refer to the phenomenon.

And yes, that was only partially a joke.

Last edited by amokrun (2006-12-09 06:42:24)

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#17 2006-12-09 07:55:58

Kerry
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From: Nashville, TN
Registered: 2005-10-10
Posts: 183

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

The teacher that taught me zazen always stressed correct posture and focus on breath. When thoughts arise, acknowledge and return to focus on breath. I learned zazen years before I had any idea what a shakuhachi was. I use a seiza bench to practice zazen and shakuhachi. In suizen, one holds a shakuhachi instead of the mudra. Focus on the breath creating the sound of ro. Mindfulness of correct posture and focus on breath go hand in hand, whether sitting, walking, etc.. Personally, zen has everything to do with learning to play the shakuhachi, suizen and life, because of the mindful focus on breath.

Sincerely, Kerry


The temple bell stops, but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers. -Basho

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#18 2006-12-09 10:39:38

jb
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Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 24

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Hi.

If everything is empty than zen, shakuhachi, sitting form, blowing form, etc. are all empty.  This kind of conventional truth is referred to as "all concealing truth".  In other words, it leads nowhere.  Just sit, just blow.

jb

ps.  my teacher's most recent instruction was, meditate on emptiness.

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#19 2006-12-09 13:59:39

dstone
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From: Vancouver, Canada
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Posts: 552
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Blow.
Mindfully.
In the moment.
Without goals or delusions.
...then shakuhachi is Zen.

Add your "self" into the equation,
with some goals and intentions
and judgements
and play for anything (or anyone) other than the sake of practice.
...then I think it stops being Zen.

Shakuhachi can be beautiful, spiritual, and worthwhile without being Zen.

-Darren.


When it is rainy, I am in the rain. When it is windy, I am in the wind.  - Mitsuo Aida

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#20 2006-12-09 14:06:54

Karmajampa
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From: Aotearoa (NZ)
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Posts: 574
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

'Zen' comes from 'Ch'an' which comes from 'Dhyana' or 'Jhana' which refers to states of ecstacy or bliss that arise when clear calm awareness is present. These blissfull experiences are 'beyond words' and so koan have been devised to suggest them. There are formal practices that will strengthen concentration and calm restlessness etc. blowing shakuhachi is one of these, we usually refer to them as 'meditations', but bliss may arise at any time or place.
Practice non-defensive, non-clinging awareness.

Kel.     


Kia Kaha !

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#21 2006-12-09 23:09:00

Jordan
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Everyone here brings some great points,  I highly recomend reading chapter one Bendowa , and Butsudo, chapter 49 of the Shobogenzo translated by Nishijima and cross.  Of course over the last thousand years Zen has come to represent everything from schools of buddhisim to electronic music players.  I was just trying to help out and correct a misunderstanding.


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#22 2006-12-09 23:41:50

Jordan
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From: Vancouver
Registered: 2006-12-08
Posts: 24
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Tairaku wrote:

Jordan wrote:

Um well... not exactly.  Zen is a shortened version of Zazen,  Translated from The Chinese Chan. 
This is seated meditation.  The Shakuhachi is an excelent tool for practicing right mindfullness.  Part of the Nobel Eightfold Path.
So no, the Shakuhachi has nothing to do with Zen but, can have everything to do with Buddhisim.

So "Suizen" is not Zen? Zen why does it have "zen" in the word?

I asked my wife who speaks Japanese as her primary language, and checked several dictionaries, suizen apparently means to have a desire for something.

In what we call reality I would submit that Suizen is a romantic word for playing the shakuhachi for meditative reasons.
I suspect it is a popular term here.

If we wanted to say "blowing meditation"  it would be meisou shinagara fuku. Literally doing meditation while blowing.


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#23 2006-12-10 00:39:00

amokrun
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From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Jordan wrote:

I asked my wife who speaks Japanese as her primary language, and checked several dictionaries, suizen apparently means to have a desire for something.

Unless I'm mistaken, suizen is written as 吹禅, which is composed of two kanji, one meaning for example "to blow" and another meaning Zen. As such, suizen is simply "blowing Zen". Suizen most likely means quite a few things depending on the kanji used. As such, discussion on meanings of japanese words without using kanji is difficult and often pointless.

edit:

I was curious what the translation was that you had found. My best guess is that the suizen you refer to is written as 垂涎. It means something like a rather strong desire for something (so strong, in fact, that you are drooling). It is, however, entirely different thing than the suizen (吹禅) mentioned earlier. I believe the first kanji means "to hang", "droop" or such and the second means saliva.

Jordan wrote:

If we wanted to say "blowing meditation"  it would be meisou shinagara fuku. Literally doing meditation while blowing.

Well, yes, that could be literally the correct translation, much like saying "sitting in a car, turning the wheel and keeping your eyes on the road" would be more or less the correct definition of driving. Suizen is just a more abstract term and by no means means exactly the same as "meditating while playing a shakuhachi".

Of course, I'm by no means qualified to give advice in japanese to anyone. I would love to hear if my analysis was incorrect.

Last edited by amokrun (2006-12-10 00:52:03)

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#24 2006-12-10 00:51:57

Jordan
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From: Vancouver
Registered: 2006-12-08
Posts: 24
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Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Amokrun
There are two Kanji for sui: one being sour, or acidic and the other being essence,Elegance or best.

There are four Kanji for Zen: good, goodness, Virtue/religious meditation/all,whole,total/former.

putting the two togeather could be "essence of meditation" depending on the Kanji used. smile

Last edited by Jordan (2006-12-10 00:55:34)


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#25 2006-12-10 00:57:44

amokrun
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From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: Shakuhachi "not Zen"?

Jordan wrote:

There are two Kanji for sui: one being sour, or acidic and the other being essence,Elegance or best.

Yes, in fact, my dictionary lists about 52 kanji for Sui.

Jordan wrote:

There are four Kanji for Zen: good, goodness, Virtue/religious meditation/all,whole,total/former.

Ayup, again, my dictionary lists a total of 25 entries.

Jordan wrote:

putting the two togeather could be "essence of meditation"

Well, yes, if all you had to go with was "suizen", you could come up with lots of words that would kind of be right. However, as far as I understand, Tairaku who referred to the word earlier meant Suizen as 吹禅 (please correct me if I'm wrong). As such, the only meaningful translation is "blowing Zen". You can't just pick any kanji that happens to be pronounced the same and make words out of those.

As far as I understood, Tairaku was saying that Suizen already hints towards the connection between Zen and "blowing Zen" since the word includes the kanji for Zen (not just any kanji one pronounces as Zen). Again, if I'm incorrect, I'm sure Tairaku will correct me soon enough.

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