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I blow shakuhachi because I DON"T want to do zazen, so I am particularly interested in this subject.
I am NOT a slacker! I do "snorkelzen" almost every day!
Oh, well then: My 'umblest apologies!!
Good quote Kiku, thanks. I look forward to the book. And yours too eventually
I am however a little sceptical of the claim that their are no parishioners or lay followers. As many people have, I have attended the Myoanji gatherings and similar events and more than once come across players that have stated they are part of the Fuke-shu. Now the Fuke-shu is no longer an organized sect, but I don't think that that necessarily means there are no lay followers or believers. A part of my master's thesis dealt with how history affects our present cultural/musical identity. For those believers much of their info comes from old Japanese texts, legends, and oral stories passed down from their teachers and others, which helps establish a base for their belief in the Komuso and the Fuke-shu.
From this standpoint, I have to say that the past actions of the komuso are much more than an intellectually interesting question. What we're told and what we choose to believe affects our value system, which ultimately helps to shape who we are. If some light is shed on the lifestyle and traditions of the komuso, this may very well affect/change some players. It may change the way that this shakuhachi tradition is passed on to future generations. I'm not saying that if evidence comes about drastic changes in practice styles will change right now and everyone will take up zazen, but some might. And if new evidence of the practices of the komuso comes about might affect those little things we do with our fingers as well.
And if it does create a romanticism for some people, hey, that may lead them to practicing more and becoming a phenomenal player, and more imortantly probably happy.
I humbly end this rant with a deep bow to all the forum members on here. It's just my take in the situation.
Lifestyle (spiritual practices of the Komuso would fit this) and music have always been inextricably intertwined for both good and bad. For example, the devout Catholicism of Olivier Messaien can not be separated from his music because it's the motivation. Or, how many people decided to become heroin addicts because of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, or blow their brains out on LSD because of the Beatles and Syd Barrett? How many people are thugs because of rap, or rap because they are thugs? Music is not created in a void and that's what makes what the Komuso did interesting to the modern shakuhachi player. Particularly in the West where many people view shakuhachi as part of a spiritual practice. My guess would be that the vast majority of shakuhachi players in the West (hence this forum since unfortunately we have little input from Japan) consider the spiritual side of things to be one of their main purposes in playing the shakuhachi, or sometimes the only reason.
Of course, Josh is right in saying that our perceptions of the past affect our present actions and value systems. The past is very important for me too; proof of this is in the hundreds of pages on the subject, in both my MA and PhD tomes.
What we are told and what we choose to believe certainly help to shape our identity, but these two things frequently/usually have very little relationship with what really happened in the past. I think most would agree, in any case, that what really happened is much less influential or important than what we and others believe happened, at least in terms of value systems and spiritual practice.
I'm not implying that therefore we might as well give up trying to know what happened in the past. What I meant in my previous message was that studying historical documents is one activity and playing shakuhachi is another. From a shakuhachi player's perspective, the former is merely an interesting activity. Likewise, for a historian, the sound of shakuhachi honkyoku might be just so much hot air.
I think Tukitani is correct; one had to be of samurai birth to belong to the Fuke sect. Legally, one had to be of samurai birth to even play the instrument, but this law was not enforced. One couldn't be a just a parishioner or lay follower of the sect; one had to either be a member or not.
There may be nowadays lay followers or believers of the IDEA of the Fuke sect, but as previously mentioned, the Fuke sect no longer exists, in an organised or disorganised form.
Might new light on the defunct Fuke sect change the perceptions, practice styles etc, of shakuhachi players today? For the most part, people use/read/interpret history to back up their preconceptions and prejudices, or to be less cynical sounding, to strengthen their own beliefs and values. Rarely does what happened in the past form or change these things. They are almost always formed by things personally experienced.
Needless to say, I'm writing in generalisations here. I'm sure most of us shakuhachi folk are not your general public :-)
Last edited by Riley Lee (2008-01-08 00:59:42)
"Regarding the Komoso, jugglers, and monkey keepers. These are to be expelled from this place as well as from the neighboring villages." (quote from the Ouchi Uji Okitegaki, entry dated 1486, trsl. by Torsten Olafsson). The komoso were not always the most welcome of visitors; what better way to gain respectability than to create a Buddhist sect, limit it to those of samurai birth, and change 'komo' ('straw mat monk') to 'komu' (emptiness/nothingness monk)? According to Edo Period scholar Yuko Kamisango, _"the (komuso) monks would gather in front of the altar and perform the piece 'Choka' to begin daily services, followed by a Zen session... In the evening they played the ritual piece 'Banka' before sitting Zen again." (p. 110, from The Shakuhachi - History and Development, by Y. Kamisango, trsl. by Christopher Yohmei Blasdel). If Kamisango is to be believed then it would appear that the komuso practiced zazen as well as suizen. Of course it would be necessary to check the original Japanese sources for Kamisango's work.
Last edited by Daniel Ryudo (2008-01-08 03:06:57)
Good reference Daniel.
Does anybody know what those pieces are, "Choka" and "Banka"?
Maybe proto-Choshi and Banshiki?
Oh yes, isn't it good to hear all these different sources and ideas now. The more the better!
The weak point it, that neither Kamisango nor Tukitani give their sources here. I do remember some of Tukitani's writing in Japanese where the sources are given very carefully. I don't know when I have time to dig down to these, unfortunately...
When reading any text about history, we always have to keep our critical mind going. I also think,
'It has no doctrines or scriptures, parishioners or lay believers; its equivalent to Zen meditation or sutra recitation is the playing of shakuhachi'
is quite a strong message - and perhaps too general. Apparently from what I have read, there are 'no' or 'almost no' remains of writings of sutras etc in the Fuke temples that survived the crack-down on Buddhists during the early Meiji restoration. That may indicate a tendency in the practice used then.
I have also been at gatherings of shakuhachi players in temples, and 'no lay believers' is too strong for me as well. Since there are 'believers' of Fuke sect today, I am sure there was then. Perhaps something of what Gishin wrote can help us a little. Were the transmission not as efficient through music? But why shouldn't it have been? Just throwing some balls up the air here...
History affects us all. That is a fact! We do not live in a vacuum. So, it IS interesting to shed more light on a subject like this, when we somehow do not exactly know something - we somehow thought we knew.. And can we get to know it exactly - perhaps not, but we may get closer if we dig into some of the sources still available. And of course, in the end it may not matter as long as we enjoy playing the shakuhaci today with which-ever meaning we want to put on it. But yes, we humans are curious beings, and I surely will dig into some more... one day!
When it comes to transmissions of practices and ways of training doing manuals for doing ceremonies etc. I think that this is maybe because there was never a clear way of doing things among the Fuke School and that when doing the temple thing they would just use the Rinzai way of doing stuff.
Now when thinking about the purge being the whole cuase of the loss of possible records and way of the Fuke sect I would tend to think that some of it is atrribualbe to the purge of the school but most of it would still be based on my feeling that there was never any clear ways of training monks meditating etc. the School that they created.
I am basing this opinion on the fact that at the same time the Fuke-Shu got banned all the Shugenja (Yamabushi) of both denominations being Tendai or Shingon were also banned in a severe way but still as of today the schools took shape again after WW2 without much losses other than knowing how to do some practices but all the books sutras, treaty, practices still exist. So when we compare the Fuke sect to the Shugendo people we have to ask ourselves why there is almost nothing left other than the Honkyoku? My feeling is that all there was is Honkyoku and the doctrinal Buddhism would be taken from the temples that were owned by them under the Rinzai wing.