I can do no better than send you over to Iain Robinsons blogger where he has written about his visit to Sojiji, (where Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett trained in the 1960’s) to listen to some ancient music played, mostly, by monks.
Iain describes the music thus: “Gagaku is music to sit still with and experience, it is structurally so different that I can’t describe it. But it’s often a very meditative sound”. Take a look, there are a couple of photos too.
Here is a link to a site talking about Gagaku music for those who want to read further on the subject.
From time to time, for a change of pace and because it’s good to smile and laugh a little, I’ll dig out some of my photos and post them. Machinery that has become part of the landscape is a particular favorite of mine. Not sure why, perhaps it is about the relationship between movement and rest embodied in such images. Seen in a neighborhood in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1999. I wonder if it is still there.
I am tempted to write about photography, however I think it is probably better that I didn’t. I struggled for years with the philosophical problems surrounding photography and thankfully eventually stopped, not long after that I became a monk. It’s interesting because somehow I don’t seem to think about all of that any more.
Yesterday I was at the post office mailing a Scriptures and Ceremonies CD to an estranged congregation member staying in Toronto for the year. While there I noticed a woman mailing two parcels to Singapore and we fell into conversation. “What’s it like”? she asked. “Hot, modern, humid, muli cultural, great shopping, oh and much more”. “Is it green”? “Yes, and very very clean too”! She would soon be finding out first hand about the place. This conversation had me transported back not only to the time I spent in Singapore this year but to the months I lived there in 1979. For some reason Singapore gets under your skin, under mine anyway.
My last week in East Asia was spent in Singapore as the guest of Poh Ern Ssu “Temple of Thanksgiving”. This visit was at the end of two months intensive traveling and it was all I could do to physically and mentally keep going. There was little energy left over to post entries for this blog. Over the next little while I’d like to acknowledge the help and support I received in Singapore by, posting some photos and speaking of a sampling of what happened during my brief visit. I hope Boon will, if needed, help fill in some of the gaps with names of people and temples.
Mr. Boon Lee and his wife Connie were my hosts and mentors while in Singapore. They are pictured forth and fifth from the left. The photo was taken on my last evening in Singapore, June 2005. It had been a long evening and by the time this photo was taken most of the congregation had gone home. The red kesa was one of the many gifts so kindly given to me. I’m holding a blue lapis statue of the Healing Buddha, also a gift.
I bumped into Boon by chance in a shopping center wheeling the temples books to the accountant. I’d just survived a reflexology treatment the like of which I had never experienced before. Painful yet effective, a life saver.
Weaving through those two months in East Asia were meetings with lay Buddhist, in Singapore I was fortunate to spend my time exclusively in the company of lay devotees. They like those met in Taiwan, Malaysia and Japan were an inspiration. I think enough time has elapsed for me to try and convey in words what I learnt from these people. In short they inspired gratitude which is at the heart of giving unconditionally. There is much to be said on this subject, however that will have to come on another day.
An American lay Buddhist sangha member related the following story from yesterdays Thanksgiving Dinner, which he had with his wife and extended family, including two young grandchildren. We were all gathered round the table full of holiday dishes, quite a spread, we paused a moment to take it all in. I said something like “Gee, look at all this lovely food, thank you, maybe we need to say a verse or something*. Young Zain (6 years, or so), sensing the gravity of the situation and quickly searching his memory banks, came up with the one verse he knew well, learned from school, The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag! So he had us all place our hands on our hearts and then he lead us in reciting: “I Pledge Allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands-one nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all.” (That’s the original version.)
*For those not familiar with our practice we generally recite a verse aloud before eating a meal, when alone or in the company of fellow practitioners. Or recite it silently when the circumstances call for that or just simply say ‘Thank you’. Basically we bring gratitude to mind for the food which enables us to continue to practice.
One can bow to the innocence of a child’s fresh young mind that came up with a verse, even though not quite appropriate for the occasion. Thank you Zain.
Here is the statue, bought at Polly Magoo’s, then carried home to the priory in a snow storm this time last year. Over the follow days the statue, which had been ‘antiqued’, was tenderly cleaned and then painstakingly painted by Rev. Koten. On the Lions Gate Buddhist Priory web site you will find the transcript of the talks given by Rev. Master Koten during a weeks retreat he gave at Shasta Abbey in 2004. (Go to the archives for all of the talks). The title of the retreat was: Female Buddhas: The Equality of Buddha Nature. These transcripts will eventually all be published in the Journal of the O.B.C. however you can take a look at the teaching now.
Goodness! It is amazing what one discovers on the internet, and right in ones own back yard too! There are quite a few articles to be found on the OBC web site if you follow the link above. I see that Rev. Master Koten has one there which relates to his retreat topic.