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EkiZen - Newsletter from the Sangha of Shinnyo-ji

Winter 2012 - n. 13- III year

Keizan-zenji and women

Ryushin Azuma

President of Komazawa Women´s University D. Lit

Transcription of the Conference held by Azuma Roshi, 72° Abbot of the Daijo-ji Temple from 25 July to 1 August 1997 in five Zen Centers in America and at the time when he was Dean of the Komazawa Women´s University of Buddhism. This text was published in the "Association for Foreign Monks" collection from the Zenko-ji Temple in Yokohama.

I would like to talk about "Keizan-zenji and Women". As you know, Keizan-zenji is a Zen-priest who lived from the middle of the 13th Century to the first half of the 14th Century, namely the last part of the Kamakura Period. Keizan-zenji is the fourth patriarch who follows Dogen-zenji (1200-1253).

In Japanese history, Dogen-zenji was one of the most excellent religionists, an acute philosopher and merciful teacher. Moreover, he had abundant knowledge of literature. His attitude of Zen is to clarify the essence of Chinese Zen Buddhism and to confirm the tradition of the right Buddhism. He succeeded to Soto-Zen in the Chinese Zen Buddhism, and founded Eijeiji in Fukui-prefecture. Now he is admired as the "Koso" (Founder). His noble character and his universal philosophy have worldwide significance beyond the stereotyped-thinking of Buddhism and Zen.

Keizan-zenji as the 4th successor of Dogen-zenji founded Sojiji in Ishikawa prefecture. This temple was moved to Kanagawa prefecture in the Meiji-Period. We admire him as "Taiso" of Japanese Soto-Zen. Keizan-zenji succeeded to the dharma of Dogen-zenji, propagated and developed the Soto-Zen. I can point this out through many ways but in this lecture I want to introduce his view of women and his relationship with women.

Before talking about it, I would like to begin with the same problem in Dogen-zenji. Dogen-zenji wrote the chapter of "Raihaitokuzui" in the "Shobogenzo" in Kyoto in 1239. In this chapter he denied the predominance of man over woman in the world of Buddhism at that time and advocated the equality between sexes in the Buddhist practice. He says as follows in the "Shobogenzo".

"In Japan there is a ridiculous thing. There is a place called "Kekkai" or "Dojo of Mahayana" where women cannot enter. Though it is a long standing custom, people never think about its origin."

In this way Dogen-zenji criticized Japanese traditional Buddhism. In those days the famous temples, for example, Hieizan, Koyasan, Kinpozan and Todaiji, had the place of "Kekkai" or "Dojo".

Dogen-zenji says, "The extremely foolish people think that women are the object of sexual desire. But what kind of faults to women have? Are there any reasons why men are so noble?" And he says, "Don´t be concerned with the differences between men and women. This is the basic principle of supreme law of Buddhism."

Dogen-zenji shows his attitude as follows, "The acquisition of the essence of Buddha dharma dn the succession of it is owed to the faithful mind based on the true enlightenment. This comes from neither inside or outside. It is important to regard dharma very highly and to make light of life."

Thus Dogen-zenji thinks highly with respect to free ourselves from worldly concerns. In his experiences of dharma that thought summarizes his view of women, namely "Don´t be concerned with the differences between men and women. This is a basic principle of Buddhism."

This view of women is not only estimated highly as an excellent thought in the history of Japanese Buddhism but also as the insistence of the dignity of men´s and women´s character ever before the Renaissance and Martin Luther´s time.

Among people who studied dharma and Zen under Dogen-zenji, we can confirm that there were some nuns and women believers from historical sources. But it was by Keizan-zenji that it was firmly established.

The Keizan-zenji´s view of women is clarified by the following words: "So New believers and followers! Fortunately, you succeed to what Sakyamuni-Buddha did as a Buddhist. Why do you desire what the masses want? In any case, you must be free from all illusions of kinds of classification between even right and wrong and of the distinction between men and women."

This passage is cited from the chapter of the 41th patriarch Go-Doan-Daishi in the "Denkoroku" of Keizen-zenji. In this passage Keizan-zenji shows that Buddhism must be free from the idea of discrimination between men and women. We can understand that this succeeds from Dogen-zenji´s thought. Since Keizan-zenji is the follower of Dogen-zenji, this similarity is natural. But it is important that we confirm the same attitude between Dogen-zenji and Keisan-zenji. As Nyojo-zenji, not well known in the Chinese Zen Buddhism, had increased to shine through Dogen-zenji, so founder´s teachings must be developed by his followers.

The family of Sakawa who was the lord of a manor embraced Keizan-zenji. They donated the land and a temple in 1319. This temple is Yokoji. The women of the family especially embraced it. For example, Shozen and Mokufu-Sonin, mother and daughter renounced the world and later because of the disciples of Keizan-zenji. It as the first appearance of a woman priest in Sotoshu.

Then Keizan-zenji ordained Sonin the chief priest in Enzuin, which was the temple in the grounds of Yokoji. Enzuin was not only built in order to hold a memorial service in honor of grandmother, but also was the dojo to realize the earnest wish a Keizan-zenji´s mother. Moreover, this temple was the dojo where Keizan-zenji propagated Buddhism and hoped to save people.

In addition to that, Mokufu-Sonin was ordained as the chief priest in Hoo-ji.

Meisho-Enkan was the cousin of Keizan-zenji, who became a disciple of Keizan-zenji and she became the chief priest in Enzuin after Mokufu-Sonin.

Konto-Ekyo become a disciple, devote herself to practicing Zazen everyday, then she succeeded to Keizan-zenji.

In many sources, we can find the names of nuns, such as En´I, Shinmyo, Shinsho, Jonin, Ninkai and Myoshin and more. In this way, Keizan-zenji made women believers nuns, ordained them as chief priests and regarded them as successors. Keizan-zenji stated in the "Tohkokuki" that the relationship of Mokufu-Sonin and he are that of a priest and a donner of a master and a disciple who cannot be separated like magnet and iron.

We can find the dialogue between Keizan-zenji and Mokufu-Sonon as follows in the writing.

I (Keizan-zenji) ask Sonin, "This year is almost gone and another new year will come. So how about your religious life?"

Sonin answers, "In the branches of the tree without shadow (This branch means eternal life) is there any kind of time (which is not separated and has no beginning or end)?"

This is the first excellent answer given by Sonin.

In this dialogue, we can see Sonin´s earnest mind to Buddha-dharma, Keizan-zenji´s deep trust in Sonin, the bondage between master and disciple, and the spirit of harmony between priest and believer.

The prominent view of women established in Dogen-zenji and Keizan-zenji and the development of Buddhism with women based on their views did not necessarily succeed properly in the history of Japanese Sotoshu. It is regrettable that these views were buried in the ground of the general tendency of male chauvinism.

But in this century, the material civilization and the scientific technology have rule our world. We have pursued a more convenient life and realization of our self-desire.

Now we are convinced of the limit of our civilization. Therefore, it is necessary to enlighten on human beings themselves. It must be questioned what a human being is, or what our life is. We can say that the 21st century is the time of human life. When we ask and observe human beings, the problems of men and women, namely what are men and women?, must be argued. Because men and women are human beings. I think that the view of women from Dogen-zenji and Keizan-zenji gives us important insights, when we consider our fundamental selves.

In 1995 and 1997, I visited about twenty places in America, including seven Zen Centers which Maezumi Hakuyu Roshi founded. This visit was in response to the request of Maezumi Roshi. Then I lectured about "Keizan-zenji and Women" in Los Angeles Zen Center (Busshin-ji), Zen Mountain Monastery (Doshin-ji), Kanzeon Sangh Zen Center (Hoshin-ji), Zen Community of Oregon (Jizoin) and San Francisco Zen Center.

This pamphlet was translated by Y. Ando, Assistant Professor of Komazawa Women´s University, and printed and offered by Kuroda Bushi Roshi, Yokohama Zenko-ji.

Gennaio 1998

Ryushin Azuma

Sokanbu Seminar

Zen Temple La Gendronnière
19-21 October 2012

Our Teacher, Shinnyo Roshi went to the Zen Temple La Gendronnière in Paris and participated in the annual Sokanbu Seminar. This year´s speaker was Prof. Griffith Foulk who translated Shobogenzo and Gyojikihan for the Sōtō Zen Text Project of which he is a member. The principle themes of the Seminar were the following texts: "An Explanation of the Heart Sutra", "Lotus Sutra" e "SBGZ Sutra Reading".

ROHATSU VIGIL

7-8 December 2012

Greeting from Teacher Shinnyo Roshi

Extract taken from Greeting and theme for the New Year of practice

A new year has come and many changes have taken place at our Temple, which is consolidating itself in both substance and form. Practitioners that go, practitioners that come, the Temple is like a polar star that remains firm and indicates the Way.

Whoever stays growns and contributes in the foundation fo this Itlaian reality: a group of practitioners that work, a Sangha always in movement and ready to welcome whomever shows up at Shinnyo-ji´s door. On this evening, the night of the Rohatsu Vigil, I would like to emphasize how, after my return from Japan last September, the energy felt coming back from the origin of our Tempo and our Lineage has brought great clarity into the soul of each practitioner and therefore, a sort of fresh breeze of air, re-energizing, that blew away what was hanging in the balance, calling new strength, new practitioners who are diligently progressing their practice with us as Shinnyo-ji.

At the end of this past year teaching the theme of practice, DISCIPLINE, as the Teacher I have observed great effort amongst the followers and their results and yields are evident.

The theme of practice for this New Year, a theme that emerges, as always, from the light of which is lived in the sacred space of the Temple, is

MUSHIN無心, pure heart/mind where "pure" does not intend something that was cleaned, or the condition of something that was recleansed, but rather, "pure" in the sense of being "originally pure", not judgemental, non attacated to illusion, free from confused thought.

Dōgen Zenji nell´Eihei-ji kōroku, the "Great Collection of the Eihei-ji Temple Documents" says that the MUSHIN 無心 mind is like the clean air of white clouds, or the state of innocence similar to the lives of Zen monks called unsui, (where the ideogram `un´ means clouds and the ideogram `sui´ means water) that walked around Temple after Temple in search of their Teacher with the absolute MUSHIN 無心 mind, or letting themselves be carried off by the wind, or the rain, (or by the "connection to the Buddha", the Butsu-en, with anything to plan or choose.

It is important to keep this concept in mind, because our practice is in constant risk of falling into the spirit of profit, calculationg, or personal interest. We often ask ourselves what advantage we have in our practice, and if this improvement is evident or better than the quality of our lives and if it is worth the required respect and effort. We often fight with our judging ego, that often heightens in front of the difficulty of letting go, shinjin datsuraku, let the mind and body fall, and "simply be" in the Unity of the moment. How many times I have heard someone say to me: "Teacher, but by doing this I would loose everything have I have built and constructed (or even worst: claimed) over the years as a defense for my being". Yet our strength is to become One with what we encounter through MUSHIN 無心, always at ease, adapting to whatever situation without contrasting to undergo what happens to us, but simply harmonizing to it and with the energy of the entire Universe. (…)

Living Zen is said to be living MUSHIN 無心, so the work for this next year of practice will continuously call you to react with a pure mind while being detached from confusing thoughts. Translated into everyday life, it means to obligate oneself in difficult moments, in the moments when you feel overcome by emotions, when you feel desparate and you think that you can´t take anymore, even with difficult times of practice, simply letting go through the emotions of the moment and MUSHIN 無心- Muga, meaning with pure mind without ego, watching reality as it is, for what it is. It will be light turning on a light in a dark room. As long as we remain in the darkness of our pain, of our anger, of our attachments, of our confused minds, we live in the illusion that there is nothing around us, like a dark room that seems to be empty, but once we turn on the circuit breker, we see that it is furnished with many objects. At the same time, if we distance ourselves from emotions and return to our pure mind MUSHIN 無心, back in touch with the Buddha Nature, it will be like being struck by a wind taking about all confusing thoughts, our confused vision of the moment and giving us a clear vision that reconfirms One with the entire Universe, sustatining us with every step from the entire Universe.

It also means to accept, to be happy of what one has and not anguish oneselve for what one does not have, whether is be equal or inequal, to be equal in recognizing differences.

The pure heart vision of MUSHIN 無心, is the vision of suchness, the world as it is, that perquistites the Satori, Originally pure. As for us walking along the Path of Englightenment it leads our mind toward Original Nature, so that we can get in touch with it and eventually completely realize it.

I end my Greeting for the Year Year of practice that begins tonight, by remember that according to Indian Buddhism MUSHIN 無心, equate the Buddha, in other words, Mushin ze Butsu_ "the non-mind is Buddha" while in the Chinese Chan Buddhism, the teacher Basō says: "Our mind is Buddha". Therefore, even ordinary peole have the Buddha Mind and everyone has the possibility of achieving Illumination of the Buddha, the Satori, which in this night of Rohatsu Vigil, we celebrate.

Gasshō

Rev. Iten Shinnyo

Program

From 8:00 p.m. Arrive at the Temple
8:30-9:50 p.m. Opening with M° Daniele Dubbini who will perform some of his composition with the traverse bamboo flute, bansuri
Break
9:00-9:20 p.m. Zazen
9:20-9:30 p.m. Kin-him
9:30-9:50 p.m. Zazen
Break
10:00-10:20 p.m. Greeting from the Teacher for the New Year of Practice
10:20-10:40 Zazen
10:40-10:50 p.m. Kin-hin
10:50-11:20 p.m. Testimonies of Practice
Meal preparation
12:00-1:30 a.m. Formal mean and tidy up
1:30-2:00 Zazen
2:00-2:10 a.m. Kin-hin
2:10-2:40 Zazen and Haiku
2:40- 3:40 a.m. Kin-hin under the stars
3:40-4:00 a.m. tea break
4:00-4:30 a.m. Sutra writing Break
4:40-5:10 a.m. Zazen and Haiku Break
5:30- 6:00 a.m. Zazen and Satori of the Buddha reading
6:00-6:10 a.m. Kin-hin
6:10-6:40 a.m. Zazen
6:40-7:00 a.m. Fukanzazenji
7:00-7:10 a.m. Rohatsu Ceremony and Dedication
7:10- 7:30 a.m. Breakfast
7:30-8:30 General tidy up

Responsabilities

Segr. Maestro: Dai shin
Segr. Rohatsu: Shin den
Resp. Zendo: Dai shin
Aiuto Zendo: Yū shin
Welcoming: Shin den
Tenzo: Ben shin
Tenzo Helper: Lō, Shin den
Serv. pasto: Shin den, Yū shin, Valentina, Yō shin
Samu: Yū shin
Aiuto Samu: Lucia
Reader: Shin den
Report foto: Dai shin
Moppan: Ben shin
Mokugyo: Yō shin
Incense: Yō shin
Sutra: Shin den
Form Lessons: Yō shin

Testimonies

Of the Discipline Teachings

A year practice through lessons on discipline, this was the Teacher´s indication. I ask myself how much I followed and it seems only partially. Discipline, connected to being a disciple, therefore connected to learning, but also to following, the most difficult part. Following the teacher´s instructions, the Buddha´s precepts, the Way of our predecessors who have followed it. Following is not always easy for me, I get distracted, I decided what to do with my own mind, I am lazy. The way is that one, but I don´t always follow it with confident and sure steps. I don´t always welcome discipline nor being a disciple.

This year of practice seemed in descent at the beginning and then uphill. There was an easy period when everything ran smoothly, with few obstacles, in which the practice, presence at the Temple, listening to the Teacher came naturally. Sure there is always work to be done, but sometimes wew don´t feel it or we forget.

Then at a certain point, it slowed down, perhaps because I had run too far without noticing it or perhaps we eventually change footing. My feet came across vines, rocks and holes. I wonder if they were not there before, if I just didn´t notice them or if I had always just avoided them. I started going slower, but continuously going.

The image that came to mind is a seagull quickly and joyously flying and then at a certain point, begins to coast. It coasts and coasts and then it lands, perhaps it tumbles down and peels out, then disheveled and bruised, starts walking by foot, tip, tap, with its feet, and again tip, tap, one step after another. Clumbsy and slow, waiting to fly again or transform into a sturdy and able goat.

This year my practice seemed to strengthen and it became more and more important to me. I am thankful to Teacher Shinnyo for this, her effort and commitment of bringing Zen to Italy, here in Florence, the others with whom I walk the path and all of those who somewhere in their lives, have realized this path, kept it alive and present for us to follow.

This year of practice ends with a new Rohatsu Vigil and it makes me happy that I am still here, ready to joyfully celebrate the Illumination of the Buddha and start a new year of practice.

Ben shin

The M° Daniele Dubbini while preforming one of his compositions

A year has passed since I went to my first Rohatsu and since then many things have happened, it seems like an eternity has passed, surely that day has given me strength and has helped me (and continues to do so) in everyday life. But there is something that I never learn: constatnce. I am patient until a certain point but I see more and more clearly that I cannot tolerate well repetition and this is why sitting meditation everyday is difficult. I can do it for a month straight but I think this is the maximum that I´ve been able to do it up until now, then I feel the need for a long period of "rest", if we can call it that. Have a Temple nearby is surely an incentive to continue daily meditation: doing Zazen with other people, cleaning and working at the Temple, the Zazenkai. Perhaps I am repetitive, but we realize the importance (or uselessness) of someone or something when it is gone, in this case I realized how important being close to a Sangha and a Teacher is. And I don´t mean an abstract association with people at any time in space: I mean all of you sitting on the zafus throughout this night of Vigil. I thank you all and lovingly think of you. Thank you for everything that I found at the Temple, thank you because now that I am far, when I sit down to meditate I feel your closeness, I know you are there. You are not abstract, you are not anywhere.

I wish you a fruitful night of Vigil and I hope that this new year of Practice that is about to begin is serene for all of you, especially since the past year was a difficult time for most of us.

Happy Rohatsu, a low bow to all of you, and to each of you.

Gasshō,

Margherita

I asked myself in these days if and how my practice has changed me, if I have matured, if I have made a step along the way. All that I can say is that I continue to sit in Zazen as soon as I awake in the morning and when I return to home I sit again, with strain but also with joy. I have been practicing for the past two years and in respect to the strain of the first months, I now feel the need to sit in Zazen and the joy of doing it.

Gasshō

Gregorio P

When I first came to Shinnyo-ji I thought that I was a disciplined person. Soon after a few weeks of Practice I began to doubt this conviction. I spoke about it with the Teacher, she said: "This is good". Then she smiled without saying anything else.

The first time I hear my Dharma name, I cried.

Gasshō

Yō-shin

I followed this year´s theme of practice focusing on the precepts, in deepenting studying Zazen as a root and foundation of the precepts themselves.

Through the few years of practice I still cannot abandon the body and mind while sitting in particularly intense days of meditation. At first I thought it was normal, an agitated mindi needs time to clam down and often there is not enough time, or sufficient time to let everyday problems that bother us go.

Many times I thought that I had let the body and mind go, following relaxing my tension, the tranquility I felt after meditations, and then once again, the mind returned as it was before, focusing on a problem, on its difficulty to confront and again is confused.

One day I had a clear new vision of my Zazen, in other words, the difficulty of accepting the simplicity of reality. I realized that my mind needed to cling onto that determined problem because it is attached to a central need in my life; needing this, rather than solving it, not letting it go, and always keeping it in mind because I was afraid of giving it up. And since nothing can be kept forever, I was always attached to an eternal and continuous return that I was not able to break.

Yet reality is very simple if one is not attached to what we do not have, and a problem seems very simple only after it is resolved.

Gasshō

Yū-shin

The Teacher has taught us that the mind creates false priorities that the mind grinds, provoking pain. That practicing means watching that priority and smiling at it. Watching pain and welcoming it.

It´s not that easy for me: I often find myself bogged down in the furrows of my mind.

But practice is the safe door, that ray of Truth that filters through the clouds of my mind and that allows me to recognize it.

Separation doesn´t mean anesthesia… on the contrary.

Thank you Teacher for your energy, the constance and love with which everyday allows for the growth of each one of us.

Gasshō,

Ten shin san participated in the Vigil at her home in Ohio about 7460 km from Shinnyo-ji

A year has already passed since my first Rohatsu, I remember it as if it were yesterday- I arrived early with Margherita to prepare food and welcome other members of the Sangha. It was the night that she took Refuge.

I remember feeling anxious before beginning the Vigil, thinking of how many hours there are in the night and the great effort it would take to make it through the morning. But I made it and participated the entire night, by welcoming each moment and not thinking of the entire night together or how I would feel the day after.

Welcoming each moment should be applied to every aspect of life. I would have never imagined the great steps I have taken in my practice, taking the vows was not an goal but a natural step in the Way of the Buddha.

Like everyone, I struggle with attachment, egoism and anger, I recall the lessons and the emotions that I feel from my practice and I return to being myself again. Even if I am not with you all tonight at the Temple, I will be sitting at the same time for the whole Rohatsu, about 7460 km from you, I feel your closeness, and I hope that you feel mine.

Have a good practice.

Gasshō

Ten shin

I´m trying to write something about this last year of practice but I cannot think the year as a whole, it began three years ago; the first year was tiring but convincing and beautiful, the way was denser, richer and more attractive, the first part was of the second year maintained this strength, I had a glimpse of what this Way can bring in terms of liberty, presence and attention and decided to take the Vows of the Bodhisattva. Soon after, some stressful responsabilities and difficulties that took a lot of time and space inside of me and instead of leaning on the practice, I put it aside, I kept a connection with Zen, thanks to the Teacher and a friend who practices, but it was extremely difficult. Now that I stop and think about it, I see how I was tossed about by the events that happened to me, like a drunk, incapable of walking straight. So this year I was not very present and in October I came back to the Temple after a 3 month absence, it took a while to enter again, I put it off, but it eventually became easier, it was surprising to feel the total familiarity, the easiness of uncovering again the motions, movements the music of the Sutra... and now I´m here.

gasshō

Go shin

Dear Sangha, another year has passed, a very difficult year for me, in which I did not come to the Temple very often and I didn´t practice very much. My mind is still very confused, but knowing that the Sangha supports me and that the Teacher is close gives me a glimsp of light. Thank you Sangha. Thank you Shinnyo-ji.

Gasshō,

Leonardo.

I have been practicing Zen for about ten years, I am now certain that this is my Way beyond any distinction and rational opinion, I affirm it with all the modesty of an imperfect practitioner and as a beginner.

I could say that this is the religion, the philosophy, the ethic, and the aesthetics that I try to attain, in which I have slowly grown and now after many years I find myself the same and different at once, I seem to have always been like this, like I have never moved, a sensation of have never changed. A calm security, a distance force that I know and don´t know but I feel upon my persona, I know where I am, it´s called to stay within the Lineage.

My critical attitude and some of my cultural positions and a certain idiosyncracy for the dogmas and rhetoric forms that often express positions of power bring me to criticizing religion, forms and dogmic practices, this is my nature that tends to see all of this at the first level. This is why I sometimes spontaneously prefer to feel the Zen Way through a quid that I immediately feel sincere and honest by the religious and spiritual path, I tendo to concentrare on the direct passage of this feeling, which is what I feel at the Temple with the Teacher and the Sangha, it is a pure life, first of all, it is the honest life that I would like to carry within myself, encounter and share with others. Without refusing anything about myself, I try to evolve my path and my thought and bring it toward a certain harmony and serenity, for every expression of the Way. I do not name to make separations, I say only what gives me strength and what strikes me like a lightning flash is in something that I cannot say that I don´t know how to day that is only like a great original siclence, that is in the Strength of the Way that expresses the Teacher Shinnyo and that also expresses in other moments and situations a the Temple and in everyday life that I want to listen to and I intend to do so.

Perhaps by mistake I neglect to cultivate and feel this also in other moments or situations that are a part of the Ceremony and of the organization of a Temple.

I believe that in this brief life I have a great gift, an opportunity of encountering the Teacher Shinnyo, without her I would be lost in the thousand rivulets of choices and spiritual distractions that exist.

I don´t think that I would practice Zen with another Teacher. For me the Teacher Shinnyo expresses and is the creator of a new way of European Zen that is forming with teachings from the Patriarchs, the concrete bases of the Buddha´s words, establishes a humanist Zen, based on the expression of compassion and helping others, Zen strength of salvation and of liberation with found joy toward other people, with a profound respect for every personal life choice and without any rhetoric, dogma or need for power that would dry up if they betray the original way of Zen.

Thank you to Teacher Shinnyo who for all of these years has instructed me, guided me and has always listened and in way "put up" with me, thank, a sincere wish for every good during this year of practice.

Thanks to this new Sangha that I hope will always continue to express itself in this harmony and with this kind welcoming toward others.

My thoughts and wishes to Rev. Azuma Roshi and to the peace and prosperity of the Temple in Kanazawa.

Thanks again Teacher Shinnyo. With faith. Happily here.

Shin den
Luigi Oldani

Teacher Shinnyo Roshi with practitioners present at the Vigil

I think we are a group of lucky people.

To be here sitting in Zazen is truly extraordinary.

To have Shinnyo-ji is extraordinary.

To have received the teachings in direct descendence from Shakyamuni until Shinnyo Roshi is something that should take our breath away.

This is said by someone who is against every rule, every institution and every catechism.

I read that the Buddha would have said, don´t believe in my words, but try what is say and then believe it.

Every time I sit in Zazen, without any placebo effect, it is undeniable that something comes to my conscious and in my spirit.

Best wishes to my Teacher Shinnyo Roshi, to all of you, to all who suffer, to my family and to myself for a serene future, with peace in our hearts, with the Zen Way that illuminates our steps in the dark of the all so fragile human lives.

Gasshō

Shin-kai

Practicing with discipline was not an easy task to follow during this whole year. I worked hard to do it and as a result, I had a great grasp of consciousness my capacities. I felt protected by the Teacher, by the Sangha and by the Practice and I am thankful for the complex moments throughout 2012.

To practice with awareness helps center yourself, to precieve yourself and precieve what is around and inside of ourselves as it is, without needing judgement that distinguishes value that is always too focused on our problems. It could make an attivity or work that doesn´t correspond to our spirit easier and make it more interesting in the end. It allows us to reach goals and along the way to identify what details need attention, as what happens when you paint a picture and all of your senses are involved, logic and achievement of a result are only satisfying for the eyes but also for the soul.

Valentina

A new year of Practice at Shinnyo-ji is about to end, proceeded through time by the teacher and theme of `Discipline´.

The general impermanence and acceleration of the planetary events in 2012 greatly mixed with the splendor that surrounds and most of all intimately invests us, often leaving us the feeling of oppressing, hurting, threatening or even breaking something within each of Us; in that little bit us "US" diffused and indistinct that we are alone and precieve and call "I".

In the occasion of sharing with the Sangha, we all too often say that we feel mourning, tiredness, weariness, sickness, pain, or in the least, perplexity and worry; nevertheless we were able to transform ourselves and interact with our daily lives with the help of how much discipline each of us knew to develop at the Temple, as in the private life.

As far as I know, in spite of the repetitive falls into traps of natural tendencies, I can observe the efforts made toward my self discipline that are producing some slight changes.

Discipline is tool that is non-spontaneous, burdensome, tiring tool that tends to be difficult to take continuously in processes of my being.

I feel that it is deeply connected to Patience.

Trying to find it, I chose to attribute different masks in order to successfully practice it in areas where I usually have difficulty.

The Discipline of Sitting and practicing Zazen, it was regular at the Temple, but not so much at home, where my work rhythms are deeply systemized, from unforeseen requests for medical help by my Patients, and lack of sleep that afflicts me, which sometimes makes my Zazen turn into a meditatiave trance.

I tried to amend this irregularity by integrating it with zeal and the aware availability in exercising my medical work, conducting it with a interior meditative behavior and of constant donation of my best energies.

I tried to apply the Discipline of Silence with everywhere with attention, however, succeeding in developing it more that the Temple than in my private life.

It was very interesting to apply it and impartially observe myself, each time that I felt that I received criticism thath could appear in my insufficient eyes, unfair, or non-applicable to action that I was responsible for. The Silence became a determined and clarifying friend.

The Discipline of Acting, despite fear, tiredness, doubts or subjective judgement, has given its steady outcome every time that I felt incapable of continuing or sustaining beyond certain situations or physical workloads, morals, affections, or responsabilities: I tried to do rather than undergo.

The progressively clarifying and liberating strength of Action has manifested itself most of all where I felt confused or insecure.

Acting uncovered an accomplice in Breathing, both are antidotes to the poison of restraining found in thinking too much. Action is Movement: free even if it is not specifically connected to the problem in operation: often I just needed to walk and become tired, to do Samu or a healthy walk through the woods, or climb a beautiful mountain, action is itself decisively meditative.

The Teacher Shinnyo Roshi with practitioners during the Kinhin under the stars

The absence of the Teacher during her summer stay in Japan, with the great amount of work and tidying up following the reconstruction of the Temple´s guestrooms, were in the torrid summer heat of Florence, a great exercise to recleanse my mind from tiredness, from passiveness and from thoughts. It was also for taking care of the garden and the plants that suffered from the drought, dust and abandonment.

It was a subtle and energizing meditation that, beginning almost without realizing it, activated vague and spontaneous connections with the Teacher, with the Temple and with the Practice itself, making it easier and more intimate, and cleansing it from anxiety and insecurity.

I tried to constantly practice it, despite the anxiety and severity of judgement that could arise from every error or difficulty from myself found or produced in its flow, until recently, it has become more and more a friend to my steps and my growth.

As the Teacher often emphasizes, the Formal exercise of the Ritual is a gift from a tool of continuous verification of ones interior condition. It shows me how much I am present to myself and within the context where I am, beyond how I seem to feel: It unfailingly denounces fear, fragility, reticence and anticipating anxiety that takes me from my perception of the moment and of myself.

The Form is Meditation and, like the latter, goes along with Trust, with Abandonment, Acceptance and the Absence of judgement. It makes me less mental, more bodily, and frowns on the tendency in freezing myself in what I have achieved and gained, and my scarce elasticity and readiness to unforeseen events and of "new" events that interrupt them.

A bad Form expressed, like a bad meditation done, I feel that they are precious and perhaps more than a presence at the Temple, perfect but rigid. Recently, I try to welcome errors in the practice of the Ritual, to observe and accept in the most aware way possible, something and how it is in that particular moment, and how I tendo to repeat some of my errors.

Under the great friendship between the Form and myself, a biger level of attention to the necessities and of the attention of the Practitioners is subtly growing.

In synthesis a more subtle connection, solid and spontaneous, and at the same tiem even less anxious and serious.

Lastly, I would like to write about the Discipline of Living and Loving in my private life.

I recently tried my best to practice it through awareness both where I feel it most easily, intuitively, and most obviously, such as in my relationship with my son and with this karmic complexities, and where for me it is harder and optional to practice it: meaning in the relationship between man and women, with my partner.

I feel like talking about it, sometimes, in conversation with the Teacher, I agreed with her upon what is fundamental, to be abel to corherently sit in Zazen and try to help the way on a spiritual Path, trying to live life intensively in subtle interests in all of its constructive shades.

For my experience, conducting also with my life partner, a consciously aware Practice, has allowed that I take care of all levels of my current existence in a way that intertwines with the practice at the Temple, so that it roots itself in a land cultivated in every part and with all tools given from the Universe. I live with gratefulness, for what has come to me easily and intuitively, like also what sometimes comes and creats a difficult dilemma or a source of pain, friction or momentaneous conflict.

A path made of lights, shadows and reciprocal projections: a mirror and an occasion, a source of strength and clearness but also of letting go.

I feel this as a compliment and as a ultierior refraction of the small insecure steps that I mention along the awy of reuniting under the guide of my Teacher; a way in which the fulfillment of the spirit passes through the body and also through awareness of this that flows beyond.

Thanks to the Way, to the Teacher, to the Sangha and to Life in its Unity.

Dai shin

Haiku

Selezione di Haiku per la Notte di Rohatsu

Matsuo Bashō 1644-1683

Metterò l´erba dell´oblio
nel riso bollito?
Fine dell´anno.

wasuregusa
nameshi ni tsuman
toshi no kure

わすれ草
菜飯につまん
年の暮

Matsuo Bashō 1644-1683

"Viaggiatore" voglio essere chiamato,
ora che cade
il primo scroscio della stagione.

tabibito to
waga na yobaren
hatsushigure

旅人と
我が名呼ばれん
初時雨

Matsuo Bashō 1644-1683

Mi sono ammalato in viaggio.
I miei sogni vagano
per i campi spogli.

tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno wo
kakemeguru

旅に病んで
夢は枯れ野を
駆け巡る

Yosa Buson 1716-1783

Nella sera che è rapida a svanire
risplendono le stelle.
Campi spogli.

kuremadaki
hoshi no kagayaku
kareno kana

暮れまだき
星の輝く
枯れ野かな

Senryū 1757-1796

La distribuzione dei ricordi.
Nonostante i singhiozzi
non è fatta a caso.

nakinaki mo
uka to wa kurenu
katamiwake

泣き泣きも
うかとはくれぬ
形見分け

Naitō Jōsō 1662-1704

Dove una lieve pioggia
cola nel mare aperto
– è buio.

kuromi keri
oki no shigure no
yuku tokoro.

くろみけり
おきのしぐれの
ゆくところ

Kobayashi Issa 1763-1827

è proprio questa
la mia ultima dimora,
cinque piedi di neve?

kore ga mā
tsui no sumika ka
yuki goshaku

これがまあ
ついのすみかか
ゆきごしゃく

Meisetsu 1847-1926

Primo dell´anno:
nella stirpe imperiale,
il monte Fuji.

ganjitsu ya
ikkei no tenshi
fuji no yama

がんじつや
いっけいのてんし
ふじのやま

T. Kyoshi 1874-1959

Il sole si è posato
sui monti lontani.
Campi spogli.

tōyama ni
hi no ataritaru
kareno kana

とう山に
日のあたりたる
枯れ野かな

Iida Dakotsu 1885-1962

Neanche il suono dei passi
del monaco nomade.
La terra è gelata.

unsui no
ashi oto mo naku
tsuchi hatenu

雲水の
あしおともなく
土涷てぬ

Kobayashi Issa 1763-1827

Tutto bagnato di pioggia
soffre per gli esseri umani,
il Buddha.

hito no tame
shigurete owasu
hotoke kana

人のため
時雨ておはす
佛哉

T. Kyoshi 1874-1959

Se mi accarezzassi
il viso con le mani,
sentiresti il freddo del naso!

te de kao wo
nazureba hana no
tsumetasa yo

手で顔を
撫ずれば鼻の
泠たさよ

Natsume Sōseki 1867-1916

Monti d´autunno.
Com´è strano
vederli fino in cima!

tate ni mite
koto mezurashi ya
aki no yama

竪に見て
事珍しや
秋の山

O. Seisensui 1884-1976

Anche se spegnessi la lampada,
avrei tra le palpebre
lo splendore della luna.

tomoshi wo keshitemo
tsuki ga akarui
mabuta no naka

灯をけしても
月があかるい
まぶたのなか

Katō Shūson 1905-1993

Vette azzurre d´inverno,
nelle pupille di un coniglio
che si è svegliato.

fuyu ne aoku
memurisametaru
usagi no dō

冬嶺青く
ねむ眠りさめたる
兎の瞳

Murakami Kijō 1865-1938

I veri alberi
resistono al freddo spezzandosi.
Monaco magro.

shinki watte
samusa ni tau ya
yasebōshi

真木割って
寒さに堪ふや
痩法師

A. Ryūnosuke 1892-1927

Vento freddo d´inverno.
Il colore del mare
resta nelle sardine essiccate.

kogarashi ya
mezashi ni nokoru
umi no iro

木がらしや
目刺にのこる
海のいろ

Katō Shūson 1905-1993

Vetta di nuvole.
Nelle otto direzioni
non c´è più terra.

kumo no mine
happō muji
to wa narinu

雲の峰
八方無士
とはなりぬ

Matsuo Bashō 1644-1683

Mi sorprenderà la pioggia,
ora che non ho neppure il cappello di bambù?
Ma che importa…

kasa mo naki
ware wo shigururu ka
nanto nanto

かさもなき
われをしぐるるか
なんとなんと

Senryū 1757-1796

Fukurokuju.
Quando ci s´inchina
c´è da fare un passo indietro.

Fukurokuju
ojigi no toki wa
atojisari

福禄寿
お辞儀の時は
あとじさり

Masaoka Shiki 1867-1902

Quando le guance gelano,
il bimbo torna a casa
e la cena è pronta.

hoho kōte
ko no kaerikuru
yūge kana

頬凍て
子の帰り来る
夕餉哉

Kobayashi Issa 1763-1827

Lampi.
Ad ogni bagliore
il mondo si purifica.

inazuma ya
hitokire zutsu ni
yo ga naoru

稲妻や
一切れずつに
世が直る

K. Hekigodō 1873-1937

Colgo una mela.
Ho detto tutto,
ma devo ripeterlo.

ringo wo tsumami
iitsushitemo
kurikaesaneba naranu

林檎をつまみ
云ひつくしても
くりかえさねばならぬ

Murakami Kijō 1865-1938

Il vento forte
non riesce a respingere
i passeri dei campi.

ōkaze ni
fukimawasarenu
ina suzume

大風に
吹き廻されぬ
稲雀

Reading

Buddha Shakyamuni

Extract from "Zen in the Art of Illumination" by Keizan

Buddha Shakyamuni abandoned his palace when he was nineteen years old and he shaved his head. For six years he followed ascetic practices. Later, he sat upon an indestructable seat so still that spiderwebs formed between his eyebrows and a bird´s nest was built upon his head and stalks grew around his feet.

He sat for six years.

When he was thirtythree, on the eighth day of the twelfth month, he was suddenly Illuminated at the appearance of the morning star. He said: "I and all beings of the Earth gain together the Illumination at the same moment."

He then passed forty-nine years teaching to help others, without ever being alone. With only one outfit and one bowl, he did not need anything. He taught to more than 360 assemblies, and in the end, delivered the Treasure of the Eye of Truth to Kasyapa and this Transmission still continues today. This is the root of the Transmission and of the Practice of the True Teaching in India, China and Japan.

The behavior that Buddha Shakyamuni followed during his life is a model for the disciples that succeed him. Ever since there were those who searched for the way of his Teaching, they have imitated the form and behavior of the Buddha and in every one of their actions they have always preeminently retained the task of auto-comprehension. Having been Transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, from follower to follower, the true Teaching has never been lost.

Although the Buddha did not indicate and did not always explain the same thing in more than 360 meeting during the forty-nine years, the various stories, parables, metaphors and explainations will never go beyond the principle illustrated in the story of his Illumination.

This mean that I am not Buddha Shakyamuni, even if Buddha Shakyamuni arises from this I.

This not only gives birth to Buddha Shakyamuni, but all the beings of the earth arise from it. In this way, as pulling out at a stitch in a net, all of thenets become undone, when Buddha Shakyamuni became Illuminated so too were all of the beings of the earth, and also all of the Buddhas of the past, present and future.

Being this way, what is the principle of Illumination? I ask: the Buddha is Illuminated along with you? You all are Illuminated with a Buddha? If you say that you became Illuminated along with the Buddha or that the Buddha became Illuminated with you, it is not the Illumination of the Buddha. Therefore, do not call it the principle of Illumination.

Also, I along with others am not one or the other. Your skin, flesh, bones and marrow are all together, and the guest of the house is this I. It does not have skin, flesh, bones and marrow; it does not have rough physical elements nor mental elements. Therefore, do not consider beings of the earth distinct for yourselves.

The seasons come and go; mountains, rivers, and regions change in the various moments: know that it is of the Buddha that raises his eyebrown and blinks. It si the only body that manifests itself in a myriad of forms. Therefore, studying it from every angle and penetrating it in every way you clear the Illumination of the Buddha and comprend your Illumination.

A branch stretches our from an apricot tree.

At the same time thorns grow.

The Poem

A poem by Rabindranath Tagore, famous also by the name of Gurudev, born in Calcutta on May 6th, 1861 and died in Santi Niketan, Bolpur, on August 7th, 1941.

Do not Judge

From the collection "Selected Poems"

Do not judge.
Where you live is only a small angle of this earth.
For as far your eyes reach,
they contain little;
to the little that you hear
add your voice.
With care you keep both
good and bad parts, black and white.
In vain you trace a line to draw the limits.
What does it matter that some men are good and others are not?
They are all travellers on the same path.
Do not judge.
Alas! Time flies by,
and every word is useless.

TESTIMONIES

Bringing Zen home

Before going home for a visit in America, I was a little worried that I would leave my Zen practice in Italy. It was the first time that I distanced myself from the Temple ever since I began continuously and seriously practicing. I was afraid that my practice would be only "made in Italy" and that I would have left it in Florence. In the end, these 15 days at home have confirmed that my practice is not an outfit that I wear, but rather, it is a part of myself. I felt my "transformations" thanks to Zen while speaking with my famiglia, in particular with my mother; it helped me recognize her open heart, even through the differences between us.

I admit that in some mornings it was difficult to sit in Zazen, I didn´t have my usual place where I put the zafu that the Teacher lended me, I made a makeshift one with a folded pillow. Plus, the delicious smell of American breakfast tempted me to end the meditation early.

But I think that these small difficulties will fade with more practice away from the Temple. I am happy to have done this trial/confirmation of my Practice. Unfortunately, due to my citizenship and the laws on immigration in this country, at least for now, I do not have the possibility of living and working here and I must return to my home in America. My practice, the support from the Teacher and the Sangha, and service to the Temple wil continue despite my distance and I will welcome any opportunity to return to Shinnyo-ji or visit Daijo-ji in Kanazawa. You are all with me, for the good of all beings.

Gasshō

Ten-shin

You have no idea

You have no idea how difficult it was

To find a gift to bring you.

Nothing seemed like the right thing.

What sense does it have to bring gold to a gold mine,

Or water to the ocean.

Everything that we find,

Was like bringing spices to the Orient.

I cannot give you my heart and my soul,

Because you already have yours.

So I brought you a mirror.

Look at yourself and remember me.

Gialal ad-Din Rumi

The mirror, in the simplicity of the archetype that it contains, at a time Solidity of life and symbol of clarity, consiste in the double acceptance of the aspect-mirror here understood; or rather oen is the mirror as a mudra of the Buddha´s mirror; to show the clear reality, as it is, reality and fiction seeming overcome and transcended, prefect identity from universal reality. Not only, but mirror as the truth-consciousness on which to continuously work until tiredness and inactivity and the weight of the world (the dust) do not deposit upon you, in other terms, tolls and occation to exercise one´s own force in the dimension of yourself-world.

Gasshō

Gregorio G.

Opening up

In practice, like in life, there are moment in which it is difficult to move ahead, there are huge steps and our legs have become so heavy… The mind gets lost in blind streets and is surrounded by fog and obscurity. How did we end up here? It seemed so different and easy before. We remain covered with mud up to our knees or even our hips.

Fear makes us close up in ourselves an dthe mind contracts and take refuge in the room of pain. It cries and continues to beat at the walls. One from the next, up and down, forward and backwards, without stopping. There is no peace, to way to escape.

But it just takes a moment, the flash of light that penetrates, the beat of the wings that opens the heart and a window suddenly appears: the light, the sun that flows in and we feel alive and faithful. You just need to give up, let it fall and open you eyes. There is the whole world around us (like Matia Bazar sang).

The Teacher repeats: "Don´t close yourselves in yourselves, in your world of pain, open your heart!" Sometimes it seems so difficult, almost impossible. And yet the other night it just happened: I was thinking a series of negative thoughts and about unhappiness and then at a certain point, I just gave it up for a moemtn, and a small opening was created and my gaze became happier. I realized that I was in a small world, skimpy inside. I look out, there was so much space: a vastness, lots of light and beauty.

Ben-shin

At dawn, during the Rohatsu, between sleep and awakeness,

I raise my eyes to the door in front of where I am seated.

I see a mirror without my figure. It reflects only light on a white background:

Like the floor of kitchen where I was raised, on a sunny day.

Like the empty and sacred space in the Zendo that we walk around during Kinhin.

Without having asked for it, without wanting it, this year coming to the Temple was accompanied by numerous changes that came about in my life In some cases the events were brief but rapid, in others, like in the past June and July, events happened with a sustained rhythm until making me throw my hands up in the resignation of someone who cannot take any more challenges and must move ahead. I mourned for some people that left, a deep pain in front of a sudden suicide, a car accident in which I was not injured, the windshield glass shattered and the door fell into the seat from the top side and I was thrown from the cabin, I wasn´t angry: and I´m still not!

The necessity to realign myself, or stay in tihe present, is strong and urgent.

I came to the Temple to begin again this experience, of practice and life, very precious, and at the same tiem painful form my recent past. In that period I felt that I had "squared the circle".

Later, everything paid off.

I needed a break.

The necessity of letting go.

Thanks to the Teacher for accepting my request.

Lucia

In the noise
of a blind room
I learned how to sit
in silence.

How, much later,
I encountered the community
at the Temple and the Teacher.
Sitting with you is a joy and honor.

Gasshō

Marco V

THE ZEN OF BODHIDHARMA
Chapter IV: The Breakthrough Sermon

If someone is determined to reach enlightenment, what is the most essential method he can practice?

The most essential method, which includes all other methods, is beholding the mind.

But how can one method include all others?

The mind is the root from which all things grow if you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It´s like the root of a tree. All a tree´s fruit and flowers, branches and leaves depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort. Those who don´t understand the mind practice in vain. Everything good and bad comes from your own mind. To find something beyond the mind is impossible.

But bow can beholding the mind be called understanding?

When a great bodhisattva delves deeply into perfect wisdom(76), he realizes that the four elements and five shades are devoid of a personal self. And he realizes that the activity of his mind has two aspects: pure and impure(77).

By their very nature, these two mental states are always present. They alternate as cause or effect depending on conditions, the pure mind delighting in good deeds, the impure mind thinking of evil. Those who aren´t affected by impurity are sages. They transcend suffering and experience the bliss of nirvana. All others, trapped by the impure mind and entangled by their own karma, are mortals. They drift through the three realms and suffer countless afflictions and all because their impure mind obscures their real self.

The Sutra of Ten Stages says, "in the body of mortals is the indestructible buddha-nature. Like the sun, its light fills endless space, But once veiled by the dark clouds of the five shades, it´s like a light `inside a `at, hidden from view." And the Nirvana Sutra says, "All mortals have the buddha-nature. But it´s covered by darkness from which they can´t escape. Our buddha-nature is awareness: to be aware and to make others aware. To realize awareness is liberation," Everything good has awareness for its root. And from this root of awareness grow the tree of all virtues and the fruit of nirvana. Beholding the mind like this is understanding.

You say that our true Buddha-nature and all virtues have awareness for their root. But what is the root of ignorance?

The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion. These three poisoned states of mind themselves include countless evils, like trees that have a single trunk but countless branches and leaves. Yet each poison produces so many more millions of evils that the example of a tree is hardly a fitting comparison.

The three poisons are present in our six sense organs(79) as six kinds of consciousness(80), or thieves. They´re called thieves because they pass in and out of the gates of the senses, covet limitless possessions, and mask their true identity. And because mortals are misled in body and mind by these poisons or thieves, they become lost in life and death, wander through the six states of existence, and suffer countless afflictions.

These afflictions are like rivers that surge for a thousand miles because of the constant flow of small springs. But if someone cuts off their source, rivers dry up. And if someone who seeks liberation can turn the three poisons into the three sets of precepts and the six thieves into the six paramitas, he rids himself of affliction once and for all. But the three realms and six states -of existence are infinitely vast. How can we escape their endless afflictions if all we do is behold the mind? The karma of the three realms comes from the mind alone. If your mind isn´t within the three realms, it´s beyond them. The three realms correspond to the three poisons - greed corresponds to the realm of desire, anger to the realm of form, and delusion to the formless realm. And because karma created by the poisons can be gentle or heavy, these three realms are further divided into six places known as the six states of existence.

Notes
(76) Supreme wisdom. It is a paraphrase of the verse of opening of the Heart Sutral where the Bodhisattva and Avalokitesara and where the perfect wisdom, or Prajna Paramit, is not wisdom, because wisdom is "gone, gone beyond, completely gone beyond" of the space and time categories, to be and not to be.
(77) Pure and impure. For an extensive reading on this see `The awakening of the faith in the Mahayana´ by Ashvaghosa, where pure and impure are called illumination and non-illumination.
(78) Sutra of the Ten States… Sutra of the Nirvana. When the translations of these two Sutra appear for the first tiem at the beginning of the fifth century, they had a profound impact on the development of Buddhism in China. Amongst their teachings, there are the universality of the Buddha Nature and the eternity, joyousness, personal, and pure Nature of the Nirvana. Since then, the doctrine of emptiness teaches from the Sutra of the Prajna Paramita had dominated Chinese Buddhism. The Sutra a of Ten States, that goes into detail about the states in which a Bodhisattva passes throughout his path toward Buddhahood, it is a version in a chapter with the same title in the Avatamaska Sutra.
(79) Six organs of senses. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin and mind.
(80) Six states of consciousness. The types of consciousness associated with sight, hearing, smelling, taste, touch, and thought. The Lankavatara divides thought into comprehension, discrimination and memory (of the Tathagata) for the total eight forms of consciousness .
(81) Six states of existence. The fundamental types of existence through which beings move, thought after though or life after life, until they achieve illumination and escape from the wheel of suffering. Suffering in this wheel is relative. The gods of paradise follow more or less blessed lives, whereas who sufferes in hell goes from punishment to punishment. Demons and humans feel more suffering than gods but less than hungry spirits and beasts.

Prof. Aldo Tollini at Shinnyo-ji

24 September 2012

After the release of his book, "Lo Zen", Professor Aldo Tollini fron University Ca´ Foscari of Venice, came to Florence for work motives, he was a guest at Shinnyo-ji and came to the Sangha in the Zazen Monday evening and Tuesday morning. After Monday practice, introduced by Teacher Shinnyo Roshi, he spoke about the motivations that lead him thoughout his work, commenting later on the text. It was followed by a dinner together in the Temple´s Guest room, prepared and offered by the practitioners.

Statues of Buddha by sculptor Enkū (1632- 1695)

Article by Prof. Yukihiro Nomura, Art History docent at the University of Gifu, published by the national newpapaer, "Asahi Shinbun" on 24 March 2012.

"What is the artistic significance of the Enkū statue?"

Enkū, Buddhist monk in the Hōsōshu e Tendaishu school, created thousands of Buddha statues in all of Japan, during the Edo period. Since about 50 years ago, Professosr Tsuchiya from the University of Gifu rediscovered the artistic value of these Buddha statues of Enkū, a group of researchers began an intense activity of studying the artistic production. Not only local stories, but many scholars from other sectors such as History of the Religions, Anthropology, Art and various artists try to find more about the rediscovery of his work.

Also the Gifu Prefecture has instituted the "Enkū Prize" to maintain alive its memory and to diffuse its consciousness and the community museum of Nagoya was recently set up with an exhibition of his works, it was a huge success. In this way, his popularity will not diminish.

Statue by Enkū:
"Buddha of wooden bark"
© photo Hideo Goto ( "Wild art, Enkū, Show catalogue", Asahi Shinbun 1980)
円空「木端仏」(撮影・後藤英夫、『野生の芸術 円空展』 朝日新聞社)

Until now, research on Enkū was brought ahead mostly by his relation with Buddhism and on his practices as a hermit monk, but now I would like to present him here from the historic point of view of the International Art and how we can value his sculptures. It was often said that Enkū´s statues look like many modern and contemporary European works. We can say that refinding the value of his works depends on the arise of interest in Japan for contemporary European artwork.

Statue by Picasso:
"Little statues thin and long" 1931
(H.Read, "A Concise History of Modern Sculpture", London 1985)
(H.リード『近代彫刻史』言叢社)

Let´s now do a comparision between his works and those of avanguard artists of today. For example, if we put the workds of Picasso next to those by Enkū we see that both, having an infant "naïve" style, have characteristic lines, simple and very strong, that have never been seen in other artworks.

It is surprising to say that the works of Enkū were created from than 200 years before those of the Avanguard and Picasso. And not only this, his works are also similar to those by other sculptors like the Italian Medardo Rosso (1858-1928), the Romanian Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) and the Swiss Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), pioneers in modern sculpture. Surely these European artists were not aware of the works of Enkū. So why are the European modern sculpture seem so similar to those of Enkū?

Under historic profile, Japanese sculpture of Buddha statues arise from the Asuka Period (538-710) and it evolved with richer form and expressions until the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), epoch of the Samurai, only to fall in to decadence. Enkū, living in the period without a tradition, not having followed an artistic form, could express himself in a totally personal and characteristic way.

Rather in Europe, the search of realisitic expression began in the Renaissance period and ended in the XIX century, with the art of François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840 – 1917) French sculptor and painter. Later, European art turned toward abstracat art, folklore, for children and disabled, and to artists who did not follow an academic course. In reality, the evolution of the History of Art in Japan and in Europe are very similar.

The re-evaluation of Enkū´s art, rediscovered only 50 years ago, according to me began very late, because inserting Enkū in the History of International Art we must emphasize that this sculptore realized an innovative expression of post-realism much earlier than European artists. Frans Krajcberg (1921), the Polish sculptor that won a last edition of the Enkū Prize said: "I love Enkū´s statutes, but unfortunately his works are still not known around the world".

Therefore there is still a great need to diffuse the presentation and study of Enkū abroad.

Thanks to Fabio Dai shin, Lisa Ten shin, Beatrice Ben shin for the photos, Eva Yō shin for editing the Newsletter and Lisa Ten shin for translation.

We will see you at the next EkiZen number.

Gasshō

Calendar for Zen Practice at the Shinnyo-ji Sōtō Zen Temple of Florence:

Zazen – Three encounters per week: Every Monday evening from 8.00 to 10.00 p.m.
Every Tuesday morning from 6.30 to 7.30 a.m.
Every Friday evening from 8.00 to 9.30 p.m.
Zazenkai Zazenkai – una domenica al mese dalle 9.00 alle 18.00.
Sesshin – One weekend per month from Friday at 8:00 p.m. to the following Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Retreat schuldes are available on our website.

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