Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the Highest Relinquishment

seclusion... dispassion... cessation... relinquishment...

The highest relinquishment: the knowing, but not holding...

Wings of Awakening,
Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Saturday, May 26, 2007


“Calligraphy is indeed a painting of the mind:
the degree of enlightenment is expressed in the flow of ink.”

John Stevens - Sacred Calligraphy of the East

Picture: All Rights Reserved pic@aml2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

mind n brush

Kokoro tadashikereba sunawachi fude tadashi--

"If your mind is correct, the brush will be correct."

Zen Master Fukushima Keido@Hendrix College 2001

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

unshakable mind

Calligraphy of "Fudoshin" by Hugh E. Davey of the Shudokan Martial Arts Association, who is also a prize-winning calligrapher.

Fudoshin: [whenever] someone is faced with a difficult situation, he can do as usual with [an] unshakable mind.
--Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi, 18th soke, Hontai Yoshin Ryu

D. T. Suzuki translates The Mystery of Prajna Immovable, to the Buddhist concept of transcendental wisdom (the Sanskrit prajna). When applied constantly, it is the mind of Buddha, the state of ultimate enlightenment. Takuan and Suzuki further relate fudochi to the Buddhist guardian Fudo Myo-o (Sanskrit Acala-vidyaraja), the Immovable, who protects Buddhism with his sword, rope and glaring fierceness. He is the destroyer of delusion, unaffected by the seduction of worldly attractions. In his unassailable detachment, Fudo Myo-o is the steadfast image of the mind unmoved by carnal temptations. Immobility from the enlightened state is accomplished by maintaining a mind that remains detached, that is, a mind that does not stop or become fixated on any one thing.

Takuan's letter to the famed Yagyu master swordsman, official instructor to the third Tokugawa shogun, makes it clear that attaining this unfettered and imperturbable mind is at the core of true mastery. Applied in the context of the samurai swordsman, the unmoving and unstopping mind is one that will remain free from fixation on either the enemy's sword as it cuts at him, or by his own cut in defense. In such a state of mind, he spontaneously, naturally and effectively responds, without an instant's hesitation (or in less than a "hair's breadth" of time, in Takuan's imagery).

That the immovable, imperturbable mind of fudosshin was significant for all bushi (hereditary warriors) is suggested by Nitobe Inazo's ground-breaking turn-of-the-century work, Bushido: The Soul of the Samurai. In his chapter on "Courage" (Chapter IV), he writes in a footnote (pp. 32-3) that:

The spiritual aspect of valor is evidenced by composure--calm presence of mind. Tranquility is courage in repose. . .A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit. In the heat of battle he remains cool; in the midst of catastrophes he keeps level his mind.

Apparently lacking a discrete term in English for the concept, and avoiding the use of a Japanese term in this context, Nitobe is clearly referring here to the mental quality of fudoshin. He depicts it as being of quintessential significance to the samurai, and reiterates this sentiment later in his chapter on "Self-Control" (Chapter XI, pp. 104-5):

[For the bushi,] calmness of behavior, composure of mind, should not be disturbed by passion of any kind.

This mind that remains unruffled and calm is the same imperturbable, unattached and unfettered mind about which Takuan instructs his student, Munenori. It is the ultimate mind of mastery, achievable only through rigorous training, and equally rigorous soul-searching and spirit-forging (seishin tanren, in Japanese) through the confrontation and overcoming of our own fears and weaknesses.


Monday, May 21, 2007

The Pieta

The Pietà is van Gogh's Imitatio Christi in oil. Although van Gogh reproduced the painting from a lithograph of Delacroix's Pietà, the style of painting, in which the canvas is built up with layers of paint so that the figures appear molded out of clay, as well as the dramatic use of color and intimate rendering of the portrait figures make this van Gogh's own distinctive work. While working on his Pietà, van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, "I am not indifferent, and even when suffering, sometimes religious thoughts bring me great consolation. So this last time during my illness an unfortunate accident happened to me — that lithograph of Delacroix's Pietà, along with some other sheets, fell into some oil and paint and was ruined. I was very distressed — then in the meantime I have been busy painting it.... I hope it has feeling."

Perhaps the most striking feature of the van Gogh Pietà is its symbolic use of color. The picture plane is divided into areas of intense sapphire blue juxtaposed with citron yellow. Rather than depicting Christ with a halo, van Gogh used an intense yellow light to convey the mystical quality of the dying Jesus. As he explained to Theo, "I want to paint men and women with something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we seek to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our coloring." Mary's robes cascade in folds of various shades of blue, from light indigo to royal, so dark it appears almost black, forming a marked contrast with the luminous glow of light that strikes her right arm and face. This deep blue, characteristic of the visionary sky of Starry Night, was van Gogh's symbol of infinity. In a previous painting, The Portrait of Eugène Boch, he described his symbolic use of blue in the portrait figure's background: "Instead of painting the ordinary wall of the mean room, I paint infinity, a plain background of the richest, intensest blue I can contrive."

Van Gogh's Pietà is a deeply personal portrait of Christ's suffering and Mary's devotion. The Christ figure is emaciated, his eyes closed, his head bowed. He appears to be dead, but Mary has stayed by his side, her face sympathetic, but her distant gaze wistful, even hopeful. Her arms present the figure expectantly rather than enfolding him in grief. Both Christ and Mary are bathed in a radiant blaze of golden light streaming from the sun rising behind the jagged cliffs. The morning light portends Christ's resurrection and ultimate triumph as well as the regeneration van Gogh hoped to find for himself through the healing of the asylum at St. Rémy.

At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van Gogh,
Kathleen Erickson

Other Ref: The Symbolic Language of Vincent Van Gogh, Heinz Graetz

To look @ the painting, goto Van Gogh Museum

Thursday, May 10, 2007

teachings on love

No matter what people pour onto the earth,
whether milk, flowers, or compose,
the Earth receives it all.
Because the great Earth is vast and has the power
to transform everything into soil, plants and flowers.
If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water,
the water becomes undrinkable.
But if you pour the salt into the river,
people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash and drink.
The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace and transform.

If our hearts our big, we can be like the river.
When our hearts are small,
our understanding and compassion are limited
and we suffer.
We can't accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings,
and we demand that they change.
But when our hearts expand,
the same things don't make us suffer anymore.

So the big question is,
how do we help our heart to grow?

Thich Nhat Hanh
Teachings on Love

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings

The Order of Interbeing is guided by Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings.

1. Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.
2. Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We shall learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to others' insights and experiences. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.
3. Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are committed not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever — such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination — to adopt our views. We will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness through practicing deeply and engaging in compassionate dialogue.
4. Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help us develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, we are determined not to avoid or close our eyes before suffering. We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact, images, and sounds, to be with those who suffer, so we can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace, and joy.
5. Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom, and compassion, and not in wealth or fame, we are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those in need. We will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs, or any other products that bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness.
6. Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, we are determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognize and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in our consciousness. When anger comes up, we are determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace, and look deeply into our anger. We will learn to look with the eyes of compassion at ourselves and at those we think are the cause of our anger.
7. Aware that life is available only in the present moment and that it is possible to live happily in the here and now, we are committed to training ourselves to live deeply each moment of daily life. We will try not to lose ourselves in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger, or jealousy in the present. We will practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. We are determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are inside and around us, and by nourishing seeds of joy, peace, love, and understanding in ourselves, thus facilitating the work of transformation and healing in our consciousness.
8. Aware that lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, we are committed to training ourselves in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. We will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. We will make every effort to keep communications open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
9. Aware that words can create suffering or happiness, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten our safety.
10. Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
11. Aware that great violence and injustice have been done to our environment and society, we are committed not to live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. We will do our best to select a livelihood that helps realize our ideal of understanding and compassion. Aware of global economic, political and social realities, we will behave responsibly as consumers and as citizens, not supporting companies that deprive others of their chance to live.
12. Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, we are determined to cultivate nonviolence, understanding, and compassion in our daily lives, to promote peace education, mindful mediation, and reconciliation within families, communities, nations, and in the world. We are determined not to kill and not to let others kill. We will diligently practice deep looking with our Sangha to discover better ways to protect life and prevent war.
13. Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. We will practice generosity by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We are determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. We will respect the property of others, but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.

14. (For lay members): Aware that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness but will create more suffering, frustration, and isolation, we are determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love, and a long-term commitment. In sexual relations, we must be aware of future suffering that may be caused. We know that to preserve the happiness of ourselves and others, we must respect the rights and commitments of ourselves and others. We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. We will treat our bodies with respect and preserve our vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of my bodhisattva ideal. We will be fully aware of the responsibility for bringing new lives in the world, and will meditate on the world into which we are bringing new beings.

Thich Nhat Hanh