Shakuhachi



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The Zen Shakuhachi Truth Research Web Pages

Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi History & Ideology in Particular

Torsten Olafsson • 無穴笛オーラフソン トーステンデンマーク • Denmark

 



Introduction

About this Research Project

Realizations & Conclusions

Highlighted Pictures

Highlighted Quotations

Texts, Quotations & Illustrations
     A Chronological Panorama:

 •  India

 •  China

 •  Japan

 •  The West


To be - or not to be:
     a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?


Errors, Misconceptions & Loose Ends

The Source Collections

The Written Sources

1470?: The Kyōgen Play Rakuami

1505: Kōrin's Shakuhachi Essay

1512: The Taigenshō Music Treatise

The Komosō & Fuke-komosō Sources

1614: The Keichō kenmon-shū

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Evidence

1628: The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis

1640s?: The Butsu-gen Evidence

1646: Isshi Bunshu's Letter
     to the Komusō Sandō Mugetsu


1646 ... The Hottō Kokushi Legend

The Early Komusō Texts

The Kyōto/Kansai Sources

The Edo/Kantō/Tōkyō Sources

1664: Shichiku shoshinshū

1677: The Enpō 5, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance


1678: The Enpō 5, 12th Month
     Komusō-ha Oboe Memorandum


1687: The Jōkyō 4, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Ordinance


1694: Engetsu's Honsoku deshi ...

c. 1700?: The Kyotaku Denki myth

1703 & 1705: The Myōan-ji
     c/o Kōkoku-ji Interrelationship


1722: The Kyōhō 7, 6th Month
     Reihō-ji Memorandum


1730: The Kyōhō 15, 7th Month
     Ichigetsu-ji & Reihō-ji Memorandum


1732: The Shakuhachi denrai-ki
     and early 'honkyoku' history


1735: Myōan-ji's Kyorei-zan engi ...

1751: Keichō no okitegaki -
     Existing Reprint Versions


1752: Myōan Temple Restorer Engetsu Ryōgen's
     23 Fixed Rules for the House


1770: The Kurozawa Kinko Honkyoku Collection

1795: Kyotaku denki kokujikai

1816: Miyaji Ikkan's Shakuhachi hikki

1823: Hisamatsu Fūyō's Hitori mondō

Literature

Links

Profile / Bio / CV

Contact Info


Highlighted Quotations

"This realization of non-duality is the end to be attained."

     From Shankara's introduction to the Māndūkya Upanishad
     Kārikā by Gaudapāda, 8th century A.D.
     Trsl. by Swami Nikhilananda, 1936.


Beyond the illusory duality of the "Bright" & the "Dark"

There are, basically, two very different approaches to shakuhachi practice:

You may play in a way so as to entertain and enjoy your listeners which is known as Kanshō no ongaku, 鑑賞の音楽, "Music for Appreciation"; or you may blow the shakuhachi as a form and means of "Intensive Mental Discipline": Shugyō, 修行, which is termed Gyō no ongaku, 行の音楽, "Music for ascetic (Buddhist) practice".

This essential "definition" was formulated by Uramoto Setchō, 浦本浙潮, 1891-1965, founder of the Fuke Myōan-ha, 普化明暗派, branch of modern Fuke Shakuhachi, probably at sometime during the 1930s.

The latter, the esoteric practice of shakuhachi asceticism, may be at least as much as three to four hundred years old and has - among other places in Japan - been preserved till today at the Zen temple Myōan-ji in SE Kyōto - the most important center of the original Japanese ascetic bamboo flute traditions most precisely named "Komusō Shakuhachi".



1811:

"Shakuhachi
The shakuhachi is an instrument of the Buddhist Law.
The socalled shakuhachi has many numerological meanings to it [lit.: has large numbers].
Taking the distance between the three joints [respectively] determines the distance [or, length; Jap.: chōtan, 長短] between the top and the bottom.
Every part expresses something.
The upper and lower two openings are the Sun and the Moon.
The five holes on the front and back, respectively, are The Five Elements.
It is The Profound Origin of All Creation.
When one blows [the shakuhachi] then All Myriad Beings cause the Darkness of the Ego to dissolve and the Mind [or, mental state] to become One."

     Excerpt from a komusō 'honsoku' issued by the important
     mother temple Ichigetsu-ji in Matsudo City, Mod. Chiba Pref.,
     in 1811, 5th month (Bunka 8). In Kurihara, 1975, pp. 159-162.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2013.




1977:

"Myōan Shakuhachi can not be likened to the playing of an ordinary wind instrument.
Such thing as a fixed way of playing does not exist.
What I can say is, plainly, that I am only concerned with directing my blowing towards my own Self - with a gentle mind."

It is my opinion that people who trifle with skill of playing and "play well" - who exercise exceedingly intending to impress the listener and the like - that way of blowing with an egocentric mind represents the worst of human attitudes (that I can think of).

There are people who can produce changing sounds depending on technical skill, but as for the shakuhachi practice of the Myōan Temple, I believe that the ideal way of Zen Shakuhachi is to let one's true Mind listen to the sounds and to cultivate one's own Self in accordance with those sounds.

I can not easily express this in words but to practice the shakuhachi of Zen Shakuhachi is indeed a way of mental training and self-cultivation that is practiced with an open and humble mind and does not develop into (mere) technical skill with a selfish attitude.

The accumulation of this daily practice will, eventually, bring about the realization of the true Self of one's Human Nature.

It is, in any case, wrong to act against Nature.
I am devoting myself every day to follow Nature and not to be mistaken about the Way."

     Expressed by the late Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin, former head of the Myōan Temple Taizan-ha Shakuhachi School, Kyōto, in 1977.

     Private communication, 1977. Trsl. by T.O.




1978:

"Myōan Shakuhachi is related to the Fuke Sect of Shakuhachi and it has as its purpose to employ the ancient Japanese shakuhachi flute as a Dharma instrument [hō-ki] in order that one may understand the Ultimately Adual Nature of "The Bright" and "The Dark" [myō-an] and experience the Essence of Emptiness and Non-substantiality [kyo] through self-cultivation.
This practice is called Suizen."

     Expressed by the late Osawa Seizan Sensei, former Taizan-ha Shakuhachi teacher at the Myōan-ji Zen Temple in Kyōto, in 1977-78.
Quotation from a letter of recommendation, 1978. Trsl. by T.O.



The former, Edo Period Myōan-ji in Eastern Kyōto

The former, Edo Period Myōan-ji in Eastern Kyōto


Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto


Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto


Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto


Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto

Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto


Statue of Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji at Myōan-ji, Kyōto

Statue of Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji, legendary founder
of the Myōan Temple in Kyōto


Higuchi Taizan, founder of the Taizan line of modern Myōan Shakuhachi

Higuchi Taizan, 1856-1914, founder
of the Taizan line of modern Myōan Shakuhachi


Mu-ku-teki suizen - calligraphy by Myōan Taizan/Higuchi Taizan

"Mu-ku-teki suizen" - calligraphy (n.d.) signed 'Myōan Taizan'.

Picture gallery credits:
Black & white photos from Tomimori Kyozan:
Myōan Shakuhachi Tsūkai, Tokyo, 1979.
Color photos by Torsten Olafsson, 1977.
"Mukuteki suizen" calligraphy: In the possession of T.O.

Relevant link: Biography of Higuchi Taizan:
www.komuso.com/people/Higuchi_Taizan.html




INDIA

c. 1500 - c. 900 B.C. - The Veda Era:

"That One breathed breathlessly by Itself;
other than It there nothing since has been."

     Quoted from the Rigveda, X, 129. Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, 1960, Vol. I.



c. 1000 - c. 700 BC - The Upanishad Era:


TAITTIRYA ARANYAKA

"The blind one found the jewel;
The one without fingers picked it up;
The one with no neck put it on;
And the one with no voice praised it."

     In the Taittirya Aranyaka. Trsl. by R.H. Blyth, Vol. I.



"The word zen, dhyana, appears first in the Chandagya Upanishad, and means "thinking," or rather, "meditating," the difference being all-important, for Zen means thinking with the body. - - - "

     R.H. Blyth, 1960.
     Date of Chandagya Upanishad: Possibly before 1000 B.C.



"This realization of non-duality is the end to be attained."

     From Shankara's introduction to the Māndūkya Upanishad
     Kārikā by Gaudapāda, 8th century A.D.
     Trsl. by Swami Nikhilananda, 1936.


"Vedānta certainly does not help us to bring grist to our individual mill.
It certainly does not tell us how to increase our capacity to enjoy the pleasures derived from material objects. But Vedānta really teaches us how to enjoy this world after realizing its true nature.
To embrace or comprehend the universe after realizing it as the non-dual Brahman, gives us peace that passeth all understanding."

     Swami Nikhilananda in the preface for his translation of the
     Māndūkya Upanishad, 1936.



SIDDHĀRTHA GAUTĀMA BUDDHA - c. 563-483 BC, alt. c. 480-400 BC

拈華微笑

NEN-GE-MI-SHŌ - llt. "Pick up Flower, Subtle Smile"

In a famous, though legendary, wordless sermon of his, Buddha is reported to have shown his diciples a flower - however, only Mahākāśyapa understood ...

Buddha commented, "I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle [D]harma [G]ate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa."

This central Zen Buddhist anecdote was composed much later, possibly by Chinese Ch'an Buddhists. Earliest reference is dated 1036.

     Sources: Dumoulin, 2005, p. 9, Harmless, 2008, p. 192
     & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_Sermon




NĀGĀRJUNA - c. 150 – c. 250 AD

sarvaṃ ca yujyate tasya śūnyatā yasya yujyate
sarvaṃ na yujyate tasya śūnyaṃ yasya na yujyate


"All is possible when Emptiness is possible.
Nothing is possible when Emptiness is impossible."

     Quotation from Chapter 24, verse 14, in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.
     Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna


      शून्यता


"Kū: (Skt.: shūnya or shūnyatā)
A fundamental Buddhist concept, variously translated as non-substantiality, emptiness, void, latency, relativity, etc. The concept that entities have no fixed or independent nature. The idea is closely linked to that of dependent origination (Skt.: pratîtya-samutpâda, Jap.: engi], which states that, because phenomena arise and continue to exist only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena, they have no fixed substance and have as their true nature kū.
The concept of kū thus teaches that nothing exists independently. Its practical implications lie in the rejection of attachments to transient phenomena, and to the egocentricity of one who envisions himself as being absolute and independent of all other existences. It is an especially important concept in Mahayana Buddhism.
On the basis of sutras known as Hannya (Skt.: prajna) or Wisdom sutras, the concept of kū was systemized by Nâgârjuna, who explains it as the Middle Way, which here means neither existence nor non-existence.
- - - "

     In: A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.
     Matsuda Tomohiro, chief editor.

     T.O. comment: The south-Indian Mahayana scholar Nāgārjuna is
     thought to have lived between 150 and 250 AD. His systematization of
     the doctrine of Non-substantiality, or 'Shūnyatā' [Jap.: 'kū'], was set
     forth in his treatise 'Mahāprajnāpāramitā-shāstra', a commentary on
     the Makahannya Haramitsu sutra. The treatise was translated into
     Chinese by Kumārajiva around 405 AD Also referred to as the
     'Middle' way, Nāgārjuna's doctrine is integral to Mahayana
     Buddhism, and he is revered as the founder of the eight sects:
     Kusha, Jōjitsu, Ritsu, Hossō, Sanron, Kegon, Tendai and Shingon.



To be expanded ...



Postscript:

"The deep questions we write out
are but marks in a dream.
When we wake up,
even the questioner is gone."

     Ikkyū Sōjun, Daitoku-ji, 1457.
     Trsl. by James E. Sanford, 1981.


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