"Myō-An" - The dualistic pair
of the "Bright" & the "Dark"
1970s: Myōan Taizan-ha Thought & Credos
Beyond the illusory duality of the "Bright" & the "Dark"
There are, basically, two 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,
"Music for Appreciation"; or you may blow the shakuhachi as a form and means of "Intensive Mental Discipline":
which is termed Gyō no ongaku,
行の音楽, "Music for ascetic (Buddhist) practice".
This essential "definition" was formulated by Uramoto Setchō,
1891-1965, founder of the Fuke Myōan-ha,
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".
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 Fuke Shakuhachi
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.
"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 Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin, head [Jap.: kanshu] of the Myōan Zen Temple
Taizan-ha Shakuhachi School, Kyōto, in 1977. Private communication, 1977. Trsl. by T.O.
"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 "Brightness" and "Darkness"
[myō-an] and experience the Essence of Emptiness and Non-substantiality [kyo] through self-cultivation.
This practice is called Suizen."
Expressed by Osawa Seizan Sensei, my Fuke 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
Present-day Myōan-ji at Tōfuku-ji in SE Kyōto
Statue of Kyochiku Ryōen Zenji, legendary founder
of the Myōan Temple in Kyōto
Higuchi Taizan, 1856-1914, founder
of the Taizan line of modern Myōan Shakuhachi
"Mu-ku-teki suizen" - calligraphy (n.d.) signed 'Myōan Taizan'.
Page bottom 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.
Biography of Higuchi Taizan:
Ozawa Seizan, 1978