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      'Shugyō Shakuhachi' rekishi-teki shōko no kenkyū hōmupēji -

The "Ascetic Shakuhachi" Historical Evidence Research Web Pages

Introduction & Guide to the Documentation & Critical Study of Ascetic, Non-Dualistic Shakuhachi Culture, East & West:
Historical Chronology, Philology, Etymology, Vocabulary, Terminology, Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices

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


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Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology: Documentation
     of the Experienced Basically Non-Dual Nature
     of Ultimate Reality - Highlighted Quotations


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

     Quote from Shankara's introduction to the Māndūkya Upanishad
     Kārikā by Gaudapāda, 8th century CE.
     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 practice".

This essential "definition" was presenteded 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, in his essay Zen mondō to satori, "Zen Dialogues and Enlightenment", published in 1960, Shōwa 35.

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 practice traditions often being referred to collectively as Fuke shakuhachi.


"Fuke Shakuhachi was (or: is) the music of asceticism [gyō no ongaku].

Playing shakuhachi, you blow with your mind, blow with your fingers, like when frost comes down in the shivering cold night.

As a whole, it is "Self" / "Nature" [shizen] without any deliberate consciousness.
Not to mention, let alone any technique, nor finesse [gikō].

Being unresolved in confusion, simply practicing asceticism will nothing but bring about elevation [alt.: improvement, advancement, progress].

Supposingly, when there are people who say that there are also human beings to whom the shakuhachi is only "delicious" [umai] ... that is to detach human beings from the shakuhachi.

Doing away with unresolved confusion, that brings an end to the symptoms of abnormal detachment."

     Quotation from Uramoto Setchō's essay 'Zen mondō to satori.'
     Essay originally published by Shunjūsha, 1960, 12 pages.
     Source of quotation and info: Kikkawa Eishi, 1975, pp. 55-56.
     Uramoto Setchō's essay, 12 pages, orig. published by Shunjūsha, 1960.
     Quotation trsl. by T.O., 2018.


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.


"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.


"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 Non-Duality 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.


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:


"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


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

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.


": (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 .

The concept of 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 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.


c. 400 BCE:

Colour's five hues from the eyes their sight will take;

Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;

The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste.

     Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961. Link:

a. 300 BCE:

"Now there are five things which produce (in men) the loss of their (proper) nature.

The first is (their fondness for) the five colours, which disorder the eye, and take from it its (proper) clearness of vision;

the second is (their fondness for) the five notes (of music), which disorder the ear and take from it its (proper) power of hearing;

the third is (their fondness for) the five odeurs which penetrate the nostrils, and produce a feeling of distress all over the forehead;

the fourth is (their fondness for) for the five flavours, which deaden the mouth, and pervert its sense of taste;

the fifth is their preferences and dislikes, which unsettle the mind, and cause the nature to go flying about.

These five things are all injurious to the life ... "

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961.

a. 300 BCE:

Fishing-stakes are employed to catch fish;
but when the fish are got, the men forget the stakes.

Snares are employed to catch hares, but when the hares are got,
men forget the snares.

Words are employed to convey ideas;
but when the ideas are apprehended, men forget the words.

Fain would I talk with such a man who has forgot the words!

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE
     Trsl. by James Legge, 1961.

a. 300 BCE:

"If Earth pipes, it is with all its apertures. If Man pipes, it is with the collected bamboos."
- - -
"Even the most skillful zither player, if he strikes the shang note he destroys the chio note, if he vibrates the kung note he neglects the chih note. It is better not to strike them at all; then the five notes are complete in themselves."

     Chuang Tzu, c. 369-286 BCE, in the Chuang Tzu, c. 300 BCE.
     Trsl. by Joseph Needham, 1962.


"The symbol serves to express an idea,
and it is to be discarded once the idea has been understood.

Words serve to explain thought,
and ought to be silenced once the thoughts have been absorbed.
-  -  -
It is only those who can grasp the fish
and discard the fishing net
that are qualified to seek the truth."

     Tao-sheng, d. 434 CE Trsl. by Fung Yu-lan, 1948, 1968.
     T.O. comment: Tao-sheng studied Buddhism with Kumarajiva,
     344-413, but was also strongly influenced by Taoism. The above
     statement of his refers to a saying in the Chuang Tzu, see above.

c. 600 CE:

"One thing is all things;

All things are one thing.

If this is so for you,
There is no need to worry about perfect knowledge.

The believing mind is not dual;

What is dual is not the believing mind.

Beyond all language,
For it there is no past, no present, no future."

     Quotations from the Hsin-hsin-ming, "Inscribed on the Believing Mind",
     by Seng-ts'an [Jap.: Sōsan], died in 606.
     Trsl. by R.H. Blyth Vol. 1, 1960, pp. 100-103.

     Links: -

Re the 6th century:

Bodhidharma (470-543, in Japanese: Daruma, the 28th Buddhist patriarch after Sakyamuni Buddha himself) arrives and begins to teach Dhyana, "meditative Buddhism", in China around the year of 520.

This saying, this very central "Ch'an/Zen credo", is dated in the 12th century,
however attributed to Bodhidharma, 6th century:


Jiào wài biézhuàn,

"Teaching Beyond Specific Transmission."


bù lì wénzì,

"Not Based (on) Scripture (nor) Word."


zhí zhǐ rénxīn,

"Direct Point (at) Mankind's Nature."


jiàn xìng chéng fó.

"See (one's) Nature, Become (a) Buddha."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2017.

8th century - the SANDŌKAI:

闇合上中言 明明清濁句

(8) "High and middle words unite in the dark, clean and dirty sentences, in the brightness."

當明中有暗 勿以暗相遇

(14) "Right in the middle of light there is dark,
don't use the mutuality of darkness to meet it."

當暗中有明 勿以明相睹

(15) "Right in the middle of dark there is light,
don't use the mutuality of the light to see it."

明暗各相對 比如前後歩

(16) "The light and dark are mutual polarities,
For example, like front and back steps."

     Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien (Jap.: Sekitō Kisen, 700-790) in the
     Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i (Jap.: Sandōkai).
     Translation by Gregory Wonderwheel quoted from the web page:
          'An Agreement for Participating Together'.


" (Zen is) like one's wielding the sword in the air, one does not ask whether it hits the object or not; the air is not cleft, the sword is not broken."

"There are no dharmas [that is, objects] in the triple world, and where do we search for the Mind? The four elements are from the first empty, and where could the Buddha find his abode? The heavenly axle remains unmoved, all is quiet and no words are uttered. It is presented right to your face, nothing more is to be done."

     P'an-shan Pao-chi (Jap.: Banshan Hōshaku, Fuke Zenji's master,
     early 9th century). Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, 1973.

mid-9th CENTURY:

"Bright Head comes - Bright Head strikes,

Dark Head comes - Dark Head strikes;

Four Directions Eight Sides come - Whirlwind strikes;

Empty Sky comes - Flail strikes."

     A very literal, word-to-word rendition of Fuke's myōan poem
     in correct accordance with Chinese subject-verb-object syntax.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010.
     Textual source: Eido Shimano, 2005, p. 98.


碧巖錄 - HEKIGANROKU / PI YEN LU / Bìyán Lù



In this very central work of Ch'an Buddhism the concept mu-ku-teki, 無孔笛, "flute with no holes", lit. "no-hole(s)-flute", appears for the very first time known in history, in cases 41, 51, and 82 - in all 5 references.

In Japan the concept of mu-ku-teki is later adopted into the very comprehensive collections, Zenrin kushū, 禪林句集, of so called "capping phrases", jaku-go, 着語 / 箸語, being employed in true "hardcore" Rinzai Zen kōan enlightenment training.




"Man darf nicht von Anfang an danach streben, einen schönen Ton
zu erlangen, und es ist verdammenswert, wenn jemand es liebt,
einen glanzvollen Ton hervorzubringen."

"In the beginning, one should not strive after the "deliciousness" ['uma-mi'] of a beautiful tone.
"Tastefulness" ['muma-mi'] of a fascinating tone should emerge freely,
as off itself; when it is being forced forth, it is unpleasant."

手続のみおぼへて後 己が見識をもって吹は上手のうへにあり。

"Meri-kari und die richtige Zeit-struktur, dies ist die Essenz
[des shakuhachi Spiels], und jemand, der in dieser Erkenntnis spielt,
nachdem er die äußere Form gelernt hat, der ist ein guter Spieler."

"Meri-kari and a proper time feeling is the foremost requirement.
When only you are observing these "formalities", you will proudly
be blowing like your absolute best."

     By Hisamatsu Fūyō in his essay Hitori-goto, 1818.
     German translations by Andreas Gutzwiller, 1983.
     English translations by Torsten Olafsson, 2017.

Early 1330s:

"Some time ago Kusunoki Masashige [1294-July 4, 1336] journeyed to the Kōgon Temple [in Kōbe, present Hyōgo Prefecture] to pay a visit, asking for advice,
'At the time when facing one's death, what to do?'

Answered Soshun [the master],
'Cut off your dualism; a single sword rests against the heavenly cold."

     Quotation from Minki Soshun's Gyōdōroku.
     Trsl. by T.O., 2013.



Kaki-oku mo
yume no uchi naru
shirushi ka na
Samete wa sara ni
tou hito mo nashi ...

"Though it's written down,
it's within as in a dream -
is it but a mark?
When awakened, after all,
those who asked, too: Not here ..."

     Ikkyū Sōjun, Daitoku-ji, 1457.
     Trsl. by T.O., 2018

Late 15th century:

"Shinkei recounted the following.

Among Sōa's disciples, the one called Ton'a was a master whose art surpassed even his teacher's.
Among Ton'a's disciples in turn was the man called Priest Jōzen.
When someone asked Ton'a to appraise this priest's music, he answered, "He surpasses me both in the quality of his sound and in dexterity, but he is nevertheless inferior to me." Asked what this could mean, he replied,

"Living as I do apart from the world, I know nothing of flowers and colors but feel in all things the pain and sorrow of mutability.
I play with this contemplation [kannen 観念] in my heart, and consequently everyone is drawn to my music. Now that priest, being rich, noble, and perfect, has none of this sensibility and therefore his music lacks all appeal."

This means that in both waka and renga, it is essential in every verse to have this contemplative spirit [kannen no kokoro]."

     Quoted from the 'Kensai zōdan', 相談兼載, by Shinkei's poetry student
     Inawashiro Kensai, 猪苗代兼載, 1452-1510.
     Trsl. by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen in
     "Emptiness and Temporality", 2008, p. 137.
     Also translated by Steven D. Carter in Carter, 2001, p. 329.

Perhaps 1477, possibly later ...

"When all Dualistic Thinking is eliminated,
the shakuhachi dissolves the distinction between Past and Present.
That one unique Sound of Everlasting Impermanence
brings even the Purest of Wisdom [Skt.: Jnana] to an end,
without limit.

The 9th year of Bunmei [1477] - Autumn -
Written among the old reeds of Uji by Rōan the Elder."

     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2010 & 2013.
     Source: Ueno, 2002, pp. 152-153.

No later than c. 1500:

Mukuteki mottomo fukigatashi.

"A Flute with No Holes is the most difficult to blow."

     Zen "capping phrase" by Tōyō Eichō, 1428-1504.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.
     Source: Hori, 2003, p. 72 & p. 252.


"Well now, Young Master [1 missing kanji] Shōrin favoured an extraordinary saying,
'That socalled Flute with No Holes is the music not of the nobleman, not of the merchant, nor of the clouds of falling plum blossoms in the capital.

The upper end accords to the Buddhism World;
the lower end represents Hearing at the Shore of the Diamond Realm [i.e. the "Final Realization of Mahavairocana Buddha"].

When first you understand that sound, your ears do not serve you hearing (it).'"

     Quoted from the essay 'Shakuhachi mei narabi ni jo',
     dated 1505, by the Tōfuku-ji Zen monk Kōrin,
     d. 1536. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2011.
     Reprinted in: Nakatsuka Chikuzen, 1979, p. 204-206.


" - - - Although many years ago I held a high position, now I have become one who has abandoned the world.

But when I recall my former occupation, I do not grieve over poverty and lowliness but hold on to the fate of the Way of the Buddha and reserve all my considerations for the Doctrine.

I have no inward possessions, no outward desires, and I calmly follow in the footprints of Priest Fuke and have entered upon the way of True Detachment and Spiritual Deliverance.

But even though I strive hard in ascetic discipline [shugyō, 修行], I find it difficult indeed to maintain a peaceful mind when I am confronted with an atrocious word. - - - "

     Miura Jōshin (1565-1644) quoting a travelling Fuke monk
     being characterized in his kanazōshi book 'Keichō Kenmon-shū',
     'Seen and Heard during the Keichō Period', 1614.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.
     Sources: Kurihara, 1918/1975, pp. 183-184. (& Koji ruien vol. 37)

Early 17h century:

" - - - When the hands are clapped, the sound issues without a moment's deliberation.

The sound does not wait and think before it issues.

There is no mediacy here, one movement follows another without being interrupted by one's conscious mind.

If you are troubled and cogitate what to do, seeing the opponent about to strike you down, you give him room, that is, a happy chance for his deadly blow.

Let the defence follow the attack without a moment's interruption, and there will be no two separate movements to be known as attack and defence. - - - "

     The Zen abbot and samurai mentor Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645)
     instructing the samurai Yagyū Tajima-no-kami in the art of fencing.
     Early 17th century. Trsl. by D.T. Suzuki, Vol. III.


" - - - Oh, how mysterious is the bamboo flute that the Komo carries!

The shakuhachi is the principal treasure of the Komo and it represents the Four Seasons, likened to the four finger holes in the front.

The single finger hole on the back expresses the Clarity of the Enlightened, Adual Mind.

As for the darkness of its interior, that represents the Realm of Jurisdiction of the King of Hell, Judge of the Dead.

The three nodes represent the Oneness of the Three Bodies, the lower opening the Womb World, the upper opening the Diamond World, and the crescent-shaped mouthpiece above teaches the Clarity of Absolute Reality.

The shakuhachi is precious beyond limit.

- - -

When the Komo plays in front of a Shintō Dëity, it is to end the Suffering from the Five Types of Decay and the Three Fevers.

When the Komo plays in front of an image of the Buddha, it is to awaken from the Drowsiness of Earthly Desires Originating in Illusion.

When the Komo plays for educated persons, he should prolong his breathing in constant concentration and blow so as to drive away the Mediocre Body Originating in Illusion.

When he plays the shakuhachi for ordinary, uneducated persons, it is to explain all the Schools of Buddhism as well as performing all of the Buddhist Ceremonies.

- - -

Because the Komo practices celibacy till the end, he shall create a mind of relief and disconnection in those who listen to his shakuhachi sermons and sweep away the Drowsiness of Illusion and Mediocrity and bring about Realization.

- - -

     Quotations from the 'Kaidō honsoku' document of 1628.
     Trsl. and commented on in an internationally published academic thesis
     by Torsten Olafsson, Denmark, 1987-88.
     Read more on this local webpage: Kaidō honsoku


" - - - Obviously, whoever they may be, if one does not acknowledge the 'Lofty Clearness of the Jade Sceptre' and the principles of manufacture, taking into consideration the Three Essential Issues [Jap.: mi-bushi] of our school's philosophy, that represents the Three Poisons [or Malices] of Greed, Anger, and Ignorance.

May [the distribution of] the five holes on the front and on the back, respectively, possibly correspond to the discrimination between Thinking [lit.: "receiving ideas"] and Sensation [lit.: "distinguishing colors"] - and the Five Powers of the Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, and Body-Mind?

[The compound] 'Shaku' and 'Hachi' expresses every aspect of the Eight Boundaries [lit.: "Right & Wrong", namely: the "Environment Determined by Karma"].

As for the hollow cavity of the pipe, that symbolizes the Doctrine of the Universally Conciliated Absence of any Beginning.

With ever increasing force it blows forth, with one voice, immediately eliminating the Muddy Illusion of the Three Poisons and - in turn - enforcing the Commandments of the Three Buddhist Assemblies.

In effect, this is the very same as with the Shao-lin [Jap.: Shō-rin] 'Flute Without Holes' [Jap.: mu-ku-teki].

That sound [lit.: "voice"] equals that of Ling-shan [Jap.: Reizan, 1225-1325], when he played on his ch'in with no strings [Jap.: kin - classical Chinese zither] - that sound among all sounds that no-one ever encountered.

Even though Master Li-lao [Jap.: Rirō, n. d.] excelled with his jade flute, he did not know of the existence of such marvellous sound splendor."

- - -

     Isshi Bunshu, a renowned Rinzai monk, 1608-1646, instructing the
     komusō Sandō Mugetsu (n.d.) regarding Fuke Shakuhachi ideology
     in a letter dated no later than 1646. Original manuscript preserved
     at the Kōkoku-ji in Yura, Wakayama, Japan.
     Read more on this local webpage:      Isshi Bunshu's Letter

Probably 1640s or 1650s:

- - -

"The rounded shape of the shakuhachi symbolizes the Omnipresence of the Buddhist Universe."

"The upper opening represents the Diamond Heaven [i.e.: Kongō-ten - the one of the two principal mandalas of Tibetan Tantrism & Japanese Shingon Buddhism]."

"The lower opening represents the Womb Realm [i.e.: Taizō-kai - the other of the two principal mandalas of Tibetan Tantrism & Japanese Shingon Buddhism]."

- - -

"The four fingerholes on the front express the Four Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, as well as The Four Elements of Wood, Water, Fire and the Wind.
Furthermore, including the single hole on the back which represents the Void [lit.: the 'Sky'], altogether [the five holes] signify The Five Forms [or, 'Elements'] of Soil, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void."

"Therefore, the voice [or, sound] of the 5 (musical) tones and the 5 (musical) scales represent The Doctrine of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha's 5 Wisdoms."

"When one holds the shakuhachi and blows air into it, that corresponds to the Golden Breeze of One's Original Being."

"And, when the blowing stops, that is the Playing of Eternal Words and Current Ease."

"Also, when one seizes to blow, then - in one breath - that is The Conclusion of Destiny." [?]

"Furthermore when blowing in front of the Buddha, the Buddhist Way contains Consciousness [Vijnana], and one blows [shakuhachi] for the Attainment of Buddhahood for all plants, all lands, and the whole creation [or, all things in Nature]."

"Then, when playing in front of educated persons, that is to play for The Increased Wish for Enlightenment."

"When playing in front of ordinary people, that is to play for A Decrease in Human Mediocrity."

"Consequently, in persons who listen to this shakuhachi, it will reduce the Karma of Action, Speech and Thought, remove the Evil Passions of (opposite) Darkness and Ignorance [Avidya], and bring about Impartiality and (Buddhist) Grace."

- - -

"In India, Mujōe [?] Bodhisattva played a shakuhachi with 7 nodes; that expressed The Seven Buddhas."

"In China, because Abbot Fuke played The Shakuhachi of The Five Wisdoms [of both Dainichi Nyorai Buddha and Amithaba Buddha] with five nodes, therefore that expresses The Five Seasons [Spring, Summer, Mid-Summer, Autumn and Winter]. "

"The particular shakuhachi [of Japan] has 3 nodes; consequently, the 3 nodes represent the 3 Bodies of a Buddha [Kāya]."

"In the village of Uji in the Kyōto Vicinity of Japan [Gokinai] [there is, or was] a precious piece of paper ["a document"] about the origin of the komusō.
Accordingly, it is written like this [in a paragraph]:"

   Comment, T.O.: This may very well be a reference to the 'Kaidō honsoku' of 1628?

"The holes on the front symbolize The Four Seasons [lit.: Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter], and The Four Elements [Soil, Water, Fire & Wind]. "

"The hole on the back symbolizes The Concept of Non-Substantiality [Jap.: : The Void - lit.: the Sky]."

"While striving steadfast towards spiritual purification Beyond Life and Death, the itinerant monk is blowing the shakuhachi on his (predescribed) path towards the attainment of Bodhisattvahood."

"Moving freely in every direction, Fuke Zenji often went into town and proclaimed, while waving his hand bell,

'Bright comes; Bright hits;
Dark comes; Dark hits;
Four Corners Eight Directions come; Whirlwind hits;
Non-Dual Non-Substantiality come; Scythe hits.'"

- - -

"That one shakuhachi is the Secret Way of all Non-dual [lit.: Empty] Phenomena."

"The upper and lower openings are Heaven and Earth, respectively."

"Furthermore, in actual fact the pair of the Diamond and Womb Realms reside in the Inner Murkiness."

"The five soundholes are the Void, Wind, Fire, Water and Soil, and the Void is equivalent with the Eyes, Ears, Nose, Tongue and Body."[?]

"Land and fish all return to the Void, amidst Emptiness [Non-duality] that is the Nose, Ear, Tongue and Body."[?]

"The name(s) add to the protection of the Five Tathāgatas [Jap.: Go-nyorai, of Tantric Shingon Buddhism], blowing it [the shakuhachi] removes Wrong Ideas, and eliminates Evil Morals and Conduct."

"At that time one rises to ecstacy and descends from the Gold Wheel [Jap.: konrin - Heaven] to the Water's Edge [Jap.: mizugiwa - Earth]."

"[In] everything, this penetrates [or, clears] the Voice of Exquisite Music."

- - -

"This extraordinary philosophy [lit.: thought, opinion] has (both) Time and Space."

     Quotations from the mysterious 'Butsu-gen' document discovered and
     publisized by Nakatsuka Chikuzen during the late 1930s.
     Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson during the early 2010s.
     Read more on this local webpage: Butsu-gen


"Kyochiku had [or, favoured] a speculative Buddhist verse
which says,

'When one has cut off Dualism,
the essence of the shakuhassun
transcends Past and Present.
That one sound blowing forth
of the True Reality of the Non-born
exceeds the deepest of friendships,
beyond limit.'"

     Quotation from the 'Kyorei-zan engi narabi ni Sankyorei no fu ben'
     composed in 1735 by th en Kyōto Myōan-ji chief admin Kandō Ichiyū,
     who passed away in 1738. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, early 2010s.


尺八お法器として、明暗双々円通無碍の実力を修得じ、虚に帰して、精神の修養を高めんとするしので有る。 これを吹禅と稱する。

"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 understands the Ultimately Adual Nature of the 'Clear' and the 'Un-clear' [Myō-An] and experiences the Essence of Non-substantiality [kyo] through self-cultivation.
This practice is called Suizen."

     By Ozawa Seizan, 1939-2012, Myōan-ji, 1978, in a letter
     of recommendation to the author. Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson.

Ozawa Seizan, 1978

Ozawa Seizan Sensei, 1939-2012 - Spring, 1978 - Photo by T.O.


"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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