Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Secret religion

SO what is esoteric or secret religion some of you have asked? well, I will give you an example of a tantric visualization that many of the esoteric religions use, with variations, of course. But the main theme of the visualization is the same (and was also featured in the movie "I heart Huckabees."

The following visualization I modified from the Dzogchen Innermost Essence Preliminary Practice. This is an esoteric or secret practice that one does anytime. If you love Jesus, visualize Jesus as the Teacher. If you love Kannon or the Earth Mother or Mary or Lao Tsu, visualize them. If you do not have a teacher then visualize any being that symbolizes wisdom and compassion. You can visualize yourself as a fully actualized being. The form of the Teacher makes no difference. It is the qualities that they transfer that are of importance here. It is also important to be consistent with the being you choose, for it is crucial to form a habit of relating with this image as 1. A creation of your own mind, 2. A teacher, and 3. A reflection of your own enlightened awareness. This image will act as an archetype, and will return to you again and again in your dreams and probably also at the moment of your death (if you use it enough and really embed it into your mind). And if you are graced with a visit from your deity at death or in sleep, then you have an opportunity to become lucid.

So, to begin, I sit down and imagine the teacher sitting down in front of me. The teacher is made of light, shimmers, is radiant, luminous, and is smiling at me. I smile back and say hello.

Now, from the mid forehead of the teacher a ball of white light (making the sound “Ohm”), blazing white like the full moon, shimmering like crystal, radiates light rays which penetrate my head, purifying my body. The light fills me up like water. I breathe it in and out. This light is full of realization, awareness, and presence.

Then, from the throat of the teacher a red light (making the sound “Ah”), blazing red like a ruby, radiates light rays which penetrate my throat, purifying all my speech, and transferring mystical wisdom and alertness. I feel it warm my throat and the “Ah” fills my whole body.

Next, from the heart of the teacher a ball of blue light (making the sound “hoom”), blue like the sky, radiates light rays which penetrate my heart, purifying my thoughts. The Light empowers me to see the truth of emptiness and interconnectedness, the play of all forms, and compassion for all beings fills me up completely.

Next, again from the heart of the teacher, a second ball of light bursts forth like a meteor mixing indistinguishably with my mind, making me complete and whole and at peace, and I let my mind dissolve into all space, and the realization of Universal Essence dawns, and I feel spacious and open and clear.

Finally, from the heart of the teacher, rays of warm red light are emitted and just by touching my own heart I become a sphere of red light that dissolves into the heart of the teacher, mixing inseparably, meditation on becoming as “one taste.”

I am the mirror reflection of the teacher and I look around and see that I am surrounded by other perfect light beings.
After I remain in that state for a few minutes, I pray and then recite the dedication:
May any merit or benefit gained with this practice benefit others, and not just myself.
May all beings actualize perfect freedom. May all beings be free form suffering.
And for as long as space endures, and beings remain, may I too remain to dispel the misery in the world.

This is the esoteric practice of Communing with the Deity or divinity. Why does it work? True, it appears that this communion with the Deity is fantasy, imaginary, fake, and maybe to some, ridiculous. But what we must not forget is that the moment you imagine the enlightened master in front of you or within your heart, your own mind begins to take on the qualities of that visualization. Its like if you imagine the sky right now, the spacious, bright, clear sky, your mind begins to actually take on those qualities! When you imagine the limitless compassion that the Teacher’s mind possesses, you actually activate that compassion within your own mind. And thus, what begins as fantasy turns into a direct experience of the enlightened qualities issued forth by the Real Deity, your own innermost essence, the Godhead. Quieting the mind is aligning your own inner stillness with the Stillness that is the very heart of Reality. Imagining Light pouring out of heaven and swallowing you up will put you in a state of mind that is fresh, open, alert and compassionate.

These visualizations and prayers are done silently, throughout the day, on the bus, waiting in line at the donut shop, sitting in class, and they are done secretly. They are your own secret, esoteric medicine transforming you without anyone knowing. The only thing that people might begin to notice is that they simply love being in your presence. You seem to emit a warm, nonjudging kindness and acceptance. By transforming your own mind (by visualizing yourself mixing with the essence of a deity) and by imagining other beings as deities walking around everywhere, you begin to treat everything with a type of playfulness and openness. You begin to relax. Your entire universe can be recognized as the play of your own mind, empty, luminous, radiant, transparent, unobstructed, spontaneous, and all beings living with you are also manifestations this pure awareness, sparks or rays emanating from a single Light, the Light of the Self, the only Reality. And, as the Dalai Lama points out, if it is truth that we are all made of energy, then seeing others as beings made of light is actually more realistic than seeing them as made of flesh.

Saying those words will not do it. Words can only hit the level of the intellect. The actually images will reach farther down and transform you. And stabilizing the images in your imagination will take time and concentration. It is not easy. But with practice it becomes easy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I just made some ink paintings and thought you might like to see them.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What a wonderful life

Last night I went to a “progressive party” that took place at three different homes in Ehime. We began the party at Alexa’s house in Kawanoe (three towns over from me), where we enjoyed banana and strawberry dacaries. I was among a handful of people who got there first, and it was such a treat to see beautiful face after face arive. Some people had to travel two hours by train to get there, but the fact that so many people (fellow JETs) took the time to actually show up made the whole night very special. Next we went to another English teacher’s house for dinner. He made us all curry. There I met a beautiful japanese girl painter who looked like an angel and we talked about the philosophy of art (why do we paint: to spread ideas, to get in touch with our feelings, to explore the natural world, etc) and how in truth we never think about that stuff while we are actually painting but instead just delight in the feeling of the brush and paint sliding across the canvis and the way the colors move and vibrate and I fell in love and asked her what she was doing this summer and she said she was moving to slavania or someplace to get married. I also met a facinating guy (who’s appearance reminded me of the anarcho-punks I love in lawrence) And we talked about how effective counter culture is to the progresssion of society. He asked me strait up “I mean seriously, How has the punk movement beniffited the world?” We had a great discussion, covering topics such as vegitarinaism, teh tabacco industry, prisons, mysticism, and totoos. He was the kind of person who you feel like you know after the very frist glance, even before any words are spoken. A great new friend.
After dinner we all got on the train, at least 20 of us, mostly slightly drunk and very happy foreigners, and, well, to say the least, we gave the people on the train, who were mostly tired high school students, quite a show. we made it to our third and final destination, Dennis's for drinks and cookies. Most everyone also slept over at Dennis's, "packed like sardines." Last night I was surrounded by the most beautiful people, each one glowing. It think we all had a really good. Everyone seemed so happy, so appreciative. I planned to go to sleep a little early because I new I had to take the first train home in the morning (6:40) so that I could meet the Mormons at the Zen temple ( I asked them if they wanted to go and they said yes!). I didn’t get to sleep early, or at all, really, but instead cuddled with one of my friends, which was also wonderful. (It’s been a long time since I have slept next to someone).

So, up bright and early, the cold air holding the creamy glow of the morning above the farmland. I biked to the Zen temple as soon as I got into town, and when I arrived I found a small group of people gathered at the base of the stairs with cameras. I forgot that some of the monks go begging in the mornings during winter and as they descend the stairs it is quite a sight. So I decided to wait with them and take pics of the monks. The Mormons showed, smiling, and then the monks appeared, putting on their large conic hats outside the gate, and then quickly and quietly they walked down the stairs single file, begging bowl in hand, everyone absolutely silent, silent except for the camera shutters, and then, as if in a dream, the monks were gone. It was breathtaking. Literally. And it happened so fast. IT was like a butterfly suddenly appearing in front of you and then disappearing. Or, no, it was like a shooting star skating across the sky, holding you transfixed and breathless for what seems like eternity, for all time and thoughts stop in that moment of breathtaking beauty. And they looked so cute in their big hats and rope sandals, beautiful robes, no faces. After the meditation we went to the Mormon church and I saw about dozen Japanese people there who looked very tired and distracted, two kids playing in the front row, we sang songs, and the service was long and quiet and in Japanese. Afterwards I met man who had the same beads as I do around his neck and he immediately said smiling, “To ward off demons!” and then he made a secret, esoteric mudra with his fingers. I immediately new that he was a practitioner of the secret religion, the mikkyo, of Soto Zen. I asked him and he said he was, a look of complete understanding and friendliness shining out from his eyes. We talked about religions, he explained the pyramid idea where there is only one Truth, one God, and the light of that single Reality disseminates out creating many different religions. He drew a triangle in the air. I have no idea why he was at the Mormon Church. He asked if we could become friends and I said yes. So, that was great. Now I am going to nap.

Friday, January 27, 2006

New work

These arent done, but they are a taste of what i have been up to. i love comments.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

My winter vacation Part 2

My trip part 2

If you have not read Part 1, please do that first.

So, from the moment I saw my family-Aunt Mary, Beth, and Uncle John at the airport I have been so close to tears. And Mary and I just finished talking about thanksgiving and Christmas and the engagement announcement and Grammy and Sarah and life and death and I just feel like crying. I don’t know if this is happiness of sadness. I can’t place this feeling but I can feel the place where it is strongest: right behind my eyes, so close to tears. I want to hug my mom right now.

We all took a walk around our hotel before dinner and this city is the New smashing into the Old for sure. Most of shanghai, that is, all the tall buildings were build not more than ten years ago. And construction is everywhere. My dad said that more offices were built in Shanghai last year than exist in all of New York City. And these buildings look like something out of the future. But the streets and the life flowing above them appear to be very third world. I was immediately reminded of India. We saw someone trying to sell a box full of puppies on the street. A homeless beggar lady followed us mumbling words we couldn’t know, or wouldn't know, but of course we understood. She didn’t stop following us until I stopped, looked her in the eyes, and said sorry.

Shanghai museum was fascinating. There was a monk there who made me feel safe and comfortable, and there was all this Tibetan art that made me feel sad, sad that the art of that culture would be put into a history museum (Chinese, if you remember, invaded Tibet in the fifties in an atempt to destroy its culture and people). I met a couple from Lawrence at the museum, the girl of which I knew from the Art History department. Crazy small world! Sarah met us this morning (We met her in Shanghai to see her last concert of her China tour with Oberlin University). She is so beautiful and positive. She talked freely about finding mold and broken ceilings in their hotel room as being amusing and even exciting. Her positive energy was palpable. You could feel it as soon as she walked though the door. I feel honored to be her cousin.

I just got back from Sarah’s concert and what a show! Music's divine. and I fell in love with most everyone on stage. Young, attractive, collage musicians. You know to me musicians have always had an aura about them, like they are secret geniuses, angels come to earth to show us what heaven sounds like…and to show us what humanity is capable of. But they are more than human. They are like movie stars. And they have this gift, this skill they have been working on since they were babies. I guess I have been working with lines and colors since i was small, and maybe I have a type of mysterious aura about me, but these young musicians! God they were glowing. All so focused, and yet so relaxed and playful, and so absorbed in their art, many of them made the famous orgasm face people often make while making or appreciating music. They were alive and graceful and I wonder if I will end up marrying a musician. I wanted to become friends with every one of them.

Jan. 3rd.
This morning in meditation I had a very wonderful sense of expansion, like the back of my head opened up as a transparent funnel to let in the space and light of the room as well as the clear, bright, spacious sky-mind.
When I stated the meditation, focusing on my breath, my awareness or sense of self was focused behind my eyes and on my breath. But then slowly, over the course of about 30 min, I pushed back and out, opening up until the idea of someone sitting on a bed meditation was just another thought or sensation occurring in front of my expanding awareness.
We spent the day wondering around the new city and old city. There are neighborhoods built in the twenties, old red brick and broken walls and windows next to skyscrapers not a year old. We stumbled upon Jeff, one of the musicians and Sarah’s friend. He is beautiful and smart and funny at night we went to the Jazz club on the top floor of our hotel and Jeff borrowed Sarah’s violin and jammed with the band. And he blew me away.. Brilliant young man. He asked me to teach him a magic trick so I did and I hear he was working on it in his hotel room into the early morning.

Wed Jan. 4th.
Today I learned many horrible things on BBC news. 30 killed at a Shia funeral near Baghdad. And 11 of the 12 minors died. The 30 killed got next to no coverage in comparison. It was a suicide bomber at a funeral. How low. How awful.
And heavy landslides kill 200 people on some island, the landslide caused from illegal logging. And in Pakistan the earthquake survivors living in tents are now dying from the snow and sleet. How horrible. How cold.
I am enjoying a warm cup of tea on my soft bed, watching the news. I had an amazing dinner today, and a Chinese massage.

This morning during breakfast we all talked as a family about movies and music, the power of art, the war, and sexuality. Sarah has many friends who are transgender and so we got to talk about gender issues and tolerance and peace and progression, it was so wonderful listening to my family talk so positively about these issues.

Back to the news, the media is really milking how angry the minor’s friends and family are. They were waiting at the church when they got the news about the death and then got angry. Not trusting God, not mourning with compassion, but with anger. That is so sad. There is so much suffering.

Thinking about my future. I still don’t know if I want to go to grad school and study Buddhism with Robert Thurman, or with someone else, or painting, or psychology and social work, or Integral studies in California. Or maybe go to a monastery in India for a while. I really want to work with dying people, with hospice perhaps, or with a dying center, the Zen center in Sand Francisco is calling my name. I just don’t know.

Thursday the 5th
Today I learn that Ariel Shoran is fighting for hiss life after suffering a stroke.
We just got back form visiting a Taoist shrine and the highlight was walking though a market---fresh fish, live birds being slaughtered right before out eyes, eels, pigs feet, large fish hanging on lines next to clothing, a bra, a shirt, a squid, we saw a leper, no, we saw a human with leprosy, on the grown, on leg gone, one arm. Lettuce and carrots, and boxes of guts and scales and blood in the gutters…it was all beautiful and awful. Dried carcasses and bloody piles of leftover animal parts and smiling old people and fish hanging and birds in cages. However, lying beneath the buying and selling and laughter of the human beings, beneath the smells and slicing and suffering, beneath all the form, lay the movements and colors and textures of a rich and overwhelmingly active world, dancing and shimmering across or through or as my awareness. The colors, the life, the suffering, all of it sparkles and shines with Suchness, with Spirit. Mary bought us all steaming hot rolls, soft and delicious, and we ate them together in the cold, the steam hanging in the air with our smiles. It felt good to buy something in the market; we were taking so many pictures.

The Buddhist temples have been newly built, poorly painted, cheesy, with the cries of street sellers barking out from the sidelines, and merchants selling buddhas in plastic and worshipers prostrating to the walls. (I must remember that many of the temples in china were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Mao, who is also responsible for the Tibetan massacre or genocide, is featured on all the currency). I feel next to no connection to these temples. Not anything like in Kyoto. But, all the same, I am with my family, my wonderful family, and I am reminded of the desires and struggles and faiths and hopes and humanity that shouts out from every corner, within me, and without me.

Of these pics from the market, please notice the pigs’ feet, the old dulled knife leaning against the block still speckled with pieces of pig, the wet cardboard, the dying flower on the sidewalk, and the feet of the seller, who is smiling at his display and my interest in it.
And in the pic of the chickens, please notice that they try the are lying across

The sun came out today, bringing a wonderful light and a bitter cold. Writing this was difficult, my hands are so stiff. Today is “David’s Day” because it is my last day here. We visited the Xian Yang Road market, which specializes in counterfeit and illegal goods. Yippee! Although, I would say that the market we went to earlier was selling illegally obtained goods—pigs’ feet, fish heads, and chicken necks, all stolen. At Xian Yang Road we were followed by a handful of smiling men and women with pictures of Rolex watches and name brand sunglasses and bags waving in our faces. “wanna buy a watch? Need a bag?” It was funny when a man approached and quietly asked, “Hey, you need any chopsticks?” I got some DVD’s, like Narnia, Lost inn translation, Requiem for a dream, Sayuri, I heart Huckubees, King Kong, Flight Plan, Life Aquatic, Super size me, Curse of the Were-rabbit, Mystic river, Sin City, and a few others, all for about a dollar a piece. It was actually really fun, until we saw a man pulling around a deformed baby with a big head in a wheel barrel begging for money, the baby making horrible screeching sounds, eyes rolling around. That wasn’t very fun. They followed us for about a block.

I love how much my uncle john is like my dad. “Well we WERE womb mates” he reminds me. “and when we were being born it was a womb with a view.” My grandmother had three sets of twins.

Riding away from them, waving and smiling, in the taxi. I look out at the cascade of towering cranes and construction, I miss them already, my eyes water up but I smile. What a wonderful family. I must have done some incredibly virtuous things in my past life.
Tokyo part 2

Riding on the subway I saw something amazing! A commercial plastered across the subway tunnel wall, like a flipbook, the images sped by and appeared to move like a giant TV (like the trippy scene in the old Willie Wonka movie speeding down the chocolate river on his boat). Must have cost a fortune, considering it takes 24 frames a second and these were large posters and the ad lasted at least 5 seconds.

At the station I saw a blind man with a stick finding his way using the raised lines on the side of the hallways. Then I saw three blind people all holding onto another blind person using a stick, they make a wrong turn. They were all laughing.


Butoh is type of dance that began in Japan in the 50s but has now spread all over the world. I first saw a picture of it founder, Kazuo Oho, hanging in the office of my Advisor Roger Shimamura. I asked, “who is she?”
“That is Kazuo Ono, the famous Dancer from Japan.” I had no idea it was a man, for the picture showed what looked like an old Japanese woman with white paint all over her body, holding a flower and smiling.
I later saw this type of dance in the movie “Baraka.” I can still see my friend Josh Magarel mimicking the Butoh dancer’s face in that movie. But even more frightening was the part of the movie where a line of butoh dancers slowly walked off stage, waving goodbye, and moving as if they were under water, or dead. If you have seen the film you might remember the scene.

So, one night in Tokyo, our friend Julia from Brazil said she wanted to go to a special new years performance at the Butoh studio in Yokohama. Julia is a fellow artist (actress and dancer) who I met in college and who explained to me one day that her love of life and zest for craziness comes from a near death experience she had on a bus in Brazil. “After that I said I would never waste another day.” She was absolutely marvelous, and my ticket to an extremely moving adventure.
We made our way up the narrow streets of Yokohama to a tiny studio on top of a hill. Greeted by a handful of other dancers, all of whom had the vibe of art, one of which was the famous Kazuo Ono’s son. I felt like Yoko Ono would be showing up shortly, it was that kind of crowd. I was surprised to see some foreigners there, some Italians and another westerner.
We asked Mr. Ono if we could take pictures, and he said absolutely, just no flash. Before the dancer arrived, three students, including Mr. Ono, began to slowly walk around in front of us hold various objects, walking as if in meditation. It was very calming to watch.
The lights went down and the door behind us opened. A woman appeared in a cloak, here eyes wide open as if she was in shock, I don’t remember if there was any music. She made her way to the end of the room, walking slowly, rippling her body so it looked like she was walking through a strobe light, or like she was half robot, slowly running out of batteries. It gave me the chills and made my eyes water. She got to the door, slowly opened it. The creaking echoed into me. Then, suddenly, the door shut, and she was gone.
Amazing! Wonderful performance! I thought it was over.
Then the door opened and a masked creature appeared. I will not go into the details of the dance, but will say that it drew some emotions and states of awareness out of me that felt new and free and fresh and painful and deadly and I will never forget it.

Afterward, the dancer left, changed, came back and hung out with us (this is her.). We al had a party, with wine and chocolate and croissants and sushi, must have cost a fortune, great food, and to think, our tickets were less than 20 dollars! I talked to this old lady about butoh (the one holding the branch). She said, in English, that butoh helps her contact her deepest thought, and it can help you release your deepest thoughts, and in doing so, you give the audience a chance to do the same. I almost started crying. Then, the announcement came. “THE teacher is awake. Lets go say hello.”
We left the studio and went in to the house next door. There, we entered a quiet room and saw, lying upright on an electronic bed, the famous Kazuo Ono, 99 years old. Many people began to cry, out of joy, I think, for getting to see their teacher, their healer, one more time. One by one they went to him, kissed him, thanked him. His daughter told us to take pictures. Here is a drawing I did.
I heard he had his last performance when he was 97. 97! He fell asleep on stage. Here are some words and pics from this teacher I found on the Internet.

"The dancer's costume is to wear the universe."
"My art is an art of improvisation. It is dangerous. To succeed, one must first reach the very depths of the human soul, and then, express it..." He explains that for his dance, we must not try to control the body, but to let the soul breathe life into the flesh. "Be free! Let go!"
“Being free is not doing what we want or what we think. On the contrary, it means being liberated from thought and will.”
"You are happy because you are free. You smile: a flower blossoms in your mouth."
[One time in his class] He approaches a student who is holding his arms above his head. He indicates the limits of space thus formed and tells him, "There is an entire universe here." He then adds, "Paradise is at your fingertips." To another he hints, "I am glad to be alive!" Then for all to hear: "You are glad to be alive!"
He guides the student so that he can become like "the creator of the world, he who has no identity, he who existed before the appearance of the individual. Then, all is but a game."

Pretty cool old man, yes?

I feel a familiar connection to this man, to his students, and to his art. We’ll see. I think I might start studying it. I know my friend Josh already has.

Today i met my friend Nori, who is a lovely, lovely man, and we went to the Edo museum. The next day, the 9nth, we went to Kamakura where the great Kannon and the great Buddha are. Both were breath taking. Tonight I will take the night bus to niihama.

I missed my bus! I don’t know how this happened. Very dreamy. Very spooky. I though I read the time 10:20 on the ticket. But it was actually 7:50! What!? I tried to figure out what happened and I couldn’t find the time 10:50 anywhere. What the hell.
Strangely, very strangely, I had just enough money to buy another bus and train ticket to get me home. I took at train to Yokohama and got on their bus (they had an open seat, thank god!) to Okayama, and then a train ticket to Niihama. What was strange is that I left my bank card (by accident) inn niihama, so I couldn’t get any more money, and I had just enough, 12,000 yen, about 100 dollars, in my wallet. So weird! And I wouldn’t have had it if Kazu wouldn’t have given me back the gift money I tried to give him. But I could have left it on his desk, but then I though that he really doesn’t want it, and I might need it. Crazy world.
SO, I though it was meant to be. I pumped as much divinity into my predicament as I could, so that everything that happened afterward had a meaning. IT was beautiful. I saw the sunlight rise over the sea and islands and it was holy. The end.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Winter vacation Part 1

My winter vacation

These are excerpts from my travel journal (the parts that I wrote with an audience in mind). I hope you enjoy.

December 23rd, Kyoto
If you visit Japan, the only city you must see is Kyoto. Kyoto is the only major city that wasn’t bombed during the war, so it is packed full with old wooden house and temples. There are over 1,700 Buddhist temples here, incredible, and over 300 shrines, and over 20% of Japan’s national treasures, so says the guidebook, and at the same time the city has a very modern feel (just look at the station!) So, the juxtaposition of old and new. [A theme that will run throughout my entire trip, along side a continuous line of absolutely divine people, old and new, and a constant current of art, the best of live music, dance, architecture, and sculpture. A true artist’s pilgrimage.) Today I met up with Ian, my old college roommate (and friend form grade school!) and his girlfriend Julia, from Brazil, who I knew from painting class. We met at our hostel “K’s house.” Great place. Cheap, and full of great friendly minds. I met a brilliant, beautiful Ben from Berlin (see pic), as well as other JETS. [I fell in love with Ben at once and we ended up spending a lot of time together.]
After we checked in we took a walk through Gion, the district where all the Geisha work. I saw three. We found an old bathhouse, and old temples and shrines secretly placed hidden within the rusting activity of cars and shoppers and Christmas lights and retail workers dressed as elves, reindeer, and Santas (I learned that Christmas is actually a couples holiday in Japan, just like Valentine's day in the states. I never understood why they made such a big deal about it on TV and the radio. Now I do.) Right now I am drinking free coffee at K’s House and looking out across the thin blanket of snow covered tile rooftops of Kyoto, thinking a lot about Mary Anne and Bubba and how happy I am to witness my family expanding. There is so much love in the air. And for the first time in my life I get an older brother! Something I always asked Santa for and never ever got! Whoopee! I also get another older sister. yeah. No, im kidding. Lindsey is a beautiful angel that I feel humbled to even get to look at.

First day, we visit the one temple I came to Kyoto to visit: Sanjusangendo, the temple of 1001 Kannon Bodhisattvas. Kannon is the bodhisattva of compassion. This is the deity the Dalai Lama is thought to be a pure emanation of, and the one I bought a painting of in India, and the one I visualize living in the center of my chest aspiring to benefit all beings. In the Buddhist tradition I follow, Kannon (Tibetan: Chinrizig, Chinese: Kwanyin, Sanskrit: Avalokitesvara) is the part of YOU that is pure compassion, the part of your being that wants to alleviate the suffering of others. And the the eleven headed, thousand armed form of Kannon represents the part of you that does not discriminate at all who or what is given compassion. Its thousand hands reach out to every being in a compassionate embrace and helping hand. This is the personification of Christ consciousness or Christ love (a perfect symbol for the Christ, in my opinion). A pure deity with a thousand hands, each one with an eye aware of and yearning to take on and alleviate all the suffering in the world. So, this temple hallway has 1001 of these images, all carved out of wood and painted with gold leaf, each one standing about five feet tall. 70 artists spent over a hundred years building these beings. When school children visit this temple they will search for the Bodhisattva that looks like them, for every sculpture has a different face. Just one of them would be the highlighted treasure of a museum. It was snowing when we got there. Inside; cold silence, everyone moving slowly and silently through the hall, and yet, the singing chorus of the deities, the loud gold hands and light, the juxtaposition was magnificent! I almost burst into teas when I reached the central image, a large sitting Kannon. [pictures were not aloud; these are from the guidebook. I bought some of the temple incense and you know how smell is our most vivid memory)

Next we went to Sanzenin, a temple in the mountains, secret and holy. I found this little Jizo-san with a snow cap.

My friend Kouji took us around. Very generous, beautiful man. I am sleeping over at his house tonight.
December 24th.
I am currently listening to rocknroll Christmas music at Kouji’s family’s house. He must have put it on because he knew I would like it. He insists I take a bath; his family has already drawn the bath for me and put in special tea crystals. He then gave me a special sleeping robe and some icecream. We talked deep into the night about reincarnation, meditation, and love.

Today I went to Nara (an hour train ride form Kyoto) with Ben (from Germany), Ian and Julia. This is the city I wanted to teach in, the Buddhist capital of Japan and home to Todaiji, the largest wooden building in the world, housing the largest Buddha in Japan, the great Daibutsu. This city preserved its temples by surrounding them in a 1,300-acre park complete with over a thousand free roaming friendly deer. I just thought of something. Kyoto and Nara are home to Japan’s treasures in the same way that Rome, Italy, and Paris are home to the treasures of the West (like the David and Mona Lisa). Today I get to see Japan’s David….
To my surprise one of the temples held my all-time favorite sculpture of Kannon. I had totally forgotten that it lived in Nara. A great surprise. It also shook me that even though this sculpture is over a thousand years old (WOW!) and is a national treasure, it is Kept in an old temple, open to the air and elements. My western mind screams, “This should be in a museum! (Like Indiana Jones says to the Nazis in the last crusade) but the Japanese will not do such a ridiculous thing. They even still burn candles and incense around these treasures, now dark and dirty from all the devotion. Makes me think of the Amida Buddha in the cold stairwell at the Nelson. It belongs in a temple.

Back in Kyoto We went to the Phoenix Temple, Byodoin, to see the most beautiful Buddha in all Japan, the Amida by Jocho. The Phoenix Temple (featured on the back of the 10-yen coin) is the oldest wooded building in the whole world, dating back to 998.
The moment my eyes fell across Amida's face, I swallowed my breath and gazed at its eyes, completely transfixed. For an instant all thought and sound stopped. The walls of the temple seemed to ripple slightly and softly hum inaudible hymns, my heart was gone. The Voices and movements of the other onlookers grew in size out of silence, the ocean of stillness his eyes like a portal placed me within or injected into me returned suddenly to carved wood. Then I returned to normal, looked at Ian, who was softly laughing.

Never had I feasted my eyes on such a sculpture as this. The delicate fingers just barely touching, The elegant curves and contours of the shoulders and breasts and eyelids and lips and fingers and ripples of robe all rhyming with one another, all singing together the silent song of the sculpture. The soft light reflecting off the curves making my eyes dance from here to there, the eyes of the Buddha gazing outside with what seems like a complete contentment and satisfaction. This is high art. I should mention that this tiny temple was designed by looking at old Chinese paintings of heaven (I learned that at College).


My Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket cost about 120 dollars. I fell asleep on the smooth ride, waking up now and again to see the hills and mountains and farms and forests fly by, waking up also just in time to see Mt. Fuji skate past in the distance.

At the station I saw a girl dressed up as a maid, or maybe a nurse, talking excitedly to friends. Kazu [my friend I met in America who now lives in Tokyo] met me and took me to his apartment, where I will be staying. I will be staying with Kazu my entire time in Tokyo. His apartment is very small. 1/8th the size of mine, and he pays twice as much as I do. (It reminds me of Mary Anne's first apartment in Chicago). He works two jobs, 10-12 hours a day, no days off, except the ones he got off for my visit. He only eats one meal a day, “scraping by.”
The first thing we did was go to a bookstore to look at art books. I discovered the artist Michel Butor-Pierre Emmanuel Cremonini. This stuff blew me away. Next we went to his neighborhood’s Internet café. This place also blew me away. Even though they are all over Japan I had never been to one before. Here you order a room/cubical at the counter. They give you a room number and point you to the drink bar. FREE DRINKS. Coffee, tea, soda pop, latte, whatever non-alcoholic mainstream drink you want, and as many as you want for free. This is a big deal in Japan where the only place that will give you free refills on coffee is Mr. Donut. AND, the Internet café charges about $2.50 an hour. Yeah. One drink and its paid for. AND, you can stay over night for about 10 dollars (they have couches) making it the cheapest motel ever. An extra $4.50 for a shower. Oh, AND, if you are hungry, you can order cheap Denny’s like food. They give you free icecream if you order more than $5 worth.
So I checked my email and sipped on my coffee and looked at the pictures from Christmas that my cousin Paul posted on his Facebook site, and that made me extra happy. Thank you Paul.

After that we went to a public bathhouse to bathe, so spacious (we used this bathhouse every other day to bathe, his bathroom is just so small that this made a lot more sense.)
Then, walking home we passed by a police officer hitting woodblocks together in a dan, dan, dandan rhythm, beautifully echoing off all the buildings in the quite neighborhood, and I asked Kazu why he does this for I had seen (and heard happily) the police officers in Kyoto doing the same thing and he said that it is tradition in winter for the police to go through the streets “reminding people to turn off their heaters.” I love Japan and the police here. Woodblock music beat across the cold night.
Lying in bed with Kazu the apartment begins to shake slightly. My first earthquake. “Be careful,” he says. I don’t know how I can be careful lying in bed, but I say Ok and enjoy the ride. He says 80% of the world’s earthquakes are in Japan. ..

Dec. 29th.
Everything is closed, museums, so we walked around the city spending money on food and karaoke. I saw a girl with diamonds on her fingernails.

Dec. 30th
Kazu went to work today and I went to Shinjuku, the world’s busiest station, to meet up with Dave, James, and a few other friends form the states. Seeing James brought so much warmth. Besides Ian he was my first contact with my old circle of friends in America (James lives with Eli). So that felt wonderful. [A prequel to what I will experience upon seeing my family in Shanghai, as we continue along this story.]

We went to Tokyo tower and on the way we saw some Christians with signs preaching at an intersection. Many people in our group got angry. “It pisses me off they are here.”
I felt all this negativity and wanted to say “who cares if they want to save us from eternal hell. Lets enjoy the nice weather!” But I also need to feel compassion for those who cannot yet feel compassion for those who cannot yet feel compassion.

One thing that is annoying me. Every night and every morning Kazu plays loud, poppy, crap rocknroll. Sometimes he plays other stuff, but in the morning its usually “wake up music” and for the past few years I have spent my morning sin quite meditation. I told him when I first arrived that I meditate in the morning and evenings and he said, “cool. I will sit with you.” But no. And when I ask for just five min he says “but this song is so cool.” So I work though it. Listening to the music, to the thoughts complaining about the music---God sent me another monkey to help me work on my patience. A wonderful God. I said my morning prayers:

“May I enter this new dream with kindness, compassion, and consciousness. May I not waste this day. May I use it to benefit others.”

If only Kazu liked classical music! And not loud, pop, Japanese, arg!..crap….
Well…its all just sound anyway, right. One big sound. One big uni-verse.

SO today is new years day. Many people in the states are going to get sick tonight. New years means, “Lets drink a lot.” But in Japan they stay up late to go to the Shrine. Its pretty quite here, actually.
You know I should remember that I am staying in Kazu’s home and I should respect how he likes to spend his mornings. I can always go for a walk if I really need that quiet time. (It’s just so early for loud rocknroll. Am I getting old?)

I spent the day wondering around the city, waiting for my friends to call me but they never did. I tried calling them but they didn’t pick up. Loneliness arose. I ate dinner at an expensive Italian restaurant, alone. And to top it off, my glasses just fell into my spaghetti.
When Kazu got home we went to the bathhouse, which really was wonderful. We then went to the local shrine where we waited in line to throw a coin into the offering box, bow, clap twice, and ask our ancestors for another healthy year. There was a big bonfire and old ladies handing out a strange hot tea with rice in it and it was dreamy and left me feeling great and fresh, not lonely and lame.

Jan. 1st
I took a train to Ueno (a city in Tokyo) to take another train to the Airport to head off to shanghai. I had an hour free time in ueno so I went to the park. There I found a temple surrounded by a dead lotus pond swarming with ducks. Ducks are my favorite animal I think. They woddle and quack and…I met an old lady there. She saw me taking pictures of the ducks and said, “Do you know the napoleon bird?” I sad no and so she showed pointed out the only duck in the place that had a neon-green head in the shape of napoleon’s hat. She then proceeded to tell me, in Japanese, the names of all the ducks we could see. “The name of the one with the yellow eyes and black head is…..and the one with the red eyes and the gray back is named…..and I have a name to. It is Grandmother.” I smiled and said, “well I have a name and its Older Boy.” And we said nice to meet you and laughed and she told me about her daughter who is a conductor and can I come to her performance next month and a duck stated pecking at my pant leg and she gave me some bread to feed the cute little guy and incense from the temple filled our noses, sunlight our faces, the wind in the reeds, the clapping at the shrines, the ringing of the temple bells, the towering buildings of Tokyo surrounding the ringing of the new year bells. She told me she was glad we met and that it is important for Japanese people to become friends with Americans and Chinese. She said after the war many people were sad but we need to get better. She walked me over to a line of stone statures representing different gods. “We give thanks to all these gods. We approached the statue of a fish. She bowed her head and said “Sorry to eat you. Thank you. Amen.” Then she took me to the jizo san. “Thank you for looking after out dead children. Amen.” Then a large stone Koto. “Thank you for wonderful music. Amen.” Then to a turtle, I didn’t understand the Japanese, “Amen.” Then to a large stone with writing on it. She didn’t know why but we both bowed our heads and said “amen.” Then she showed me the large granite sculpture of a pare of glasses. The Glasses god. “Thank you Glasses, for letting us see, Amen.” Amen indeed!
“See,” she said laughing, “In Japan we have gods for everything.” I said I think that is a good thing. She asked me where I am from. I said Kansas. She said she new of it because of the Wizard of Oz. Next thing I know we are both singing somewhere over the rainbow. Seriously. We sang as she walked me back to the station. “Keep warm. Take care. Being able to humbly meet you was a pleasure.” A Zen monk was chanting nearby, with a bell (like in baraka). She was a lovely woman. Could have been crazy. Could have been homeless. Doesn’t matter in the least.

And that is where we will end this story tonight. Please stay tuned for part two and three, Shanghai, and Tokyo part 2: Butoh Dance and Kamakura. Here is a preview.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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