Friday, December 09, 2011

Last Class

I had my last lesson yesterday. I showed them a short slideshow of my artwork without getting too philosophical and then we watched Werner's amazing Cave of Forgotten Dreams. During the movie I graded their "visual journals" and collected their portfolios which I will review this weekend. It was so anti-climactic. I feel like I should throw a party for them of something.

Notes on NAMA's Nancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard
The Portrait of Nancy Cunard (also called Sophisticated Young Lady) 1925-1927, is carved of walnut and sits about 25” tall on a black marble circular base. The ovoid form, symmetrically balanced upright, is sliced straight down the back and is topped with a spiraling wisp of wood about six inches long. This chignon is affixed awkwardly, teetering on the back corner edge of the head. One wonders if it was attached or if it is part of the original wood.

POINT: I believe that investigating the Nelson's 1928 walnut bust of Nancy Cunard by Constantin Brancusi interrogates commonly received narratives about "primitivism" and the “truth to materials” idiom emerging during late modernity. Even though this work was marked “modernist” and “primitive,” Brancusi was not aiming for prehistoric signifiers from our pre-personal past like other modernist sculptors (Flannagan, Picasso, Matisse), but was instead aiming for Platonic signifiers from our transpersonal future. If we can appreciate that sculpture is a form of thinking, we can engage this artwork and recover the interior, emotional/mental state of the artist, gaining the ability to read his thoughts, and maybe even travel through time. This will help us understand what Nancy Cunard meant to him, not just what it meant to the critics, scholars, and historians.

Interestingly, this sculpture was one of Brancusi's favorites: he thought enough of the composition to send four snapshots of it to his friend Roche, and to mention it to the editors of the art magazine The Little Review. Marcel Duchamp owned only three works by Brancusi: two carved chairs and a Portrait of Nancy Cunard.
The sculpture is highly abstract and can thus be many things at once, polymorphic and biomorphic like a surrealist object. In dealing with biomorphic imagery, cultural historian William Irwin Thompson reminds us that we have to move to a "polymorphic mode," in which one form contains many forms—the kind of perception you can learn from the statues of Henry Moor in the NAMA sculpture gardens. "The key is to move beyond simple realism or linear, conceptual thinking, in which one form is merely a sign for one concept." I'll unpack the various readings and interpretations of the forms found in Nancy Cunard given by art historians,  understanding that the universal and spiritual "essence" the sculpture may be pointing to is both in the forms, their multitude of signifiers, and beyond the forms altogether. 

In profile the entire configuration can be read not as a head but as a feminine body, the curve becoming the pregnant belly, and the chignon dividing into three segments: ponytail, head, and bangs. As Nancy Cunard herself saw it: “The head resembles, at first sight, somewhat, a torso, a graceful curve, and then one sees the intention of that dear Brancusi, it is really the profile of a head extended in the lengthwise curve, with a tuft of hair, if you please, at the crown!” The ovoid shape is a reoccurring form for Brancusi and can represent the Cosmic Egg, “getting all the forms into one form,” as he used to say. The curve of Cunard can also recall the ancient omphalos or naval of the world, "pregnant with the All." The tiny, spiraling chignon is angled parallel to the under side the head’s curve, formally completing a top-bottom integration. Moreover, the straight back contrasts the swollen, pregnant profile; It looks as though the head will fall forward, and yet the chignon hanging off the top brings balance and helps activate the negative space beneath. Brancusi: “Beauty is absolute balance.” He notes that with his portraits he wants to “sum up in a single archetype all of the female effigies on Earth.”

The burgundy brown walnut shines smoothly with a polished patina. Brancusi claims his forms follow the nature of the materials, and wood only behaves this way naturally as a seed. Nancy Cunard is thus both seed and tree, alpha and omega, ground and goal of the human spirit. Roger Vitrac, using terms nearly everyone agrees with, says that Brancusi’s portraits, with their “vanishing faces,” were meant to “precipitate a step from the absolute towards us, delivering for meditation mysterious entities, higher materializations of the Spirit.”
The only real feature that may resemble the actual Nancy Cunard is the elongated face/straight back. William Carlos Williams descried Nancy Cunard as “straight as a stick, emaciated, holding her head erect, not particularly animated, her blue eyes completely untroubled.”

In this portrait Cunard’s eyes vanish and we are left with the uninterrupted surface of the wood. Brancusi says why ruin a surface with a nose or an eye, when those features don't represent you anyway! However, it is not so much that she has no eyes, but that she is one big eye. Her ovoid head, in and of itself, can signify a detached eyeball. Following the gradual abstraction of Brancusi's portraits and noting how the eyes extend to eventually cover the entire head, art historian Sydney Geist remarks, “The head became and eye for Brancusi.” Anna Chave agrees that Brancusi is playing with the “homomorphy” of head and eye and suggests that “[His women] are at once unseeing and all-seeing, the image of total blindness and perfect insight.” Chave says Cunard’s head may even evoke “the unitary, all-seeing (because pupilless) eye of the Creator.” Did Brancusi revere this sophisticated young woman as a God?

The severe simplicity of the head underscores the spiraling form on top, making it a “striking note,” precarious, jarring, dislodged, and contrived, perhaps like a sophisticated young woman. The cut ovoid head plays the dual role of face and base for the delicate, yet swollen serpentinata form, which itself can read as an entire goddess figure sitting on a cliff.
Viewed head-on Cunard resembles the backside of a proud, standing chicken, or the great Maiestra. Chave points out that Maiestra also resembles an erect penis, thus the chignon curling to shape the penis head and/or a swirl of semen. The swollen configuration also reads as a vagina, with the space around the sculpture flipping to read as a solid body, and the tuft at the top the clitoris. This oscillation between phallus and vagina and the "intentional doubling, confounding, and fusing the markers of sexual identity" is noted by Ana Chave with regards also to Brancusi's eggs, portraits, and Bird in Space.

Placing the walnut head on a black stone pedestal may also have significance, such as an inversion of material hierarchy. Much has been written about Brancusi’s ‘s relationship with wood, most notably how his woodcarving is an embodiment and transmission of his Romanian heritage. “It is with wood that Brancusi is at his most Romanian.”

As for the use of wood in Nancy Cunard, some scholars suggest that it points out Brancusi’s intentional disregard for race in his portraits. Blond hair, blue eyes, Nancy Cunard was white, but Brancusi used a deep dark brown walnut to sculpt her spirit. Likewise, Shanes notes that the White Nigress and the Blond Nigress were both inspired by black women, and the black marble Portrait of Mrs. Eugene Meyer, Jr is a portrait of a white girl. With Nancy Cunard, Brancusi transforms a white women into a brown women, or better yet, a wood women, perhaps “to reveal a dark, more perfect luster within.” He may also be commenting how Cunard “colored” herself by stepping out of the white world and entering the socially coded, hypersexualized black world.

The Model
A brief look at Nancy Cunard’s fascinating background may help us recover how Brancusi “saw” her. The great-granddaughter of the founder of the Cunard shipping company, Nancy lived with privilege and met Brancusi in France during the 1920s. She was a very successful, bisexual, polyamorus, "nymphomaniac" who is recognized as the earliest proponent of “black transnationalism.” She dated Aldus Huxley and influenced characters in his novels. She founded the Hours Press publishing house, which produced the work of Brancusi’s friend, Ezra Pound. She collected African art objects, wore African jewelry, and made love to African American musicians and artists. In 1934 She organized and published Negro, an anthology, which became the very first anthology of black achievements all over the world. “Everything about the way she behaved showed how truly sophisticated she was for her day,” Brancusi said. The thought of her must have included the thought of a higher, wider, more integral and expansive worldview. However, it could have also included his own difference and separation from that world; Cunard’s aristocratic sophistication and femininity appearing to Brancusi as the “other.” Anna Chave notes that Cunard’s portrait by Brancusi is indeed a study of contrasts. William Carlos Williams wonders if the contrast between this sophisticated aristocrat and the rustic folk boy is what inspired the sculpture.

Many Brancusi scholars posit that his “simplified” forms, especially his wood sculptures, were influenced by African art and express Primitivism. That may be true, but Edith Bales, in her chapter The Myth of African Art in Brancusi’s Sculpture, refutes this belief and clearly demonstrates that Brancusi had an aversion to African art and the entire “primitivism” ideology connected to it. Brancusi even went as far as to destroy some of his works that resembled “African” influences He wanted everything to come from himself. African art, at best, served only as a “memory trigger that helped to bring the Romanian woodcarving tradition to the surface of his consciousness.” Brancusi's sculptures are “Platonic”, or “Tantric” (considering his love for Tibetan Buddhism). They are not "primitive;" not intentionally, anyway.
How then can we understand the childish bulb and whimsical construction of Nancy Cunard? “Neotenous,” a term used to describe contemporary Japanese art, may do the job. The “primitive,” “simple,” “naked,” and “childish” sculpture appears immature, but is actually communicating very mature, ancient, platonic, and transpersonal faces from our future, not below modernism, but beyond it; not premodern, but post-modern; not pre-personal darkness but post-personal, transpersonal light. Geist says it well in an introduction to the catalogue of the retroactive Exhibition of Brancusi’s work. “The sculptures of Brancusi present a universe of form where all is clear and filled with light. All, at the level of form, is given and given at once, without reserve, without mystery or surprise."

Feminism and Hapticity
I would like to include a Feminist and Sensory Historic lens through which we can enrich our understandings of the sculpture. Brancusi proudly told a news reporter: “My statue is of Woman, all women rolled into one, Goeth’s Eternal Feminine reduced to its essence.” However, “essentialism” would soon take a hard hit from the feminists and poststructualists. However enlighteneing and exciting the concept of an essencial feminine spirit shared by all bodies may be, from a feminist perspective, the use of abstraction by Brancusi can be seen as an assault on the female body. According to Art Historian Carol Duncan, 20th century modernist sculpture demonstrates male control and the suppression of female subjectivity more emphatically than sculpture in the 19th century. “Their faces are more frequently concealed, blank or masklike (that is, when they are not put to sleep), and the artist manipulates their passive bodies with more liberty and “artistic” bravado than ever.” This modernist “defense of male supremacy," that is integral to all modernist heterosexual male endeavors, finds its way into the treatment of Nancy Cunard when seen from this expanded lens.
Moreover, going after these streamlined, platonic "Ideal Forms" was not necessarily an honorable endeavor in the light of American and European eugenics. Christina Cogdell argues in her excellent book Eugenic Design that aesthetic choices made by artists in the 1920s was inspired and informed by the often overlooked American eugenics, and streamlined artwork served as a “material embodiment” of its ideology.  

Another important concept to keep in mind as we gaze at the sculpture under the protective glass case is that we should really touch it to understand its meaning. Due to a modern taboo against touching works of art, Brancusi was driven to render the haptic quality of the work conceptually through the optic surface. Nevertheless, artists “think and feel by hand," and a “sculpture must be lovely to touch” Brancusi remarked. Art historian Valentiner claims that the fundamentals in understanding sculpture is the development of the sense of touch which we have almost forgotten to use in connection with sculpture. We must understand how central tactility was to ideas of beauty, knowledge, and meaning during the entire Modern period. Historian of the senses, Mark Smith: “Not only was sculpture considered at least as refined and intellectually vital as painting (most famously Michelangelo was obsessed with the power of the sculptors generative touch), but sculpture facilitated a sort of interaction denied by two dimensional art.” Smith explains in his Sensing the Past that with modernism, seeing alone was considered limiting because the eyes read only the surface of the object. Touch, conversely, was deemed an authenticator, or way to access truth. He further notes that true understanding and depth of meaning can come only through touch. “Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth.” In painting, the materials (stones, oils, woods,) are all obscured, but in sculpture the materials get to be themselves, unashamed.

A little more history
Brancusi is marked “the father of modern sculpture.” Ezra Pound called Brancusi a “genius, “ and “in some dimensions a saint.” He described his life as “a succession of marvelous events,” and he wanted his sculptures to “suddenly fill the whole universe and express the Great Liberation!” Constantin Brancusi was born of peasant parents in the village of Hobitza, within the foothills of the Romanian Carpathian Alps, where life had remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Even Brancusi’s physique seemed ancient and mythic. “He had a pagan feeling for life and a pagan sense of Beauty,” wrote his friend, the journalist Jeanne Robert Foster. His father died when he was nine, and later that year Brancusi dropped out of school and lived as a shepherd. He worked odd jobs and when he was eighteen made a violin from a crate, attracting the attention of both his employer and one of the customers. They collected money and sent him to the Criova School of Crafts, where he learned wood-carving and metal-smithing full-time. He found work for a furniture factory, graduated from school with honors, and began to make portraits. In 1903 Brancusi left Romania for good to live and travel throughout Europe. He died in Paris, March 15th, 1957.

He was good friends with Matisse, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Picasso, Modigliani, and Guillaume Apollinair. He contributed to Dada journals and art magazines with Ducamp’s and Tzara. Eric Satie and Brancusi were good friends, played music together, and some argue that his mystical Romanian past influenced Satie’s famous Gymnopedies. As early as 1907, (or even 1894,) Brancusi became deeply influenced by Plato; five of Plato’s Dialogues found in Brancusi’s library are almost disintegrated from frequent use. He also carried around a Tibetan Buddhist text: The Songs of Milerepa, "like a bible." Anna Chave, summarizing all the evidence, observed that Brancusi “would emerge as a latter-day Platonist who succeeded in transcending individual and ephemeral states of mind to arrive at the eternal and the universal in works embodying pure, essential form.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

painting all night

Finally I'm finishing up the Jinno commission of their baby (they paid me up front!) I started in September. I really hope they like what I've come up with. I also enlarged the breasts and penis on The Sorcerer, added water coming out of the red box, and darkened the naked man. Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I was thinking about calling the new painting "Naked," (some of you Buddhist friends will enjoy the idea that the mirror represents naked awareness, as does the sky). haha.
And then I saw an episode of the bbc show Coupling, season 2, called "Naked" and it made me laugh so hard I cried.

The beginning is a fantasy Jeff has which keeps him from actually kissing his boss. His mother saying "Oh Jeffery" in his shameful head is a reoccurring theme, making the end of this episode outstanding!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

no Milk

Here is the beginning of a new painting. What do you think? As you know I'm still investigating "the male body" (Susan Bordo), and the significance of the penis. One thing the male body cannot achieve that the female body can is milk. The female body is AMAZING!! It can make food for people. Semen can be considered liquid life in a similar way as milk, I suppose. But it's totally different, right? And I'm not the only one who thinks about this kind of stuff, you know. Retired MIT Humanities Professor William Irwin Thompson noticed this in our collective history. With regards to its appearence in Paleolithic art he says, "In this visual system of punning, there is a logic of association. The breasts give milk, the penis gives the cream of semen. All the vital fluids, milk, menstrual blood, semen, have a numinous quality, and the magical powers associated with them survive into history and are fossilized in Tantric yoga." He also does a great job in describing one perspective of the male body and penis: "If birth is the central mystery for the female, death seems to be the central mystery for the male. The penis is a wonder, as what is small becomes great. It becomes tall and erect in dream, trance, and lovemaking; it grows like the shoots of plants, and like them it has its season, and then it falls. So the penis becomes the phallus, a symbolic complex for time, for the vanishing modality of time. Since the menstruating vulva is the wound that heals itself in rhythm with the cycles of the moon in the heavens, the vulva becomes the symbol for eternal recurrence, of the enduring and not the vanishing mode of time. The male dies, and though the female may mourn, it is she who endures. So it is that the phallus belongs to the Great Mother, the vanishing mode of time belongs to the larger and more enduring mode of time.
The male goes through an intensely sharp experience of temporality--of heroic life and tragic death--and then he returns to the Great Mother...Now one can appreciate the archetypal dimensions of Michelangelo's Pieta, the image of the dead Christ in the arms of Mary, and one can also appreciate how sculpture is a form of thinking." I could go on all day...

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Today Cody and I went to Wutai Mountain, a Dzogchen retreat center in Lawrence, for a free half-day meditation retreat. There I got to meet old students of Trungpa Rinpoche. I also sat with one of my old professors, Robert Price, and his wife. They told me about how Ram Dass (who I just found out has a son!) used to visit them in Lawrence about twice a year! After two hours of sitting we talked about the The Four Yogas of Mahamudra, ate an incredible lunch, and then practiced archery by the pond.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


In this painting Bird flies top center as Sun-God. Leigh leaves for India in just a couple weeks!

"Unfinished." I'm doing this large painting in remembrance of Brancusi and Kristofer. They both loved playing with dual-sex imagery, integral spirituality, and alchemical hermaphroditism. That is Mt. Ishizuchi in the background; a real place. Leigh Bird took the photo I'm drawing from, and Bird flies top center as Sun-God =). We had just climbed the holy mountain and the mist suddenly rushed in. It was the perfect "Eastern" scene, the pregnant mountain vanishing, and the sunlight hovering directly in front of us behind the mist like an angel. On stage is a mythic creature made of van Eyck's Sheep- Christ, The Sorcerer, Maiastra, and prehistoric Goddess figurines moonwalking while giving life-blood to the world (a very "Western" scene). When the performance is over the mythical, phallic creature goes back into the solid, red box, yonic and vaginal. Dandelions at the bottom are also directly from the Ghent Altarpiece, which is a nice coincidence--I love painting dandelions. They are great distance markers, they take me back, and they are a kind of memento-mori/reincarnation story. The Ghent Altarpiece is significant not just because of its sacred symbolism but because it is by the van Eyck brothers who invented oil painting. They are the First Patriarchs, so to speak. The Sorcerer and other cave paintings were also oil paintings because their paint was made from dirt and charcoal mixed with spit and animal fat. However the van Eycks were the first to use glazes and whatnot. I want to go to Belgium to study the original so badly!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Best Sister Ever

My sister Jane, who is in town from Atlanta for the week, stopped by school this morning to give me a coffee! It's a delicious organic coffee from The Merc with soy creamer. Today from 11 till 2 I'm working the Saturday Life Drawing Session as "Instructor." The room is filled with high school students (some from Kansas City) with permission slips from their parents saying it's ok to study the nude human form. Life Drawing is also a great way to get into the nondual Flow state. "Relax your line!" God this coffee tastes good.

Last night I saw Drive. Mr. White from Breaking Bad and the red-haired goddess from Mad Men flanked the mysterious adonis Ryan Gosling in an interesting mix of poetic, artsy, subtle love story with sensational Noe-like graphic violence.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Little Dragon

Marija Gimbutas: "The thrilling hybrid figure of a man with antlered head, round eyes, a long beard, animal (lion?) paws instead of hands, the tail of a wild horse, and his sexual organ placed beneath the tail seems to be a more important personage than a 'sorcerer,' as he is called.... Abbe Breuil was right to call him the 'God of Les Trois Freres'....[This Master of Animals and Forests is] shown moving, probably dancing."

I am overwhelmed with joy. My Drawing 1 students' "Symbolic Self-Portraits" are so beautiful and intriguing. For this drawing we researched the very first self portrait, The Sorcerer of Trois-Freres, pictured above, and went from there. You might like Ken Wilber's interpretation of The Sorcerer he wrote in Up From Eden.

And a song by Little Dragon. (skip two minutes).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Finally I stole some time away from my other duties to paint. That's a murky pond in my town and a dead deer half submerged, bathing in the sun. Have you ever stumbled across this kind of scene before? I want an image that can demonstrate birth, old age, death, and decay, all at once.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


One of my drawing students sent me this video. It reminds me of Ween and Ponyo.

Teaching has been really fun so far. I feel like I have a knack for it. It's true I have been in the classroom teaching kids for five years, but now I get to teach them what I really like, and what I think about and talk with my friends about all the time: drawing. The course I am teaching is actually their Introduction to art school; their foundation course, AFND 101, You bet I talk them into a flow state when they warm up with scribble drawing and blind contour. Those intense single-pointed meditations help suspend attention and open the student up to the ocean of awareness within, that's for sure. We talk about articles I make them read (like William Irwin Thompson's Prehistoric Sculptures: The Body as the Story of Time ) and for homework I assign them a master drawing to copy. We end class sometimes drawing exquisite corpses , which point out how psychic everyone is.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Last days in Japan.

After sailing we spent a few days with Melissa in Yawatahama. There she is cutting Takashi's hair. Man we had so much fun!!!
This samurai greeted us at the super market.
I went to Komatsu to stay with Mika and her family. Here are few of the guests at Ike-san. The Kuroki family I stayed with run this old-folks home/dying center in their town. It is heaven on earth, or as they say, at least very close to heaven.

The Kuroki family makes their own pickled plums, which are my favorite Japanese treat. The purple leaf is red shiso. Here are a few jugs pickling by the window.
The game Go sitting in the shrine room.

I gave him those glasses...
The family lives in the most beautiful area in an old house I helped them restore last year. This is all their land.

Great house.
This origami is a German-Japanese mix, actually. The paper turns into designs meant to be seen on windows. Astounding. I found the book Magical WIndow Stars online that might explain how to do it....

Kanta, their oldest son, and I visited a shrine. Grandfather then gave us this dead bug he found in the garden. The underside was even more magnificent.
unbelievable color.
Across the street, a japanese mini-forest! I'ts pretty convincing if you cover the top half and look only at the bottom, isn't it? This is a field of bonsai trees.
Here I am with Daisuke, one of my heroes. He is my age, and is the director of the old-folks' home "Ike-san" and has a humongous, powerful heart. The entire family is enlightened, if you ask me. Running the happiest, most wonderful neighborhood dying center, whose motto is "No Laugh, No Life" will do that to you, no doubt.
Family dinner. Most all of the food was grown by the man in center or by other family/community members, "with love" they would say.
Breakfast for the baby. Those rice balls are in the shape of hearts.
Kanta calling the sprits. He took Caleb and I to his favorite shrine near his house.
I want to paint this.
Tiny shrines behind the main one.

We found this white, fluffy bug behind the shine. Caleb poked it gently and a tiny bit of its body came off. Suddenly all the ants around us went crazy, running every which way. They found the fluffy white bug and ripped it apart. "Wooly aphid! Ancient demon beasts."
Last year the enlightened father of the family planted two trees in honor of Terri and I. This is the sign for Terri's.

Here I am with Caleb at Ike-san.
The Kuroki family then took Caleb and I to a "power spot" deep in the mountains. At the base of the waterfall were hundreds of stone totems. The folk story goes that when children die they sometimes go to hell because they cause so much suffering up on earth, and the kids can build stone bridges out of hell, but demons come around and smash the bridges down. We can help the children in this world by stacking stones on top of each other. This sacred "power spot" was covered in these tiny stone offerings, evidence of people who have been there, and tiny works of art and concentration, all over the place. They kind of "consecrated" the space as sacred, and remind me of Kodama in Princess Mononoke.

The Kuroki family. I painted a small mural in their entryway.
After Komatsu I went with Caleb to a festival in Saijo, to watch Workaholics at his house, and to meet up with Hachidai. We also played frisbee next to this sexy sculpture at Saijo Library. This Adonis has no genitals though, which is kind of effective in evoking the phallus, if you know what i mean. By not depicting his penis, we can imagine one, and as Lacan points out the imaginary penis can function as a phallus...The "phallus" can move beyond a cylindrical or conic object and be anything that signifies power, ascension, mystery, life, a cosmic sense of appearing and disappearing, and it can therefor become the symbol for an "ultimate desire." Some say that the woman (or the feminine) IS the phallus (because she is the object of male desire and holds ultimate power) and that men feel they lack a phallus (because all we have is a penis, which pales in comparison) The masculine also tends to feel like it is powerless. This is why men must keep their genitals covered and out of the "periphic ring," of society; we have to protect the idea that the penis, aka the male body, holds the phallus and contains phallic power... I wrote a paper about just this topic...
After Saijo I went to an all-night long dj hippy rave in Takamatsu with my soul brother Junya, and here are some of the amazing people I got to spend the night with.
Then I went to Kyoto and met up with two of my favorite people on earth, Shotaro and Daifuku.

can you find Daifuku?
Almost to the top of Fushimi-inari shrine.

The Window of Realization (satori no mado) in Kyoto.
The Window of Delusion, next to the Window of Realization. Realization, or Samadhi, or Nirvana, in Zen Buddhism, comes with an "unsticking" of the mind. The Circle represents emptiness, but also an endless, unobstructed flow. The circular window allows the mind to flow and skate along its edge, like a well-lubricated wheel, whereas the Window of Delusion has many corners and corridors in which the mind can get stuck.
Shotaro poking his head into the Window of Delusion.

Local vegetable vending machine in Kyoto. In the small towns of Japan there are just boxes with veggies and places to put money and its all the honor system.

Small festival in Kyoto.

Kids sleeping on the train.
My hat! I put this on Jizo four years ago.

Here is an "Ah-ji kan" class advertisement in the Mt. Kukai travel brochure. Call this number and reserve a spot to experience the secret esoteric practice of "Ah-looking." The painting is of the sanskrit character sitting on a lotus thrown in the center of a full moon. "The Ah represents the secret God." it says. "Understand that God = the entire cosmos, and 'You and the Universe become one'...."
This is the back of a book on Kukai's philosophy I found at a bookstore in Mt. Koya. Kukai remember is the first transmitter of tantric buddhism to Japan. He lived in the nineth century and also became THE Leonardo de Vinci--gay artist/scientist mystic saint--of Japan. If you read above, the key to Shingon "mantra-yana" buddhism, is similar to TM, I imagine, with the mantra in this case being the "Ah"... The Ah, Kukai says, is also one with the cosmic mind, Dainichi-nyorai aka Mahavirocana. It is the mantra that is, in itself, the cosmic buddha. The Ah is also the alpha, the first sound (also the first sound in the Japanese and English alphabets), the beginning of everything, the first utterance of the Source. "In the beginning was the Ah." and the ah gave birth to all other sounds, "each of them is true." The Ah is also, I'll point out, the common sound in all major names for God--Brahma, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Ram, Ra, Ma...which suggests that the "Ah" may be the "true, universal name" of God...A nice coincidence! Thinking this cosmic sound, especially resounding from a ball of white moonlight sitting in the center of your sky-like head, (like Samantabadra in sexual union with his glowing white consort, Samantrabadri) is the top secret method of immediate enlightenment for this school (and incidentally also the Tibetan Dzogchen/tantric school) of buddhism. If you try it, you will see why.
After Koya I went to Tokyo to see Satoru, Kazu, Yasuchika, and a few friends from KU. Satoru invited us to a birthday party at the Tunisian restaurant he helps out at.
Then Kazu took me to his photo studio and took pics of me dancing.

And then we went to a Kukai/esoteric buddhism art show at the national museum and I got to see Kukai's original calligraphy and painting, his vajra, and his prayer beads.
Then we met up with exchange students from KU for a final night in Tokyo. Satoru then took me to the airport where we spent the night. My flight was early in the morning.

Back in KC i have been mourning the death of my great aunt Nell and my dear friend Kristofer Vorhees. My mother and I took a road trip down to Fort Scott to deliver a diptych I painted for the Weavers, our close family friends, and to drop off some of Kristofer's things to his family in Wichita. I also got to spend the afternoon with Rick Winfrey, sangha brother and soul-lover. SO many emotions!..

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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