Monday, October 19, 2009

Kosaka Sensei has a wonderful lecture he gives on Wabi Sabi. I'd heard it many times, but could never really get my notes complete. [When I visit him privately, and he sees me taking notes on our discussion (cause he used to drop of lot of 'jewels' during our meetings, so I really wanted notes on it) he would stop talking. So I always had to fill in the gaps from my poor memory.] Anyhow on a trip to Kinokuniya (the local Japanese Book Store), there was a book entitled 'Wabi Sabi' (though today I see lots of these books with this topic, at that time I'd not seen one before). This particular one was quite close to Kosaka Sensei's lecture...not exactly the same...but some of the material was almost straight out of his rendition. I bought the book. Then after our Rancho Park kyudo practice (as was my habit back then) went to his house. I said, 'Look Sensei, I found a book on Wabi Sabi', and handed him the book. He thumbed through it for a bit, nodding what looked like approval and recognition of the contents, he seemed surprised that someone got so close to an understanding of a topic that is so difficult to state in words. Then he looked at the cover and said, 'oh, I see. I taught this guy', he paused...and then, as he said 'he shouldn't have written it down', and tossed my book into the trash.

Of course, I went and purchased another copy. But this experience, and the insistence in our school that you cannot get kyudo from a book, and that the teaching is handed down 'face to face' (we call this menju kuketsu) has made me hesitate to write down anything here, but my own experience. Although Kosaka Sensei has named me his legacy holder, and 'stamped' my understanding, I hesitate to try and expound on the actual principles of our school. But many tell me that without my interpretations, they don't see how they'll ever understand them; and some of these people are nearing their 20 year mark with us.

Most of the principles I learned are contained in the stories I've told here. I will, therefore, continue to tell the stories; but here and there, I may throw in a few prose too that just simply state some of the principles our school is based on. We'll see how it goes. Please feel free to give me feed back on whether you need more or less of these.

rick 'jyozen' beal


  1. Ah, yes, the wordless transmission. So "Zen". Many times one of my Kung Fu instructors commented about how many things are misunderstood, or not fully grasped without some type of translation, a finger pointing to the moon as it were. This is needed because of the different mindset of Chinese to Americans. Even a misunderstanding from Cantonese to Madarin. There is the same discord when understadning a Japanese thought to and American thought. I think the problem comes in when some times the explaination, interpretation is taken too literal and not as an aid. As it is told to us in Chan, the Sutras are someone else's experience of Chan, you need to have your own to understand fully. In order words, do not mistake the finger pointing to the moon, as the moon. I find it all helpful. Arigato for your efforts _/|\_

  2. I do agree. Kosaka Sensei said that he had an experience he wants to share. Once he tells us about this experience, our understanding of it is at least 5 steps away from the actual experience. He had to think of the words and voice it. We had to hear it and interpret it and try to understand it. So we're 5 steps away from his experience...'we have no idea how far away from ours'. Now that I've had mine, I understand exactly what he means. But still I'd like to try and 'point my finger and see if others can see where it leads. Pure folly, perhaps, but I feel like I have to try.