Friday, August 15, 2014

Kokoro no yoi

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Archery in buddhism

Besides being a weapon of war and killing others,  in many ancient texts on buddhism listed among the sacred implements is the bow and arrow. This relationship has existed since at least the time of Shakyamuni Butsu. Before being a sage he was the prince, and the best archer in the land. Even before buddhism the bow and arrow were considered sacred in many religious circles.
The same is true in Japan, the bow and arrow were sacred long before buddhism came.
In China Confucianism used archery as a gentlemanly pursuit as well. But most interesting for buddhism is the choice of Chinese Characters being a man standing with a bow and two arrows to represent a Buddha.
When buddhism arrives in Japan with these same characters, and finds the sacred use of the bow already in place, a syncretic effect takes place in Japanese archery. By the 12th century, simultaneous with the arrival of Zen Buddhism, the evolution caused by this effect really starts to take shape.
In this day and age Zen enjoyed much of their patronage from families of the warrior nobility.
Prominent families, to one degree or another, often would mix, match and merge the teachings from the mainland like Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism with the indigenous religion of Shinto and its sacred practices with the bow.
How much this happened in any given school varied greatly. The mixture too, even when all elements were present, which elements took prominence varied. But most were effected at least a touch by one or more of these elements.
This evolution took on even greater speed during peace time in Japan. The evolution has never stopped with even archery done for sport being effected.
There are some schools that from the beginning were heavily influenced by Buddhism. In most cases the influence has increased over time, and today this continues to be true.
For those of us in Buddhism, we know of this sacred use of the bow, but the strength of that use has always been minimal at best.
In Japan the existing sacred use, allowed some monks, especially those who might be retired warriors to use the bow. So we see the actual use of the bow as a sacred implement in buddhism most prominently in Japan.
With the arrival of Zen Buddhism, and its patronage by the warrior class, this happens even more often;
Among temple life were many activities that took the form of great art like the serving of tea, incense offering, flower arrangements, calligraphy, and more. These arts infiltrated the aristocracy as games.
With the closer relationship of Zen Monks and the warrior nobility we see a greater influence to not just play, but to bring the games into line with the artistic method of the temple. As this happens we see the Zen Monks bringing this way to all the warrior arts of the day, especially the sword, but also the bow and arrow. A few Zen Monks too take up these arts as part of this interaction with the warrior families. Reviving again the sacred Buddhist use of the bow.
Today, few outside of the Zen sect use the bow in this way. But here too, there may be a few. We probably just don't hear much about them.
Even the bit I write here, to some is almost sacrilege. Many prefer to stay out of history, quietly practicing. To float as a cloud, leaving no wake in their passing...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rei the act of bowing as manners

'Sha wa, rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru,'' = Shooting begins with etiquette and ends with etiquette.

The Rei occurs as we are standing up completely straight, and the next in breath begins, when there is no where up to go... naturally we bow, relaxing out from our center... just before we reach the pinnicle of the bow, our air flows out... as we breath in again, we rise back to our upright position; but in fact, since we bowed as a result of upright standing, we were upright the entire time.

Rei means manners

Kyudo begins & ends with Rei
Rei is manners & Rei is the physical act of bowing. Thus 'upright' bowing, showing respect and humility from a postion of strength is the physical manifestation of manners.
Rei begins and ends with the Tanden.
Awareness is the first step. Awareness of the Tanden is the core of the pracitce. All practice leads with... to... and from the TandenWith the mind stable and established in the Tanden, we look out... gazing gently... seeing all that is, as it is. In this way we move in the world, with the world... without moving away from the Tanden. Thus we are moving without moving.
The path to the Tanden has always been breathing and relaxing. The path from the Tanden has always been bone and extension... Structure and Vision.
Awareness of the Tanden, through the art of breathing & relaxing, then, is the first step. This is a natural step that happens whenever we do not interfer. Like this, through gravity, with a small tether to the Tanden (like a plumb bob) we drop to the center of the earth. From the center of the earth we stand up; from the sacred tail/root bone we stand up; the spine, nape of he neck and crown of the head reach to the heaven (never leaving the center of the earth, or the Tanden, but merging the earth and sky with the tanden as the center of this universe. From Heaven to earth we hang... suspended...
From this upright posture, anything is possible... everything is possible.