“REMEMBERING STEPHEN LEVINE”: A TALK BY WILLIAM LESLIE

                                          Stephen and Ondrea Levine

In my last post “An Incantation to Time’s Disintegration of Memory: The Art of Gwyn Henry”, we began to move into the matter of “impermanence” which is a key concept in Buddhist understanding and practice.  In future posts, I  will be exploring impermanence further through my art.  For now, we turn to a lecture,  by artist and philosopher William Leslie which I video taped at at The Vista Zen Center last November.  His talk focuses on the work of Stephen Levine.  For over thirty-two years, Stephen and his wife Ondrea  provided emotional and spiritual support, from a Buddhist perspective, for those who are life-threatened, and for caregivers. They are the authors of numerous books, including Who DiesEmbracing the Beloved, and A Year to Live, among others.

 Stephen Levine died in January 2016 and William’s talk is titled “Remembering Stephen Levine.  You can watch the video of this talk by clicking on the link below.  The talk itself is only about 19 min. long; the remainder of the video captures the discussion that followed.

https://youtu.be/eF-Qhm306w0

William Leslie’s background includes degrees in physics and philosophy.  He served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India.  Presently, he teaches philosophy at Palomar College in the San Diego area and maintains a small studio in his home producing “Lightsculptures” for homes, restaurants, hospitals, businesses and religious institutions throughout the country. His work can be seen at:

 http://www.papersunlightsculpture.com/

COMMENTS.  The comment feature has been turned off due to massive amounts of Robo-Spam.  However, please send any comments to the following address at G mail;

artandzentoday@

RITUAL JOURNEY: THE SHUSO HOSSEN FINALE

Today’s post consists of the last of the segments from my Shuso Hossen Ceremony.  It was lead by Alessandra and William and was a beautiful and fitting closing segment to the Ceremony and my year-long examination of the place of Zen ritual in contemporary society. You can see this segment of the Ceremony at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8a3ypmW7qk

You can see other segments of the Ceremony (which took place in March 2016) and a series of talks on Ritual that led up to the Ceremony at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKjCTdN9J7bhP7QCS16d1sA

 

ART FROM THE HEART: BETH TALKS ABOUT HER SUMI-E AND ZEN PRACTICES

Beth (Esho) is no stranger to the pages of Art and Zen Today.  Three years ago we published Beth’s article “BETH MOSKAL MILLIGAN ON SUMI-E PAINTING AND ZEN PRACTICES”  where she wrote about her studies with Sumi-e master Takashi Ijichi and Zen practice with Jake Roshi. ( http://artandzentoday.com/?p=3243 ).  The short talk from the Shuso Hossen , captured in the video below, expands upon this earlier article.  Pay attention to the points that Beth makes in the video; I think they are very consistent with my musical responses to the Shuso Koan as seen in a video posted earlier (   http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4678)

To see Beth’s “Art From the Heart” talk at the Shuso Hossen, please click below:

https://youtu.be/VJ4aP_xNhyA

Scroll Down to see other performances at the Shuso Hossen Ceremony.

 

COMMENTS.  The comment feature has been turned off due to massive amounts of Robo-Spam.  However, please send any comments to the following address at G mail;

artandzentoday@

 

Shuso Hossen Performances by Judy, Sean (Taigu) and Ian

 

                                                   Bread by Taigu

Today’s post includes another video involving three more of the fantastic contribuitions by members of The Vista Zen Center to my Shuso Hossen Ceremony.  In this video, Judy leads the group in a rousing version of “Enmei Juku Kannon Gyo”.  Next, Sean talks about how his passion for bread-baking has become part of his Zen practice. Then, Ian sings Bob Dylan’s song “It’s all over, baby blue”, which he sees as a song about letting go.  All previous videos from the Shuso Hossen Ceremony can be found on the Art and Zen Today YouTube channel or can be found by using the search options to the right of this page.  Click below to see today’s video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbYHEvwjMJg

 

COMMENTS.  The comment feature has been turned off due to massive amounts of Robo-Spam.  However, please send any comments to the following address at G mail;

artandzentoday@

SHUSO HOSSEN CEREMONY: SEGMENT 4

Hello,

Today’s video captures the last of my musical presentations at the Shuso Hossen in March.  As I see it now, the first three (see previous videos) were really “preambles”; where I amble around aimlessly before getting down to addressing the Koan in a straight forward way.  Below I’ve printed the Shuso Koan which may help you get a better understanding of what I was trying to do in my final rap/singing presentation.

Actually, this was not my final presentation.  As you will see in the video, this rap/song segues into my singing, along with the help of the group, an altered version of Sly Stones “I Want To Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again”.  Shorty after the Ceremony, I crossed paths with blues singer Richard “Stoney” Stone and asked him to do a rendition of that song in my studio.  You can hear this version, along with the visuals that accompanied it the night of the Ceremony, at.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdWtlB6cphI).

Today’s video can be viewed by clicking here :

https://youtu.be/cr_1080EtN8

 

                                                   SHUSO HOSSEN KOAN

 —–

A student came to the teacher and said I want to study with you. Fine, you may study with me but, you are an artist and I want to know how you can fulfill your Bodhisattva Vows as a Zen Buddhist while painting at your easel or playing your trumpet.

 Who is your picture freeing? What  delusions are your tunes transforming? What dharma gates are being embodied when you sculpt? How does your art awaken anyone, including yourself??

——-

  THE FOUR BODHISATTVA VOWS

 —–

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to free them.

 Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.

 The Dharmas are boundless, I vow to embody them.

 The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to awaken.

COMMENTS.  The comment feature has been turned off due to massive amounts of Robo-Spam.  However, please send any comments to the following address at G mail;

artandzentoday@

Lady Gaga, Passion and Creativity

For years I’ve been vaguely aware of  singers Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, but never made an effort to really listen to their music.  Both seemed too “over the top” for my tastes and somehow not worthy of my attention. A year or so ago, I happened upon a concert special featuring Lady Gaga on TV and found myself pulled in, at first,  by the spectacle of it all.  As a result, I came to realize that she could really sing.  More recently I ordered the documentary “Amy” from Netflixs and was equally surprised at the quality of her music.  ( I should mention that everything I am saying here applies to Michael Jackson as well.) 

If you haven’t seen the movie “Amy”, I would suggest that you do so.  It not only provides some insights into her creativity but also explores what I call the “thin line between creativity, spirituality and crazy” (see article “SUN RA, THE ALIEN: THE THIN LINE BETWEEN GENIUS, SPIRITUALITY AND CRAZY” at http://artandzentoday.com/?p=928)

Why some artists end up like Amy and others like Lady Gaga is a fascinating question that I don’t think  can be answered fully.  However, my friend and Zen teacher Jake Roshi recently brought my attention to an article that may provide some insight on the matter. The article was written by  David Brooks, a New York Times correspondent and is titled  “Lady Gaga and the Life of Passion”.  The link below leads to a video based on Roshi’s reading and commentary on the article at the Vista Zen Center.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEEBANvGgVc&feature

 

 

 

 

SHUSO HOSSEN SEGMENT 3: AXEL LEADS “FOUR VOWS” AND MANOJ RAPS “THINKAHOLIC”

Hello,  Welcome to another edition of Art and Zen Today.  The video below is Segment #3 of my Shuso Hossen Ceremony held in March of 2016 at The Vista Zen Center.  This installment contains an alternative chanting of “The Four Vows” and “Thinkaholic” one of my rap responses to my Shuso Koan.  Below that is a copy of the Program for the Ceremony.

 

 

https://youtu.be/fKCgygJejbM

SHUSO HOSSEN PROGRAM       

  Roshi/Manoj         

Entrance and Opening Ceremony

    Manoj                    In Trance and Settling

*****

 Manoj                    PRESENTATION  #1 

Chorus

                         A Roshi named Jake gave me a snake.                     Or was it a stick?  You choose or Pick.”

 

    Eyal                         “The Primordial Light”

                                    (A Jewish Chassidic Tale)                

    Jo Smith                  Tai Chi Demonstration

    Elenah  (Kyojo)      ”Loving Kindness Chant”

                       

LOVING KINDNESS CHANT

May (I, you, we) be filled with loving Kindness,

May (I, you, we) be well,

May (I, you, we) be filled with loving Kindness,

May (I, you, we) be well,

May (I, you, we)I be peaceful and at ease

May (I, you, we) be whole.

    David (Kaishin)          Poems

Manoj              PRESENTATION #2   Chorus

                                      Males   “Master Bodhidharma,                                            Bodhisattva   Bodhidharma”

                                     Females   “Wu Wu Master                                                                           Bodhidharma”

 

     Jon  ( Jon )               Poems

     Axel                         ”Four Vows

     Eyal                          “Longing For” (Kabir)

     Video                       Little Kwan Yin

     Judy                          ”Enmei Juku Kannon Gyo”

                                        (Lyrics in the Video)

     Eric (Tetsuei )           Short Story

*****

         

     Manoj                        PRESENTATION #3

     Ian                              ”It’s all over now, Baby Blue”

     Beth (Esho)               “Art From the Heart”

     Jane (Chandra)         “Gate of Sweet Nectar”

     Sean   (Taigu)            “Practicing the Doughma”

     Eyal                            ”The Guest House” (Rumi)

Manoj                         FINAL PRESENTATION   

                                    Chorus      “I wanna thank you

                                     for letting me            be myself  again”

     Ritual Play

    Alessandra/ William

                     Questions From the Sangha

                     Closing Ceremony

                Dessert

*****

 Thanks to Roshi and all the Sangha members who helped

in making this event a reality.  A special shout-out to

Howard (Kakusho) for coordinating the food  preparation and other “behind the scene” tasks and to my wife, Cherie for

help with the program.

 

POEMS READ BY DAVID CLARK AND JON WESICK AT MANOJ’S SHUSO HOSSEN CEREMONY.

My recent posts have had to do with my Shuso Hossen Ceremony held at The Vista Zen Center on March 5th, 2016. (Click on “Shuso Hossen Ceremony” in the CATEGORIES BOX to the right to see other articles on the topic).   In addition to several performances on my part, I also asked other members to perform or make presentations and many of these will be the subject of future posts.  This post is devoted to poems read by David ( Kaishin) Clark and Jon Wesick (see their biographies below).

The link below will take you to a video made of their readings, along with subtitles so you can read as well as hear the poems.  The video was recorded from a stationary camera in a room with low light, so the visuals are not great, but you can hear the poems clearly. Also, below the Bios and the Link are transcripts of the poems read by these poets at the Ceremony and a few others as well.  Enjoy

https://youtu.be/McVr3ML-9zY

COMMENTS.  The comment feature has been turned off due to massive amounts of Robo-Spam.  However, please send any comments to the following address at G mail;

artandzentoday@

David Clark was born and raised in San Diego. A life-long resident of the county, he and his wife, Diane, have lived in Vista for the last twenty years.  His poetic work reflects his many interests, but is especially informed by his study and practice of Zen Buddhism and key Buddhist texts such as the Avatamsaka and the Lankavatara Sutras. David is an admirer of the concise poetic forms of classical Chinese and Japanese poets. His work has been published in the yearly San Diego Poetry Annuals for 2012, ’14, ’15 and ’16.
Host of the Gelato Poetry Series, author of the poetry collection Words of Power Dances of Freedom, and an editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual, Jon Wesick has published over three hundred poems in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Pearl, and Slipstream. He has also published nearly a hundred short stories. One was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest. Another had a link on the Car Talk website. Jon has a Ph.D. in physics and is a longtime student of Buddhism and the martial arts.
———————————————————————————————————-

Shuso Hossen Poems by Kaishin David Clark

The following are the poems that I read at the Shuso Hossen Program at the Vista Zen Center. I present them here in the order in which they were read. These poems will  be included in an upcoming  volume of selected poems to be published later this year. 

 

A Fool Once Again

Writing poems again?

Old fool!

Capturing thoughts in words

Is like collecting butterflies

Made of smoke.

                                                           Sweet Drum

                                                           I left the many

And I took the one,

Now I dance to the beat

Of my own sweet drum,

                                                    And I don’t have a care

For what may come,

While I dance to the rhythm

Of my own sweet drum.

When you add the columns

And you read the sum,

You may gain the many

When you take the one.

And you won’t be ruled

By the things that come,

When you dance to the beat

Of your own sweet drum.

 

 

                                                           Drop the Blade

Although you cut it

All day long,

It never bleeds.

Dice it a thousand times,

There are no pieces.

Chop at it with all your might,

You will never carry a stick away!

Drop the blade and you

May take the whole thing.

Which Bird?

Look now, in the garden!

Tell me what you see.

Is that the Blue Bird of Happiness,

Or just a gray bird of regret?

No matter either way,

In this garden

No bird alights for long…

Gone on the next breeze!

 

 

                                                               Eternal Now

 

Sit quite still

And you will see,

Freed from the bonds of

Was and will be,

The boundless realm

Of is.

If you watch attentively,

You’ll see that what is,

Endlessly,

Changes every moment,

Yet remains.

It’s the curious nature of this

Perpetual domain,

Always morphing into something

Quite the same.

Sesshin Poem

Dharma brothers and sisters

Believe it when you hear,

Once you’ve seen his face,

That damn ox is everywhere!

 

Poems by Jon Wesick                             Meditation Instruction

 

Even if an A-frame of chicken bones

is all that’s left of your last meal

and the executioner will come for you soon,

settle your awareness in the here and now.

 

Even if the turkey is still raw

ten minutes before the banquet,

Even if you lost the winning lottery ticket

and your future prosperity tumbles with pants in the dryer,

practice the here and now.

 

Even if your joke about the porn star

brought a grimace to the pastor’s lips,

Even if a fart loud as an air horn

erupted at Toastmasters,

let waves of awareness return you to the here and now.

 

Even if your neighbor uses your lawn as his dog’s toilet,

Even if that SUV takes two parking spaces,

Even if you obsess over your upcoming scene in Tarantino’s film,

Even if your Nobel Prize acceptance speech is tomorrow,

let your mind be a redwood rooted in the here and now.

 

Even if a naked Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt)

calls you from the bedroom,

Even if a new Lamborghini gleams in the driveway

and the keys are in your pocket,

let your mind be an immovable mountain in the here and now.

 

Even if you fantasize this immovable mind

will make you an action hero,

Even though this poem is only a metaphor

and such a mind is impossible,

Even though Einstein proved that now does not exist,

your here and now are enough.

 

*************

 

Ode to Sesshin Participants

 

Scientists of consciousness

holders of postgraduate degrees in awareness.

The meditation hall is your laboratory.

Knees and backs aching, feet numb as clubs

you gather wearing sweatpants and rakusu

to hear the endless repetition of a Boz Scaggs song

in your thoughts while certain that damn jikido

should have rung the bell ten minutes ago.

 

Yesterdays’ breakfast clogs your bowels and you would kill

for a half hour without someone knocking on the bathroom door.

You hope to finally get six hour’s sleep. And although discovering

buckwheat zafu make great pillows, you toss and turn all night,

wake at 5 AM, and do it all over again – sit, walk, chant,

move zabutons, obsess about when to brush your teeth,

and unfold oryoki napkins made into red warning flags

by first-day tomato sauce. Despite wanting to punch

that guy blocking the coffee pot, you make gassho

and bow anyway.

 

Worst day of your lives, You don’t belong here,

don’t belong anywhere so you pack your bags

and are out the door when you decide to give it one more day.

Sometime before breakfast a geyser of joy erupts inside.

Smells of delight waft from the kitchen,

One with fruit trees and rocks you sit in the garden at ease,

convinced you are the Buddha’s children.

 

Somewhere past joy your inner narrators finally shut up

leaving your minds still ponds. You who couldn’t wait to leave

now find kindness in the rules and schedule.

And when you return to the world outside

you find it noisy, strange, and cruel

 

************

DILETTANTE ZEN POEM

 

The real Zen students were sitting in full lotus before dawn

wearing their black robes and rakusu1.

I stayed up too late watching TV.

Real Zen students don’t have TV’s.

Eventually I wake up,

light a candle on the altar,

and kneel on my meditation bench.

A gasoline powered edger begins its serenade,

and a lawnmower joins in the chorus.

 

By now the real Zen students are constructing monastery buildings,

working with the dying, or reaching out to the homeless.

I drive to my wrong livelihood job,

where I’m harassed by my wrong livelihood boss.

Real Zen students call this “good training.”

I call it a pain in the ass.

 

Real Zen students vow to return to this world of patience

for countless lifetimes to save all beings.

I wonder how I’ll get through another day.

 

I’ve given up trying to be a real Zen student.

I think I’ll become a dilettante instead.

If you’d like to be one too,

we meet at 7:00 most nights in the meditation hall.

 

 

 

 

Refuge

 

If you don’t fit in at the in-crowd’s circus

and find no shelter on concrete streets of commerce,

If patrolmen of conformity roust you from your bed

of newspaper and all the bathroom doors are locked,

If faces leer from under hellish neon lights

as your nostrils sting and swell from diesel fumes,

If the masses shove you aside to snatch at shiny nickels

and hustlers’ lies drown out all thought, then let these words

be your battered spirit’s refuge: Come inside

 

and peel off that filthy uniform. It never fit. After a shower

you’ll find the courtyard’s a good place for reflection.

It contains an odd garden, mostly agave and cactus,

but you can pick guavas and custard apples from the trees.

The legs on the wooden bench by the well are uneven,

so try not to tumble when watching hummingbirds

probe California fuchsias with needlelike beaks. Stay

as long as you like. There’s no place else you need to be.

 

2005/VIII

 

This poem appeared in SpeedPoets Zine, Vol. 10.8 in November 2011.

 

 

THE ROLE OF MUSIC AND THE MUSICIAN IN SOCIETY.

 

Japanese jazz harpist Motoshi Kosako on music, cultural differences, and a quest for balance.

Japanese jazz harpist Motoshi Kosako on music, cultural differences, and a quest for balance.

Below I have posted a neat article that was sent to me by Jane Mushinsky.

I find it of interest because the author’s viewpoint supports what I will be attempting

to express at my Shuso Hossen Ceremony in March.  Thanks Jane!

A thought on musician’s role in society

 

BY  ON FEATURED BLOGS

 

As working musician, I often think about our role in society. I never had offical education in music, instead I graduated from the medical school of Tokyo University, with B.S., license of nursing and public health nursing, and worked for the medical school hospital, wrote articles for psychiatric nursing text book, etc. When received job offer form a college of nursing as teaching faculty when I was 25, I doubt if this path is really what I want to take. So, in order to reset my established status in Japanese society,I moved to U.S. and restarted my life, that seemed to open chances for me to experience different possibilities of myself.

Being medical professional was very satisfying experience, since I could help people directly and physically. However, I found being musician is as meaningful (if not more) way of life as being in the position of helping people physically.

Here is my thought about musician’s role in society.

“A thought on musician’s role in society”

If we think music as a kind of entertainment business, it seems necessary for musicians to survive through demanding competition by stimulating consumer’s desire and greed especially in this modern capitalistic society based on free competitive market. However, I think musicians role in society is not providing services and/or items to provoke peoples desire to “want to have more”. Desire leads to craving, and the more we feed our desire, the more we crave. As a result we will never be satisfied with whatever we have and experience inner fulfillment.

The role of music in humanity seems to me providing listeners more ideal environment for realizing how miraculous it is to just “be here and now”, accepting how they are as they are now, and experiencing of sense of internal fulfillment.

If musicians try to make living by sincerely taking this role in society, conventional way of marketing and advertising can not be used, because they are designed to provoke desire for more, that is opposite from inner fulfillment with what they are now. Instead, we musicians can create music that make ourselves feel fulfillment and acceptance, put them out there and wait for people who are looking for music with the same purpose with which we are creating music, and can resonate with our music.

I don’t have desire to make a big money out of my music since the process of creating music is already rewarding me of experiencing of inner fulfillment, miracle of just being here and now and opportunities for personal growth. I think we desire for big money mostly when we feel that we are not rewarded by the activities themselves we are engaged. My business activity as musician is pretty much limited within the amount of money with which I can continue playing the role of musician in society, earning enough to keep up the activities that are useful for my growth as human being next few weeks.

I often play at restaurant/cafe where people don’t pay much attention for music. Under such a non-ideal circumstance for music performances, it is still meaningful for me to keep making effort for approaching the state of inner fulfillment, that may not mean much for customers. This kind of job is rather considered low class performance job since quality of music is not so important and most of what we play there is ignored anyway. However, I don’t consider this kind of job as “bad job” because I can still earn a little money that keeps me being musician, and it is not my business whether they use the impression of music I sincerely made effort for.

While I am playing at noisy restaurant and cafe, I often call up an image of mendicant buddhist priest standing at the corner of street. When I see them, I am reminded of the importance of pursuit for spiritual development above ordinary materialistic success. I often make an offering with gratitude and respect for someone who is seriously pursuing spiritual path, and wish for him to be able to continue the path. However, the amount of offering he can get doesn’t effect the quality of his internal work. I try not to change the quality of my effort to create music depending on the amount of money and/or attentions form audience, although those external factors effect internet state of mine and quality of music. As far as I am trying to keep my aim as ‘providing listeners more ideal environment for realizing how miraculous it is to just “be here and now”, accepting how they are as they are and experiencing of sense of fulfillment internally’, I have to accept whatever conditions I am under and find the way to feel fulfilled there.

If I were trying to be a good businessman by trying to expect accurately what can be wanted and sold in market and putting priority on creating what I can sell out there, the spiritual side of being musician, that I care most, would be ruined. I believe there is definite objective value on sharing the spiritual direction between musician and listeners through the music that is the result of the process of musician’s striving effort to experience inner fulfillment and can resonate listener’s spirit. I understand business people don’t pay much attention to this aspect of music, that can not be measured by money, however I want to cherish this as the most important and meaningful aspect of music.

AARP: A MUSIC/VIDEO PARODY OF “LOUIE LOUIE”

We are all aging but most of us don’t start worrying about it until we

receive an invitation to join AARP.  Although you can’t stop the aging

process, I find that it does help to maintain a sense of humor about

it all.  Thus, the Rap/Music/Video below as performed by “The Senior Moments”.  I hope you enjoy it.  It appears that the hyperlink below is not working so you may have to copy

the address below and paste it in your Browser.

https://youtu.be/Jg5WFONo9xA