Saturday, September 18, 2010

Master of the Shakuhachi (& about Zen)

I was privileged today to sit with Rinzai Zen monk Ejun Iechika, a Master of the Shakuhachi and certified teacher of the Komuso lineage, as he played shakuhachi for the sangha at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center - it was a true honor and a humbling experience! Domo arigato gozaimashita!

-- Snippets mostly edited from Wikipedia resources --


Rinzai School (Rinzai-shū) is (with Sōtō and Ōbaku), one of three sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism.


The Shakuhachi is a Japanese end-blown flute, traditionally made of bamboo; and used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of Suizen (blowing meditation).


Suizen: A Zen practice consisting of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization. The monks from the Fuke sect of Zen who practiced suizen using the shakuhachi as a spiritual tool are called Komusō (literally "emptiness monks").


Komusō: A Japanese mendicant monastic of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism, during the Edo period of 1600-1868. Komusō were characterised by the straw basket (a sedge or reed hood named a tengai) worn on the head, manifesting the absence of specific ego. They are also known for playing solo pieces on the shakuhachi. These pieces, called honkyoku ("original pieces") were played during a meditative practice called suizen, for alms, as a method of attaining enlightenment, and as a healing modality.


Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct realization...
(More below)


Fuke Zen: A branch of Zen Buddhism which existed in Japan from the 13th century until the late 19th century. Fuke monks were noted for playing the shakuhachi flute as a form of meditation. It was characterized in the public imagination of Japan by its Komusō playing the shakuhachi flute while wearing a large woven basket hat that covered their entire head as they went on pilgrimage.

Travel around Japan was restricted by the shogunate during the medieval period, but the Fuke sect managed to wrangle an exemption from the Shogun, since their spiritual practice required them to move from place to place playing the shakuhachi and begging for alms (one famous song reflects this mendicant tradition, "Hi fu mi, hachi gaeshi", "One two three, pass the alms bowl"). They persuaded the Shogun to give them "exclusive rights" to play the instrument. In return, some were required to spy for the shogunate, and the Shogun sent several of his own spies out in the guise of Fuke monks as well. This was made easier by the wicker baskets that the Fuke wore over their heads, a symbol of their detachment from the world.

The Japanese government introduced reforms after the Edo period, abolishing the Fukè sect. Records of the musical repertoire survived, and are being revived in the 21st century. Komusō used to play the shakuhachi for alms and meditation.

About Zen & Buddhism
Top of this page: Master of the Shakuhachi
-- Snippets mostly edited from Wikipedia resources --


Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Japanese word Zen is derived from the Chinese word Chán, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which means "meditation" or "meditative state."

In China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, the local name of the (Zen) tradition is always cognate to Sanskrit dhyāna. (Japanese: Romaji: Zen, Hiragana: ぜん, Kanji: 禅/禪; Chinese: Traditional: 禪, Simplified: 禅, Pinyin: Chán, Wade-Giles: Ch'an; pronounced [t͡ʂʰǎn]; Cantonese Jyutping: Sim4, Shanghainese (Wu): Zeu [zø], Nanchang Gan: Cen; Korean: Revised Romanization: Seon, McCune-Reischauer: Sŏn, Hangul: 선, Hanja: 禪; Vietnamese: Quốc ngữ: Thiền, Hán tự: 禪)


Mahāyāna (literally the "Great Vehicle") is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India.

बौद्ध धर्म

Buddhism (Pali/Sanskrit: बौद्ध धर्म Buddha Dharma) is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as The Buddha (Pāli/Sanskrit "the awakened one"). The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end suffering (or dukkha), achieve nirvana, and escape what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.

सिद्धार्थ गौतम

Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (samyaksaṃbuddha) of our age, "Buddha" meaning "awakened one" or "the enlightened one." The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE. Gautama, also known as Śākyamuni ("Sage of the Śākyas"), is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later. He is also regarded as a god or prophet in other religions such as Hinduism, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Bahá'í faith.

Buddha - A Documentary About Buddhism

The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan. As a matter of tradition, the establishment of Zen is credited to the Persian or South Indian prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who came to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures, not founded on words or letters".


Dhyāna: In Hindu philosophy dhyana is one of the eight methods of Yoga, and is considered to be an instrument to gain self knowledge, separating māyā (illusion) from reality to help attain the ultimate goal of mokṣa (liberation).

Dhyāna in Sanskrit ( ध्यान ) or jhāna ( झान ) in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan. As a meditative state, dhyāna is characterized by profound stillness and concentration. It is discussed in the Pāli canon (and the parallel agamas) and post-canonical Theravāda Buddhist literature, and in other literature.


Yoga ( yóga) refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Within Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal towards which that school directs its practices. In Jainism, yoga is the sum total of all activities — mental, verbal and physical.


Māyā: In Indian religions, has multiple meanings, centered around the concept of "illusion". Maya is the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal Universe. For some mystics, this manifestation is real. Each person, each physical object, from the perspective of eternity, is like a brief, disturbed drop of water from an unbounded ocean. The goal of enlightenment is to understand this — more precisely, to experience this: to see intuitively that the distinction between the self and the Universe is a false dichotomy. The distinction between consciousness and physical matter, between mind and body (refer bodymind), is the result of an unenlightened perspective.


Mokṣa: In Indian religions, Moksha or Mukti ( मुक्ति ), literally "release" (both from the root "muc" meaning "to let loose, let go"), is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the karmic cycle of repeated death and rebirth (reincarnation).


Samsara: "to flow on", to perpetually wander, to pass through states of existence. Saṃsāra, literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (i.e. reincarnation) within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other Indian religions. In accordance with the literal meaning, the word should either refer to a continuous stream of consciousness, or the continuous but random drift of passions, desires, emotions and experiences. Samsara is closely linked with the idea of rebirth (or reincarnation), but mainly refers to the condition of life, and the experience of life


Karma: In Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called saṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies. In Buddhism, karma (Pāli kamma) is strictly distinguished from vipāka, meaning "fruit" or "result". Karma is categorized within the group or groups of cause (Pāli hetu) in the chain of cause and effect, where it comprises the elements of "volitional activities." Any action is understood as creating "seeds" in the mind that will sprout into the appropriate result when met with the right conditions. Most types of karmas, with good or bad results, will keep one within the wheel of samsāra, while others will liberate one to Nirvāna.


Nirvāna is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering (or dukkha). In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through Moksha. The word literally means "blowing out" — referring, in the Buddhist context, to the blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

In early Buddhist sutras, Dhyāna is taught as a state of collected, full-body awareness in which mind becomes very powerful and still but not frozen, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing flow of experience. Later Theravada literature, in particular the Visuddhimagga, describes it as an abiding in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention, characterized by non-dual consciousness.

The Buddha himself entered jhāna, as described in the early texts, during his own quest for enlightenment, and is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging his disciples to develop jhāna as a way of achieving awakening and liberation.

The Buddha's most well-known instructions on attaining jhana are via mindfulness of breathing, found in the Ānāpānasati Sutta and elsewhere.

The Ānāpānasati Sutta (Pāli) or Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (Sanskrit), "Breath-Mindfulness Discourse," is a discourse that details the Buddha's instruction on using the breath (anapana) as a focus for meditation. The discourse lists sixteen steps to concentrate the mind. The ultimate goal is to bear insight and understanding into the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna), the Seven Factors of Awakening (Bojjhangas), and ultimately Nibbana.
Ānāpānasati, meaning 'mindfulness of breathing' ("sati" means mindfulness; "ānāpāna" refers to inhalation and exhalation), is a fundamental form of meditation originally taught by the Buddha. According to this teaching, classically presented in the Ānāpānasati Sutta, practicing this form of meditation as a part of the Noble Eightfold Path leads to the removal of all defilements (kilesa) and finally to the attainment of nibbāna (nirvana).

Zen emphasizes experiential prajñā ( प्रज्ञा - wisdom) in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct realization through meditation (zazen) and Dharma practice.


Prajñā is wisdom, understanding, discernment or cognitive acuity. Such wisdom is understood to exist in the universal flux of being and can be intuitively experienced through concentration of the mind. In some sects of Buddhism, it is especially the wisdom that is based on the direct personal realization of such things as the Four Noble Truths, impermanence, interdependent origination, non-self and emptiness. Prajñā is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about enlightenment.

चत्वारि आर्यसत्यानि

The Four Noble Truths (catvāri āryasatyāni) are an important principle in Buddhism, and were classically taught by the Buddha in the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra. These four truths are best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experience. The Sanskrit and Pali words satya and sacca, respectively, mean both "truth" and "real" or "actual thing." With that in mind,
it is argued that the four noble truths are not asserted as propositional truths or creeds, but as "true things" or "realities" that the Buddha experienced.

According to the Saṃyukta Āgama of the Sarvāstivāda school, the basic teaching of the Four Noble Truths is:
Thus is the Noble Truth of Suffering

Thus is the Noble Truth of the Accumulation of Suffering

Thus is the Noble Truth of the Elimination of Suffering

Thus is the Noble Truth of the Path that Leads Away from Suffering


Zazen is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, "opening the hand of thought." Once the mind is able to be unhindered by its many layers, one will then be able to realize one's true Buddha nature. In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally "seated meditation") is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment.

• Shikantaza is a Japanese term for zazen introduced by Rujing and associated most with the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, but which also is "the base of all Zen disciplines." According to Dōgen Zenji, shikantaza i.e. resting in a state of brightly alert attention that is free of thoughts, directed to no object, and attached to no particular content—is the highest or purest form of Zazen, zazen as it was practiced by all the buddhas of the past.

Dōgen Zenji (also Dōgen Kigen 道元希玄, or Eihei Dōgen 永平道元, or Koso Joyo Daishi) (19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher born in Kyōto, and the founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan after travelling to China and training under the Chinese Caodong lineage there. Dōgen is known for his extensive writing including the Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma or Shōbōgenzō, a collection of ninety-five fascicles concerning Buddhist practice and enlightenment.

Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment that literally means "understanding". In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and is considered a "first step" or embarkation toward nirvana. Satori is typically juxtaposed with the related term kensho, which translates as "seeing one's nature". Kensho experiences tend to be briefer glimpses, while satori is considered to be a deeper spiritual experience.

Kenshō is a Japanese term for enlightenment experiences. It is most commonly used within the confines of Zen Buddhism.
Literally it means "seeing one's nature" or "true self." It generally "refers to the realization of nonduality of subject and object." Frequently used in juxtaposition with satori (or, "catching on"), there is sometimes a distinction made between the two in that some consider satori to be qualitatively deeper. Kenshō itself has been said to be "...a blissful realization where a person's inner nature, the originally pure mind, is directly known as an illuminating emptiness, a thusness which is dynamic and immanent in the world." Kenshō experiences are tiered, in that they escalate from initial glimpses into the nature of mind, on to an experience of emptiness, and then perhaps on to Buddhahood.

Issho Fujita Sensei Demonstrates how to sit Zazen at Sojiji Zendo -


Dharma is a multivalent term of great importance in Indian philosophy and religions. In the context of Hinduism, it means one's righteous duty. It also refers to the teachings and doctrines of the founders of Buddhism and Jainism, the Buddha and Mahavira. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomenon."

For more about Dharma you might visit my "Dharma Wheel" page

The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahāyāna thought, including the Prajñāpāramitā literature and the teachings of the Yogācāra and Tathāgatagarbha schools.


Prajñāpāramitā is a Sanskrit term used in Buddhism that translates roughly into English as the "Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom." Prajñāpāramitā is a central concept in Mahāyāna Buddhism and its practice and understanding are taken to be indispensable elements of the Bodhisattva Path. The practice of Prajñāpāramitā is elucidated and described in the genre of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, which vary widely in length and exhaustiveness.

Western scholars often consider the earliest sūtra in the Prajñāpāramitā class to be the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra or "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines", which was probably put in writing in the 1st century BCE. More material was gradually compiled over the next two centuries. As well as the sūtra itself, there is a summary in verse, the Ratnaguṇasaṃcaya Gāthā, which some believe to be slightly older because it is not written in standard literary Sanskrit. However, these findings rely on late-dating Indian texts, in which verses and mantras are often kept in more archaic forms.

In contrast, Japanese scholars generally consider the Diamond Sūtra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) to be from a very early date in the development of Prajñāpāramitā literature. Some western scholars also believe that the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra was adapted from the earlier Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.

वज्रच्छेदिका प्रज्ञापारमिता सूत्र

Diamond Sūtra

金剛般若波羅蜜多経 | 金剛経
kongou hannyaharamita kyou, shortened to 金剛経, kongou kyou.)

My Diamond Sutra artwork (page includes a link to English translation of the sutra)

Because the Diamond Sūtra can be read in 40-50 minutes, it is often memorized and chanted in Buddhist monasteries. This sūtra has retained significant popularity in the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition for over a millennium. A list of vivid metaphors for impermanence appears in a popular four-line verse at the end of the sūtra:

All conditioned phenomena

Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;

Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning;

Thusly should they be contemplated.

see also

Top of this page: Master of the Shakuhachi

Ejun Iechika
Rinzai Zen Buddhism | Komusō lineage

Cajovna Myoun - "Founded by a Czech native and Japanese Zen monk Ejun Iechika, Myoun is an original czech-type tearoom (cajovna) in a traditional Japanese house located in the romantic neighborhood near the Daitokuji temple, Kyoto" - (this website includes info on lessons with Iechika-san).

Sonoma Mountain Zen Center was formed by Jakusho Kwong-roshi in 1973 to continue the Soto Zen lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and to make everyday Zen available to people in Sonoma County. We are situated on 80 acres of rolling hills and mountainous land, located 11 miles from the town of Santa Rosa. Our sangha consists of a small residence and a larger membership that joins us in Zen practice from the local area, as well as other parts of the United States and Europe.


Fuke Zen | Suizen
Mahāyāna Buddhism | Bodhidharma | Buddhism | Buddha
Zen Buddhism
Soto Zen Buddhism | Jakusho Kwong-roshi | Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Dhyāna | Yoga | Prajñā
Zazen | Dharma | Prajñāpāramitā | Diamond Sūtra
Ānāpānasati Sutta | Ānāpānasati

whats more

•   Workshop at the Zen Center with Issho Fujita

•   Dharma talk - What is “kind speech?"

•   For more about Dharma you might visit my
"Dharma Wheel" page

•   SMZC Mandala Benefit

•   My Diamond Sutra artwork page
(includes a link to English translation of the sutra)

•   Zen playlist on YouTube

•   what can a fish know of fire? | Kōan

buddhist art by rc

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Bhumisparsha Mudrā update

Bhumisparsha Mudrā

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Diamond Sutra

buddha cave

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