One of my favorites of the recent collaboration with the Greek artist, Christina Biliouri. This is just the beginning, and there are so many more to come.
This is becoming such an interesting project: Having been urged by some of our young local members of the Zen Center Regensburg to put some posts on Instagram which would advertise the Center by sharing teachings, I reached into something which would marry her uncommon eye and some of the great Zen star-teachings which fill the spectrum of my intellectual firmament — and many of the notables are not monks, or Zen masters, or even Buddhist or religious, in the narrow technical sense so defined. Just expressions of the Dharma, which means expressions of Reality, by whatever consciousnesses express it most clearly.
This line from Emily Dickinson recalls and restates the seed-teaching of the Avatamsaka Sutra quoted super-briefly by Dae Soen Sa Nim in The Compass of Zen: “One Moment is infinite kalpas; infinite kalpas is one Moment.”
This coronavirus situation has really been a godsend for me, in so many ways. It is just terrible that it is built on so much fear, suffering, and death.
But for a practitioner like me, who treasures his solitude as something truly sacred, it has opened up opportunities I had denied myself for years upon years, senselessly running around to “spread” the Dharma, being weighted down with constant “busyness,” leading to excess after excess.
Now, I get up, do solo Ashtanga practice at 3:30 in a darkened Dharma Room in just my underwear (no need to perpetually launder yoga tights!), and lead the practice from our Dharma Room without needing to care for or socialize with guests.
But on top of all of this, we are building a veritable library of teaching-videos which have been years and years in the wishing: A record of reflections, replies to commonly-asked questions, guidances, episodes from 30 years of practice on three continents, adventures in Dharma with several of the great teachers of 20th-century Zen, and the usual rants against organized religion. And sometimes, some Dharma.
Apparently, the official historical record of the country holds that, on this day in 2001, April 22, to be exact, I was the first non-Korean ever to be appointed Abbot or Zen Master of a temple in Korea’s 1700-year Buddhist history. I had completely forgotten about this strange little accidental factoid, probably because it had never made any sort of impression on the mind. Really? The Korean government’s official “this-day-in-history” cares about that?
By the way, just so that one doesn’t get too puffed up about this: On the same day, in 1884, it reports, the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) established the first post office in Korean history. Also sharing these significances (and coming much closer to the scale my related “event” occupies in the history books: On on this day in 1983 — “Dooly the Little Dinosaur,” a popular South Korean cartoon created by Kim Soo-jung, makes its debut.)
I love Philip Glass. He is that rare musician who is simply beyond mere music. From “Koyanisqaatsi,” “Einstein on the Beach,” to basically everything else. I absolutely love him. His soundtrack to “Mishima” and “Kundun” continue to rob me of breath and centeredness, even after probably a hundred hearings each.
But his Violin Concerto: this piece of total bad-ass just grips in a way that nothing else can, by anyone else but Mahler, in my book. Yeah, it’s probably somewhat typical: you notice that this piece seems to be a favorite of so many people. I guess it has some mass-appeal in a way above and beyond Glass’s subtler, more patient and meditative stuff. I feel ashamed for loving such a well-loved piece so much. But this is also another ego-centered vanity: only narcissists would want such timeless sublimity only for themselves. Just like with Mahler: I want the universal acclaim for him he so justly deserves, almost as if I would wish it — even boils so — for the closest family member or for a lover. And yet, something naturally finds itself recoiling, instinctually, from the crass cheapening that inevitably attends mass acceptance. For the great numbers who would play it and — if by the law of averages alone — enjoy this without getting as fully shattered to atomic bits in the “depth” of his utterly profound message as I know to be viscerally possible, this causes the ego want to have him known, if just for fear of even one atom of his soul being cheaply understood. (For the reader: I am a person who has seen personal relationships to have been smudged by witnessing a friend or more playing a Mahler piece while cooking or working on the computer. Literally, I felt hurt, offense. More proof how much this gets rooted in the ego, and why it therefore cannot be listened to so much.)
I could hear this piece until the end of time, and it would not dull. It cannot dull. It twists the brain in an almost terrifying way. It’s not decorative, either: full-spectrum total existential blast, from first note to last. Ruminating and exuberant, mournful and heartrendingly plaintive, ecstatic — and yet, at the end, returns to a Zen-like calm. No empty triumphalism here. If Mahler’s vast symphonic lengths and cosmic expanse, taking in all creation and filled with the flood of every mental state, is the 16-hour super-transcendence of good LSD, then this 25-minute blast of unadulterated consciousness, in short, is the purest DMT out there.
But it must be smoked really really LOUD. And not while driving.
Couldn’t resist the Master performing his own “Mad Rush”.
While we’re at it, as the obsessions flow, these two must be linked on: two of the pieces that first got me seriously hooked on Philip Glass: