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Pure Land Notes. Journal of the Pure Land Buddhist Fellowship. Web version. namandabuPLN web header.gif
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The Tannisho Today
Rev Tairyu Furukawa March 1996
On Meditation
Vaughan Evans May 1995
From Blood to Rocks
Geoff Carpenter March 1996
Tokudo
Rev John Paraskevopoulos March 1996
The Meaning of Kikyoshiki
Hongwangi International CentreSeptember 1996
The Shin Buddhist Way
Rev Jack Austin September 1996
A Sutra of Healing and Protection
Tricycle Publications March 1996
Rules for Being Human
Unknown September 1996
Reliance
September 1996 Sallea Ungar
The Importance of Self Effort
Joren MacDonald September 1997
Self Power and Other Power Play Together
David Brazier
September 1997
Faith in What?
Sep 1997 Ajahn Sumedho (summerised by Max Flisher) Sep 1997
The Myokonin
Friedrich Fenzl September 1997
Seiza
Toshio Murakami September 1997
 
 

 

FROM BLOOD TO ROCKS
Geoff Carpenter


For the past twenty-odd years things Japanese have had an attraction to me. Starting - as far as I am aware - when my interest in war-gaming and militaria was hooked by the then new fashion for samurai conflicts. (Some would say the seed was sown long ago in the karmic past.) It was not too long before Zen cropped up in my studies, and the ephemeral nature of life became a frequent topic of reflection. So much so, that only the appearance in my life of the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin happily turned my face to the West.

Heading Westward, long lost feelings came to the fore. Long buried memories of great trees and wonderfully shaped and patterned rocks of natural beauty. To see, along country lanes in washed out banks ancient roots twisting and flowing, weathered trunks dancing skyward, embracing water-worn rocks with patterns beyond man's art.

To live with and cultivate a miniature tree (Bonsai) that evokes feelings of silent woodland depth or growing clinging to a remote cliff face, or to find a stone (Suiseki) arousing thoughts of great mountain vistas or a storm-washed coastline is wonderful, but even more than this the stones, over time, allow more and more to be seen in subtle textures and colours as they gently age.
The trees and stones of practised eyes evoke a feeling just as a Haiku does, and each day a new poem is composed.

My first-found stone is black with white stripes speckled with minute light-catching minerals, and I see the head of the reclining Buddha - Shakyamuni returning to the Infinite.

My 25mm armies have been garrisoned in a box for many years now.

After the above was published in Pure Land Notes (March 96), I (Jim Pym) visited the London Book Fair, and there spotted a book, The Japanese art of Stone Appreciation by Vincent T Covello and Yuji Yoshinaura. (published by Charles Tuttle, at 14.99)

While not a Buddhist book, it does show how suiseki grew out of Buddhism, particularly Zen. In Zendos there are often cahhigrapbzed scrolls, or even just a vase of flowers, instead of a Buddha image. Why then should riot a stone, which has been centuries in the making, be a symbol of Buddha nature in all things. Such things are in the eye of the beholder.The authors give many examples of stones, beautifully mounted on carved stands, used in conjunction with hanging scrolls as a focus in tile tea ceremony. In this, they do specifically represent the Buddha nature. They are also shown with miniature bonsai trees evoking the beauties of the wilderness in miniature. And if we cannot all live each day among the beauties of nature, why not use these miniature landscapes to help evoke for us the beauties of the Pure Land.

Then again, the stone gardens of Buddhist Temples have been a focus for meditation for thousands of visitors engaged on the search for enlightenment. We may not be able to visit Japan in our own search; but surely it is within the heading of 'skilful means' to bring something of their peaceful atmosphere into our homes. Also, many of the stones featured actually remind one of a Buddha or other meditating figures.

For anyone who has this kind of imagination, this book is a must. It throws up so many ideas that you want to rush out and pick up as many stones as you can. But actually, it also makes the point that even collecting the stories is a meditative act, or, in Pure Land terms, an act of surrender to Amida. Not for nothing does the word 'natural' appear in the titles of many books on the Pure Land Way. (Hozen Seki calls it The Great Natural Way.) Amida's Light is found throughout the universe; the Way of Stone Appreciation is yet another means of discerning it.

This article first appeared, with the Author's permission, in PLN 6, March 1996. Republished here in agreement with the compiler/editor of the inaugurate hard copy Journal. The Author, any person or any organisation credited, quoted or connected with this article are cordially invited to contact me with any comments, amendments, fresh contributions or complaints. email me

 

 

 
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