Zen and Japanese Culture
Espirita is a spiritually unattached outfit that treats all cultures equally and would not ordinarily promote any particular spiritual viewpoint, nor profile one spiritual system as against another.
Just because we describe a particular culture in its own terms does not necessarily mean that we support that culture.
Even so, the deeper one examines Japanese culture, the more obvious it becomes that one has to acknowledge the pervasive influence of Zen, certainly on its cultural heritage, but also on the ideas, values, forms and behaviour of modern everyday Japan - a contemporary culture suffused with the
Zen signature quality of 'mindfulness'.
As all the Tea Masters and many of the great gardeners and poets were Zen priests or practitioners,
to fully appreciate what one is witnessing in Japan, one needs to get a rudimentary grasp of the subject. Whereas previously it has been implicit in the Tours that we offer in Japan, we will now incorporate a more conscious Zen component, tracing the origins of Zen through a history of ideas 'What is Zen?' documentary approach and getting a handle on Zen's elusive nature
And, in the same way that we include Ayurvedic massage in our 'Veda' retreat in South India, we feel that little harm can be done by offering an account of Zen Meditation practice, with some light duty sitting and breathing sessions on a voluntary basis
For a couple of hours on one of the Garden Days in Kyoto, probably on Saturday afternoons, and probably in or around one of the many Zen Temples, Robert Ketchell will facilitate a short Zen study session. It will be timed so that as it ends, a Temple meditation session will be beginning, which clients can attend if they wish.
We have fully researched the Zen scene in Kyoto, so that we can now advise any clients who have a particular interest in this area and who want to take it further. It depends on which weekend of the month, but there are normally a number of temple meditation options on Sundays, occasionally during the week
As Matsuo Basho was a devotee of Zen, with a lay priest leaning, the Zen component is inseparable from his poetry, not least in the concise, mental exactitude required by the minimalist poetic forms in which he worked.
As the Tour reads through Basho's poems and journals, the Zen genes of Basho's writings will gradually emerge. Later in the Tour, there will be a similar Zen pause to bring in various historical and cultural perspectives and merge them with Basho's writing.
On the face of it, one might wonder what on earth a meditative discipline has to do with the thunder making machinery of Japanese traditional drumming. Precisely because the physical exertions of Taiko drumming can be so challenging, it is in the emptiness of the inner mind that one can trascend the body's furious actions and set one's drumming on cruise control. It is the ability to locate this emptiness within that is often the difference between Japanese and Western players.
Kurumaya-Sensei has a close relationship with Daianzenji Temple in Fukui and has always encouraged an awareness of Zen. Before drumming starts at the Taiko Dojo, each day begins with a Zen moment of sitting, breathing, emptying, focus.
Timed to coincide with the dates of our Tours in Japan in April and November, we will occasionally offer Western friendly introductory short courses to trace the origins of Zen. Taking place in Tokyo or Kyoto, they will involve a study of Zen Meditation and some explanatory sitting and breathing sessions.
Espirita has a long standing connection with Henry Shukman, Associate Zen Master of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who is a regular visitor to Japan and whose services may be available in Tokyo or Kyoto from time to time.
Provisional dates ( TBC ) : November 4-5 & November 11-12, 2017
For Espirita tour applicants, but otherwise open to all travellers and foreign residents in Japan
|Two films on Japanese
Culture, one at Cherry Blossom time, the other in the Autumn.
For general viewing, for viewing whilst in Japan………
|Shishu - Intuition and Feeling In The Japanese Garden - 53 mins|
|Sen Shin An - the other world of Tea - 67 mins|