Koto Jazz 28: Beyond Prophecies

My basic but paramount premise of going “Beyond Prophecies” is this– that there can only be a mass global spiritual transformation if it is achieved in parallel with the fusion of pre-existing spiritual/ religious traditions with each other. And I would argue that is already happening among east- west traditions in unprecedented ways, and it will continue until the leading religious traditions worldwide are substantively virtually indistinguishable.

When I first read the international bestselling novel, The Celestine Prophecy (click on this link to find out more information about The Celestine Prophecy), I was captivated from beginning until end. Today, I explore the phenomenon behind Celestine Prophecy and its connection with the spirituality of the East. James Redfield, author of Celestine Prophecy, seems to touch on this connection in his more recent book, The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (Warner Books). Even beyond The Secrets of Shambhala and the 12- Insights of the Celestine Prophecy, there is an underlying “eastern” and scientific support of the general ideas behind The 12- Insights.

Before delving into these points, the only drawback I see about this amazing book is that it is put into a western linear context. Is it out of place that we need this western linear context? Is not the intention behind the 12- Insights directly relating to freedom from linear thinking, freedom from context, and bringing us closer to the spirit of Shinto- Buddhist- Hindu traditions that have been evolving over thousands of years (in the case of Hinduism and Buddhism)? That this newly evolving spirituality in fact has been in existence in Eastern and Native spirituality for centuries, even millenia? Let’s give credit where credit is due.

The goal of Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto spirituality has always been to practice mindfulness in every precious moment of life, which parallels the premise behind The Celestine Prophecy. In our mindfulness of the present moment, we are mindful of our healthy mind, or we are mindful of perhaps some unhealthy thoughts passing through, and our awareness allows us to observe them and allow them to engage or act upon, or let go and pass by. That said, I love James Redfield’s references to being guided in life by healthy intuitions and being in “synchronicity with the universe”. To quote Redfield, we can “put spiritual knowledge into very practical application to find a higher path through life.” Back to Eastern spirituality, we do this by mindfulness obtained through meditation, accountability (through programs such as the 12-Steps), and connection to the energy of the universe.

Beyond the Prophecy (even the concept of prophecy itself), our life is also about energy – positive and negative. We choose one or the other in everything we do, everything we say, and even everything we don’t do or say. We receive this energy, positive and negative, from all natural forms including from our fellows. We replenish our bodies with negative ions from the air in small amounts, but particularly in the presence of moving water like ocean waves or a waterfall, or in a dense old growth forest where a high concentration of negative ions are known to be present. We may even be naturally drawn toward an urban designed water fountain, or the water feature in a downtown Japanese garden. Here is a brief summary of a Presbyterian minister- turned “Shinto” nature spirituality chaser, in Chasing Waterfalls, a blog by Ariane de Bonvoisin.

Likewise, we often find ourselves in a euphoric state of inspiration when in the presence of these natural forms. Some endorphins may help create the euphoric state. The medically accepted fact is that negative ions in the body relieves stress, improves communication between nerves in nerve endings and improves the natural flow in muscle fiber, and thus reducing cramps. This suggests that spiritual energy can offer a scientific explanation, to a degree.

Likewise, we replenish our mind and spirit by continual deeper and sharper mindfulness (which elevates our intuition described by Redfield in Celestine Prophecy) – in one level, observing our thought patterns and discriminating the mind’s healthy and positive wanderings and its unhealthy and negative attitudes and tendencies. This mindfulness brings us back to increasing our ability to replenish our spiritual presence in this world, and thus, emit positive energy rather than negative or toxic energy. Our daily walk of life becomes an ongoing spiritual path of mindful meditation. I believe, a scientist will discover the connections between the wanderings and tendencies of meditative mindfulness as connected to the reinforcement or oppression of negative and positive ions present in the body. I personally have no scientific evidence of this as of yet.

It is also a looking inward at the things about us we try to avoid and have the courage to face them, face our fears, and perhaps our darker side; not to condemn it, but to accept it but account for it, make peace with it, and let it pass. This allows us to free ourselves from the judgement, and the judging and the judged, which today drives so much of the modern world’s toxic behavior. Does the phrase “Do not judge, and you will not judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given back to you” ring a bell?

So e Celestine Prophecy can be partially explained by our consciousness or mindfulness as it is known in Buddhism and empirically, with our own energy and how it affects the world around us and the people around us.

More to come . . …


KotoJazz 27: Bamboo

Bamboo has diverse applications in a Japanese garden, including the plant itself ranging from short ground cover bamboo to tall bamboo with distinctive black, yellow, even orange colored stalks. Bamboo is also used for wind chimes, water spouts, ground cover, wind breaks, garden furniture, trellises, and privacy screens.

There are three main types of bamboo, and the two most common images of bamboo in gardens are the clumping bamboo and running bamboo. The third, tall timber bamboo, is not so commonly used in gardens due to their size- they grow to over 40 feet tall.

Clumping Bamboo: One bamboo type more commonly used in Japanese gardens is the clumping bamboo, which prefers the heat and tropical climates, but can survive elsewhere. The clumping bamboo is ideal for all gardens because it tends to grow slowly and can be relegated to limited areas as the name implies; maybe only a couple of inches per year and no more than 10 feet range and more commonly 2-5 feet. Gardeners be forewarned that in the right environment, clumping bamboo species are known to spread uncontrollably despite its name and reputation.

Running Bamboo: The running bamboo must be contained in a pot or other barrier in order restrict its growth in a garden, or it will take over the garden. It will do this by send out runners not too far under the surface to take root and expand outward. It virtually has no limit on its range of potential expansion. It is very important to create barriers for these types of bamboo and the runners are know to climb over and under barriers if they are not deep enough or high enough.

Some of the most visually resplendent dwarf ground cover bamboo can be the most invasive runners, so it is recommended you restrict them to containers. These include the following dwarf species – white stripe, golden yellow stripe, green stripe, and fern leaf.

I found these websites to be the most useful for learning more about gardening with bamboo:

  • Bamboo Inspiration
  • Bamboo Garden (Oregon)
  • Bamboo fences- Zen Japanese Landscape (Washington)
  • List of Bamboo Species, Wikipedia (technical information guide only)
  • KotoJazz 26: Water Basins

    Short and wide water basins are for the humble, literally. Water basins of this type moves the user to bend down to the earth in humility to wash or drink the water. Most all Japanese water basins are made of stone and serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose. Like the stone basin pictured above, this Japanese tsukubai water basin can be placed in a dry pool bed of black pebbles for distinctive visual effect. Originating from Buddhist purification basins (called chozubachi), water basins were used to cleanse the temple visitor before entering a Buddhist temple. This is also true of Shinto shrines, and during preparation for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. A Japanese tea garden ladle is often used to scoop up water from the stone basin to drink or wash hands.

    The kiku (chrysanthemum) granite water basin is popular among the stone basins, as it is shaped like a chrysanthemum flower. To add to the aesthetic beauty, the most common way to add the image and sound of flowing or trickling water is by adding a bamboo kakei water spout (as pictured above). Kakei in this case can mean beautiful view or flowing water system.

    Here are a few pieces about flowing water and water basins:

    Nagare: Stream/ Flow, by Satomi Saeki

    Drawing Water From a Mountain Stream, by Elizabeth Falconer

    Koto Jazz: Kuriku Iwa No Hamon (Ripples On Creek Rocks)- by Kenji (short sample)

    Koto Jazz: Rain drops from Trees, by Kenji

    Koto Salad, by Chin Chin

    The Sound of Water, by Izumi Fujikawa

    The Room: The Water Basin, by Bennett Lerner

    Where Peaceful Water flow, by Chris De Burgh

    Medicine Waters Flow, by Albert Tenaya

    Koto Jazz 25: Pogodas & The 5 Elements

    Every true traditional Japanese garden has a pogoda. The pogoda is distinguished from the lantern by its multiple layers of roofs. The temple pogoda, like the famous Nara Temple or the temple at San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden (pictured above), is a thin tower with 5-13 floors, each of which has its own roof. Usually made of granite or basalt, it originates from Buddhist Asia, and can be found in Japan, China, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Nepal, according to My Oriental Garden. Unique in the Japanese garden, the pogoda is the primary ornamental focal point of the garden that is recognizably made in the image of man versus God; man-made. Perhaps, this symbolizes its religious origins, Buddhism and Taoism, as the enlightened person being in harmony with the natural world.

    Functionally, the pogoda and lantern are clearly distinguishable in a Japanese garden. The lantern originates from Buddhist temples to light the pathway to the temple (see more information at Koto Jazz 12: Japanese Lanterns. The pogoda on the other hand, symbolizes the temple itself.

    When a pogoda features five roofs and floors, it reflects back to the five elements of Buddhism, or “godai” (“gogy” in Chinese), also referenced to describe lanterns (see above link) – Wind (kaze), Water (sui or mizu), Earth (chi or tsuchi), Fire (ho, ka or hi) and Void or Spirit (ku). Sometimes a sixth element is included, Consciousness (shiki).

    Note the (Confucian) “yin” and “yang” type of qualities of the five elements. The Wind (kaze) represents inward breathing and open mindedness. In Buddhist philosophy it can also mean evasiveness on the one hand, or compassion and wisdom on the other. Water (sui or mizu) adapts to the environment and changes with the seasons. It can also be associated with defensiveness on the one hand, and adaptability and flexibility on the other. The Earth (chi) (including plants), stable and solid as a stone and confident (ideals particularly in western cultures), can also mean stubbornness and resistance to change. Fire (ka) represents human drive and passion (ideals particularly in western cultures), but also unrestrained desire. Void or Spirit (ku) represents creative energy, spontaneity, and inventiveness.

    I recently wrote a piece called Alpine Wind Storm representing the complete opposite and not at all consistent with Buddhist meaning of Wind ;-/, which is featured live here; other koto songs below are more symbolic of the Buddhist intended symbolism of the Wind and the other four elements:

  • Kozan No Kaze [or Alpine Wind (Storm)] (the 1st song in this medley),
    – Koto Jazz medley live at the Brass Tacks, Seattle (July 5th). Kozan no Kaze is inspired by world renowned jazz piano player, Li Pui Ming’s style of jazz which I call “chaos jazz” (my piece is also more “chaos jazz” than koto jazz). I will also feature this piece when I play at the Royal Room, Seattle in September (see events section)
  • 1) The Wind:

  • Koto Jazz 17: Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”.
  • Koto Jazz 8: The Wind and the Spirit.

  • 2) Water:

  • Koto Jazz 24: Waterfalls
  • Koto Jazz 7: Water, Water, Everywhere

  • 3) Earth (including plants):

  • Koto Jazz 21: Moss in Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 20: Flowers in Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 19: Japanese Maple Trees
  • Koto Jazz 16: Bonsai
  • Koto Jazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens

  • 4) Fire:

  • Koto Jazz 12: Japanese Lanterns (& Lighting)

  • 4) Void or Spirit:

  • Koto Jazz 13: Koto Jazz & the Shinto Source
  • Reflections on Service & Spirituality
  • KotoJazz 24: Waterfalls

    Waterfalls are a key part of the Japanese garden and symbolize the Buddhist and Taoist impermanence of life. If there is not the actual falling of water in a garden, stones can imply the presence of water falling. The pairing of a waterfall with tall rocks or symbolic mountains in a garden is symbolic of the “yin-yang” contrast of “mountain and water”. This contrast extends to the permanence of rock or mountain paired with the impermanence of water, and the upward movement of the mountain toward the heavens paired with the downward movement of waterfalls from the heavens as described in the Zen Buddhist tradition (C’an Buddhism from China); permanence versus continuous renewal and change. The symbol of the waterfall, according to the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, is akin to the concepts in Tantrism in that the waterfall is in continuous motion, shape and form remains the same.

    Waterfalls have long been a central theme of Chinese landscapes as well, since the time of the T’ang Dynasty to the Sun Dynasty, according to the Penguin Dictionary definition. The waterfall offers a natural element in continuous motion to bring the “look and feel” of nature in a limited surrounding. We look for waterfalls in nature not only to observe its serene beauty and flow, but also to be in the presence of a therapeutic natural white background sound and spray able to drown out any noise (within and without) that might disturb our calm.

    Waterfalls have their therapeutic elements. Hydrotherapy uses the physical properties of water for therapeutic purposes to support good blood flow and even treat diseases. Ishnaan (Cold Water Massage Therapy) is an Indian term for the point at which the body temperature feels warmer than the coldness of the water, thus increasing blood flow and triggering endorphins. This is similar to the use of hot and cold contrast at traditional Japanese onsen, in the presence of natural flowing hot springs. It has been suggested by Indian Sikh Gurus as a way to cleanse the mind and soul.

    However, scientists behind these forms of therapy do not say much about the ion balancing nature of waterfalls nor the therapeutic qualities of its sound. Waterfalls are sources of both physical and spiritual purification. WebMD asserts that waterfalls produce a high concentrate of negative ions, which in our bloodstream “produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin.” This is known to reduce depression and stress. The presence of waterfalls foster a serene place of spiritual worship and meditation. It provides a powerful regenerative presence in our lives. It is also symbolic of the Buddhist cycle (or wheel) of life, as it evaporates into the air from the sea only to return again to earth at the summit of a mountain to cascade down a waterfall into a crystal clear alpine lake, mirroring the waterfall image behind it.

    Japanese garden designers have studied the elements of waterfalls in nature. Often waterfalls in Japanese gardens are single falls or two- to three- step falls, the more common being the latter. They can either be smooth or uneven at the lip of the fall, thus affecting the sound of the water flow from splashing to girgling to a subtle shimmering.

    Additional information about water and waterfalls can be found at the following KotoJazz blogs:

    KotoJazz 7: Water, Water Everywhere: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/kotojazz-7-water-water-everywhere/

    KotoJazz Water references: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/?s=water