Category Archives: buddhism

metamorph senses (new CD release & a koto jazz tune)

This new CD mostly live production was crazy, experimental fun – anchored by a few George Winston covers, a touch of Narada/ Silver Wave- style new age, a koto jazz tune, and some “off the beaten path”, eclectic wacko improvisations . . . and you have a metamorphosis of the senses –

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chriskenjibeer5

metamorphsenses_final02

 

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Namaste: Living Words of Wisdom

I like the term namaste originating from Hindu Yoga spiritual practice. Here are some meanings –

The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you.

I greet that place where you and I are one.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.

http://www.livingwordsofwisdom.com/definition-of-namaste.html

 

What makes a Japanese garden ?

From garden paths to architecture, fences, gravel patterns, and types of plants, this website details key distinctions of what makes a Japanese garden-

http://www.japanesegardens.jp/

 

11 Beautiful Untranslatable Japanese Words

My favorite, Yuugen – “awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses”, and Shinrinyoku – “bathing in a deep forest”, http://theodysseyonline.com/le-moyne/11-beautiful-untranslatable-japanese-words/221351

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Do Our Over-stressed Brains a Favor – Come To Nature

“A concrete jungle destroys the human spirit,” former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew .

Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia
Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_fbp20151215ngm-calltowild&utm_campaign=Content&sf17049277=1

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience

In other blogs on this site, I talk about how the natural world connects with and replenishes us, performs a balancing of our energy, such as through the negative ions emissions of moving water – waterfalls, streams, and ocean waves – and also deep forests such as old growth forests. We become stressed and toxic by the fact that downtown areas have very little natural life surrounding it, have a deficiency of negative ions, and carry an excess of positive ions.

This article about nature emitting neurotransmitters takes it to a new level. It seems the premise of the blockbuster movie Avatar (by James Cameron) and its premise is pretty close to how things really are in the natural world. This is a good read:

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience.

An Evening of Elegance: 55th Anniversary Garden Party at the Japanese Garden

This anniversary party was filled with positive interactions with the attendees between breaks and after my performance. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people intrigued by and find enjoyment from my music, but on a broader level, Japanese culture. It’s so good to be connected to such a wonderful, kind, generous, forgiving, and loving community in Seattle.

As I played the third song of the night, Tomio Moriguchi, otherwise known as “Mr. Uwajimaya”, came up to me and said he loved the first piece I played, Sakura, and of course I obliged to play it again. A true honor to have known you Tomio through the years, first meeting you in the early 90s karaoking with you and the late Joyce Yoshikawa at Bush Garden, getting caught up at the Bon Odori through the years, your reminders of how much you appreciated my sister Kimberley’s summer JAS programs with your family (yes Kimberley, Tomio asks about you every time!) and now, how could one not play a song for your memory in such a magical setting as Seattle’s Japanese garden! For the person who quite possibly brought more Japanese food and gifts to America than anyone in America! Domo, domo, domo. The people of Seattle’s Japanese Garden, so many of the attendees such as Tomio, The Sasakis (Cherry Blossom Festival and Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble) have colored this city of Seattle with the beautiful wonders of Japanese arts and culture for which I am eternally grateful.

Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum
Setting up at the Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum

University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden
University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden

The koto tunes I played at this event were:

  • My Sakura,
  • Haru No Umi (The Sea in Springtime),
  • Tori No Yo Ni (Like A Bird),
  • Aki No Hou (Toward Autumn Season), and
  • Tide Pools And Waves (Shiyodamari to Nami).
  • Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.


    I was immediately followed by a traditional Japanese dance by Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble (pictured here):

    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum. I saw familiar faces at the event, including Tazue Sasaki of the Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble, her husband Yutaka Sasaki, and members of the Japanese Consulate.

    Koto Jazz 64: Balance in Japanese Gardens

    Japanese gardens seek to bring out the balance of the natural world. A key intent of Japanese gardens today is to replicate the natural world in smaller spaces; re-creating miniaturized versions of serene natural landscapes. In that re-creation, there are a few principles that bring across that image of balance, such as boundaries and regions that reflect the natural world.

    Boundaries include regions divided by grass areas, or dry gravel areas. These can be divided by pathways, borders, or water. These borders can be rounded or straight edged, but remain consistently one or the other within the same region. These also include water borders, such as waterfalls, dry creek beds, flowing streams, ponds, and lakes.

    A common number to create balance in the garden is the use of threes- three stones or three clumps of grasses. As a general rule, taller trees and plants are placed in the background, while shorter plants such as ornamental grasses and flowering plants are placed in the foreground.

    So long as the plants create a natural flowing space, the garden can be minimalist with very little foliage, or it can be lush with carefully placed grasses and flowering plants and shrubs. Both can be accented with lanterns in the foreground, or off to the side.

    A taller Japanese maple tree is always a good background for either approach, as are tall pogodas.

    KotoJazz 62: Song Stories- Wandering Kabuto Mushi

    “Wandering Kabuto Mushi” is a tune about the wandering rhinoceros beetle, or Kabuto mushi. This Japanese beetle is a prized pet among children who raise them and care for them like pets in Japan.

    One of my most joyful and memorable experiences of childhood was going out beetle and bug hunting with my Uncle Yasushi outside of Omiya. We climbed trees to observe and catch the Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle in the wild. I was 6 or 7 at the time. We would also hunt for and catch other exotic bugs such as stag beetles and “semmi” or cicadas. Different from the cicadas I’ve seen in he States, the Japanese semmi can be a gorgeous aqua green to blue color, or even orange to fiery red. There is an entire mini industry and bug pet raising culture in Japan, especially in the rural communities of Japan.

    This song Wandering Kabuto Mushi is about the slow and steady nature of this prized Japanese pet, like the slow moving but wise tortoise.

    Unfortunately, my vast collection of rhinoceros beetles and other exotic bugs which I had stored at my mother’s place in Boulder was swept away and destroyed by last year’s flood. Some family friends were forced out of their homes, and others lost their lives, so the loss of my skeleton insect relics were small compared to that. Still, I miss them, but this simple song carries on my memories of them.

    Koto Jazz 59: Stones & Rock Gardens

    The Way of Zen and Zen values of simplicity (kanso), naturalness (shizo), and refined elegance are similar values expressed in the Japanese garden, and defines Japanese rock gardens. Stones and rocks derive from the natural banks of rivers and creeks. They provide accents for distinctive garden areas, including walkways, waterfall bases, creek borders, ponds and lakes, and garden sections. Rocks and pebbles of rock gardens are raked into patterns of flowing streams, undulating waves, and accents around larger stone island or bonsai trees, and other features. Other patterns can be checkered or angled or alternating lines.

    Large feature stones are grouped by themselves or they are grouped in threes with a taller boulder standing regally behind two shorter boulders, presenting balance. All three stones are generally vertical, with the taller stone in the center representing The Buddha (one who has become enlightened), and the two other stones on each side representing two Bodhisattvas (one who is “bound for enlightenment; the two stones are called sanson). They are placed next to water, a body of water or water feature, as images of water features, natural hills and/or mountain scenes.

    Bodies of water are represented in the Japanese garden by a pond or lake. In the case of dry Zen rock gardens where sand and gravel represent the sea or ocean, the stones would be placed next to or in the sand/ pebble garden. The scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China, as does the garden aesthetic and spirituality of Zen Buddhism. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the seashore.

    Koto Jazz 58: Song Stories- Raindrops Fall from Trees (Ki Kara Amei No Shizuku)

    This “Raindrops Fall from Trees” song is special as it originated with a fun music exchange with my daughter as we traded turns playing my keyboard one rainy spring day. She came up with a basic melody which is the basis of this song. The song conjures up the likeness of gentle raindrops falling on leaves and tree branches, then coalescing to slide off leaves and land on the moist earth below. It is like the gentle hands of the sky extending its reach to the earth to give us peace in solitude.

    While I added to it, the original melody remains, on of the relaxing meditative tunes. It is a beautiful spontaneous expression my daughter came up with and she just as quickly and easily named it. “Why its raindrops falling from trees of course.” Yes, of course.

    Koto Jazz 53: Song Stories – Hatchidori (Hummingbird) Story

    This energetic Koto jazz piece I wrote this summer (2014) is reflective of the spring season mating patterns of the hummingbird. To attract its mate, the male hummingbird scales up and down the keys of the sky as a kind of mating dance to attract the attention of female hummingbirds. I observed this odd mating dance at Discovery Park in Seattle during a hike in the summer of 2014.

    This melody also reflects the playful dance tunes of hummingbirds flying from flower to flower, which is the translated name of the song Hatchidori Wa Hana Kara Hana E Tobu. Purchase preview is available on Amazon music at Hatchidori Amazon.

    Koto Jazz 42: Shapes in Design & Music

    Shapes in designs are key to our expression and creativity.  There are the sharp shapes, sharp angles such as pyramids and squares (see the above photo’s stone walk way behind the water feature).  Traditionally, this is associated with the manhood and the west. It is common to find square stone walk ways, squared off gate ways, even pyramidal shaped trellises, and square- shaped garden areas. Substantial changes have taken place in the modern era to include rounded shapes and designs. This is not something you think about in the daily neighborhood dog walk. You don’t pass by the Jones’ house and say, “my, what a nicely manicured, squared off hedge outlining their nicely square-shaped yard.” However, it does influence your psyche over time, and if this is all you see and all you grow up with, it influences how you see things and see the world. I would argue, it narrows your vision.

    Then there is the circle or rounded shapes.  Traditionally, this is associated with the Buddhist circle of life and the yin- yang symbol of the east. The rounded water features (see above photo) rounded walk ways, rounded stone steps, rounded gateways (more common in China), rounded bridges, are not commonly seen in North America but are more readily available garden features in Asia. For example, I visited a number of Chinese gardens which featured circled garden entry gates outside of Shanghai. This is a generalization of course, but it offers insight into the role of shapes in garden design that can provide you options on how plan your own garden.

    The Shapes of Music:

    Likewise, music presents its own shapes. There are the common, chordal structures perfected by the west featuring linear patterns, and melodies that take sharp turns. Then there are the often meandering, circular flow of chords and progressions, even non-chords and non-progressions, and musical patterns of the east.  The synthesis of the two are at times attempted to be expressed in modern jazz.  However, western jazz maintains its biases from its origins and while it proposes a best effort to synthesizes the two, it tends to de-emphasize the meandering nature and musical flow of the east (e.g., traditional Koto and east Indian music) without even knowing it. Thus, the concept of koto jazz rears its creative head– a melodious journey, but not beholden even to modern jazz progressions!

    Thus, koto jazz tunes can often fit more appropriately into the genre commonly known as new age.  While new age has taken a popularity hit with the closing of society and its mis-representation of new age as being connected to some type of religious agenda, even cult, this is only a temporary passing misappropriation. From what I’ve observed of the new age movement, there is no agenda, except to offer people some peace of mind with soothing sounds and melodies! How’s that for an “agenda”. That said, eastern styles of music are finding their way into the North American and European music worlds quite independent of the new age trends.

    Indian Bollywood:

    Take for example, my friend Prashant’s Bollywood Dreams Entertainment and the dance style of modern east Indian Bollywood music. I could not help but notice the circular and meandering motions of this invigorating, high energy dance style. This is consistent with the musical melodies of many popular Bollywood songs (see Bollywood Dreams Entertainment), which likewise meander, wander and move in circular melodic motion.

    While this koto jazz blog does not concern itself with business achievements, it’s no accident that the likes of Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs admitted to having strong eastern influences in their lives. This, I believe, is where there is a collision of creativity into real world situations, such as high end physics, engineering, architecture, and various sectors of business ventures.

    Koto Jazz 41: Duality

    Everything in life can have its duality.

    Personally, it’s engrained in my blood and DNA. I am bi-racial, bi-cultural, once bilingual (not currently), and definitely bi-spiritual, among others.

    In addition to “bi-“, there’s a duality in general, a duality of perspectives, a duality of existence. There is a duality in the political arena, a duality in social arenas too.  You walk down the street and some people are more interested in suburban convenience and others are more interested in access to the entertainment, arts and culture that the big city provides. There is a duality of east and west. There is a duality in science- one that believes in a supreme order and the other believes that all sources of life derive from chaos and chaos theory.

    For me,  the great experience of life is its collision of the unknown into a synthesis of something more, which in its social form could be the defining characteristic we call “the great American experiment”. It doesn’t offer answers to the unknown, but it does offer freedom from needing to have answers. It is in the “process” of life that we achieve complete immersion in the present moment; that we achieve “understanding” which is quite different from “knowing”. Knowing has definition and finality; understanding neither seeks nor achieves either.

    In gardening, the minimalist Zen garden contrasts with what we can call “maximalist” English garden. The maximalist English garden style offers a plethora of colors and floral varieties; mostly perennials. I love low maintenance, constantly flowering perennials (see the above photo)! At the same time, too much variety and color can be overwhelming.

    On the other end of the gardening spectrum is the minimalist Zen garden. Again, a minimalist Japanese Zen influence can be settling with the scene of open space, simplicity and elegance. It offers room for the eye to appreciate the simple elegance of a single stone, a purple iris, or bonsai tree. It offers the opportunity for the mind to experience space, and fill the gaps with one’s own creative options conjured up in their own minds; and yes, even freedom from the need to fill in the space and find the beauty in open, uncluttered, undefined space.

    In music, Koto jazz is in itself a bi-cultural duality. It proposes a piano synthesis of eastern influences sounds, melodies, and themes with western style jazz embellishments, rhythm and beat. Traditional Japanese nationals and westerners may be offended by their perceived in-authenticity of koto jazz as it takes from the purity of traditional music and modernizes it with new sounds, rhythm, and embellishments. In these cases, koto jazz music is not a fit for them. For those interested in exploring this duality in music and collision of two cultures and musical styles, koto jazz is an ideal genre for you.

    Koto Jazz 40: Stream Gardens

    The “winding stream garden”, otherwise known in Japan as yarimizu– is a key part of Chinese and Japanese gardens. The stream represents in Taoism the permanence of impermanence, ever flowing water that still remains the same. It has also been part of the other creative arts, such as poetry and painting in China and Japan. An important element of the stream garden are the creek rocks on the creek beds and aligning the shore lines, as well as stones and occasional bonsai- shaped pine trees and bushes, as shown in the photo above. This is an excavated and revived archaeological site of the Kyuseki stream garden in Nara, Japan. A natural stream or one recycled by a pump naturally leads into a pond, the image of a larger body of water such a lake or the sea.

    The Kyuseki stream and pond garden near the Imperial palace in Nara (Japan’s original capital), dates back to the 8th Century, according to the Bowdoin University website (see Bowdoin’s Japanese garden website. This suggests the origins of “a stream banquet” (kyokusui no en) during which guests attempted to come up with an original poem before cups of wine, set floating from a point upstream, and arriving at their position along the riverbank”, according to the Bowdoin University Japanese garden website.

    The Japanese garden is also derived from Buddhist divination principles, with the intention of carrying away evil while attracting good. To do this, the original Japanese garden design publication, Sakuteiki (Records of Garden Making), says the stream should cross the garden from East to West.

    In college at Sophia University, I remember reading Genji-monogatori (源氏物語 The Tale of Genji), about the Heian period festival which featured the kyokusui-no-en, the Feast of the Winding Stream. It is an annual springtime event even today at Mōtsū-ji Temple, Hiraizumi.

    More often than not, the Japanese garden stream is not a raging force, but a soft and gentle water flow for the contemplative nature of this type of stroll garden. Again, this offers a more meditative environment for reflection and connection to nature.

    Here is sample song I wrote with the same intention called Kuriku Iwa No Hamon.

    and Black Pine Bonsai