Enlightenment is a book of intricate Buddhist art and a visionary journey through
of The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.
The book itself is worthy of its content, exquisitely bound and
jacketed with a heft that feels steady in the hand. Artist Iwasaki
Tsuneo’s images are clear and expansive with enhanced details,
while the scholar Paula Arai guides us along with descriptions and
bits of poetry, weaving through each section while
Iwasaki’s paintings to speak for themselves.
Arai was on a Fulbright scholarship into healing rituals in Nagoya,
Japan when she met Iwasaki at
an exhibition of his work.
It was an auspicious day for them both,
and over the next few years they sealed a friendship and spiritual
bond that would last through the end of his life.
offers stories and reflections on over fifty of Iwasaki’s
paintings. Divided into eight themes, her presentation loosely
threads different aspects of Iwasaki’s healing vision of the Heart
Flowing, Nurturing, Forgiving, Offering, Awakening, Playing,
and Flourishing. Arai’s
choice of themes to introduce the various paintings highlights
Iwasaki’s deep devotional intentions, while
paints with a scientist’s precision reflecting the analytical
spirit that Buddhism and science share.
Tsuneo (1917-2002) was a devout Buddhist, school teacher, research
biologist, and a Japanese World War II veteran. At age fifty-five he
began eight years of formal calligraphy training to develop the
skills to practice the art of Buddhist “sutra copying.” He then
began to copy the Heart Sutra more than two thousand times, all the
while polishing the technique of “saimitsu” or tiny character
age seventy Iwasaki began to shape the tiny characters of the verses
into pictures that expressed his growing vision and understanding of
the sutra and its healing properties. These complex brushed
characters measure about 4-5mm or 1/8 of an inch and thread their way
through and become part of the image itself. The text goes into some
detail about the materials and techniques of Iwasaki’s painting and
calligraphy. As a lay person, I felt this gave me a better
understanding of what I was looking at and a deep appreciation of the
artist’s sublime mastery.
of these paintings are enormous. The largest, Big
Bang: E = mc2 is 6 feet by 17 feet wide. These
tiny, often golden characters of the Heart Sutra cast themselves into
images such as a
moment of cloud-to-ground lightening, drifting incense, colonies of
marching ants, a glittering sparkler, or
hydrogen atom enclosed by rings upon rings of the scripture. The
paintings are hypnotic and Iwasaki’s subjects brilliantly random.
large work, Mandala
of Evolution (6ftX6ft) is presented with cut-away close ups that remind me of
ancient illuminated manuscripts. Iwasaki spent two years painting the
include everything you could imagine
from the beginning of life. Celestial bodies, atomic particles,
dinosaurs, starfish, amoebas, amphibians, solar systems, cherry
blossoms and on and on. I imagine one should see this work in person
to fully appreciate its teachings.
was not well known in his lifetime. He created over three hundred
paintings, gifted numerous works to benefactors including
friends and a few institutions which
hold many. Immersion
book brought to mind the oft written counsel from The
Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Lines:
“One should listen to this perfection of wisdom, take it up, bear
it in mind, recite it, study it, spread it among others, train in it,
and exert oneself in it.” Paula Arai and Iwasaki have
this healing vision of the Heart Sutra and
hopefully will introduce many to this luminous body of work.
Author Lawrence Shainberg will be at the Zen Center of NYC on Saturday, October 5th for a reading from his new book, Four Men Shaking. We used this as an excuse to catch up with our old friend “Larry-san” and to talk about the new book and how it came into being.
Oh my gosh! How did the high privilege ever come to me to review this book? I am lost in it and continually astonished. Margaret Gibson’s newest book of poems, Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, is ripe and full and endlessly transcendent. Not hearing the wood thrush is a fine art that we would all do well to learn
She makes her way and takes us with her through the dozen doors and windows of her poems into the woods, the river, and the star fields.
It is perhaps a widely held assumption about the Zen arts that they occur in a bubble of tranquility and equanimity unsullied by the chaos of the world.
One might picture a solitary painter or poet, or a silent line of archers practicing kyudo (Zen archery), each focused singularly on the completion of a perfect act. That assumption might be correct to a point, but Painting Peace, Art in a Time of Global Crisis by Kazuaki Tanahashi opens up a different view.
by Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei, Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah, Ph.D. North Atlantic Books Review by Theresa Braine, MRO
Barbecuing, AirBnB-ing, Waiting, Living…While Black. Police interactions ranging from traumatic to deadly. Not to mention: redlining, gentrification and incarceration-for-profit. The outrages abound. Where does Buddhism land in all this? Enter Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, which starts the conversation with a road map for cutting through the collective conditioning of the white supremacist mind-set that we all, knowingly or unknowingly, live with.
In this collection of transcribed talks, Dainin Katagiri, one of the founding teachers of North America Zen, manifests how the universe is suffused with a dynamic energy that fills and sustains our lives.I use the word ‘manifest’ here because, in my experience, this book is an actual manifestation of its title, shining a new light on my experience of the world.
Shaun Bythell’s “The Diary of a Bookseller” is a gem of a book. Bythell, the owner of Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore, gives us this day-by-day account of his life as a bookseller. It’s a warm and funny book marked by Bythell’s dark, dead-pan humor. He begins by admitting that he fits the stereotype of the “impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor.” But this wasn’t always the case: he began when he bought his shop as eagerly and naively as any thirty-one-year-old embarking on their first business venture. The shop, though—with its haggling customers, arguing staff and the “constant barrage of dull questions”—turned him into a bit of a misanthrope.
A single word runs like a fissure through the short essays that introduce us to the poets collected by David Hinton in The Wilds of Poetry: Adventures in Mind and Landscape: “contact”. These poets, Hinton demonstrates, share a set of common philosophical assumptions that derive from the Taoist-Ch’an tradition, his field of expertise. That tradition entered the slipstream of American culture after the Second World War and affected the diverse fields of dance, theater, music, ceramics, the visual arts, philosophy, and poetry. Hinton traces the threads of influence and affinities among his selected poets, all of whom were wrestling with the American language to demonstrate into what he refers to again and again as “contact.” That is, the direct experience of the world unmediated by thought and interpretation.
What would a world look like where the rules of economics were governed by Buddhist principles? Clair Brown has set out to imagine such a world, drawing on her experience as an economics professor at University of California Berkeley and a longtime Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. Her book offers us the promise of laying out a road map to “an enlightened approach to the dismal science”
Ahimsa, the Sanskrit word for non-harming, is an elemental attribute of the Buddha’s teaching. The concept of “harm,” in and of itself, is not mysterious. It manifests when we needlessly inflict damage, pain, or suffering on any patchwork in the fabric of reality. Later Buddhism codified the notion of saving all sentient beings as an outgrowth of this non-harming. All beings with sentience or consciousness—or to put it in more biological terms, with a spinal column—are able to demonstrate their desire to live their own destinies, their own lives. And this is where Matthieu Ricard, former scientist now an ordained Tibetan monastic, begins his exploration of our relationship with the animal world: if we, not as Buddhists but as a species (a species of animal, in fact), place value on the moral sanctity of life, how do we continue to justify the imprisonment, torture, and murder of billions of fellow sentient beings each and every day?