Friday, June 26, 2009


Here in the United States, Buddhism is mostly associated with sitting meditation. If you are a Buddhist your main "practice" is to sit. Pure and simple. It is thus iteresting to note that the largest sect of Buddhism in Japan is Jodo Shinshu. Which does not have sitting mediation as part of it's tradition. Often referred to as Shin Buddhism, this sect remains relatively under the radar in this country. Shin Buddhism developed with an emphasis on "other power" (Tariki) and opposed to the "self power"(Jiriki) that is the basis of schools, like Zen, that emphasize meditation practice. The founder of this school was Shinran Shonin (1173-1263) who, after spending 20 years in fruitless meditation at a monastery, left and then had an awakening that led him to espouse the way of "faith alone". The faith being in Amida Buddha, the mythical Buddha of infinite light and life.

It would be too long an essay to put forward an adequate characterization of this spiritual path here, but just a few words about the implications of a path based on "Tariki". The essential point as I see it is that when one walks a path of empowerment by "other power" it seems, by all reports, to be very liberating. One can relax into their life without the pressure of maintaining some level of spiritual performance. The food we eat, the water we drink, this is not self-generated. Our very existence is contingent on a whole host of factors that have nothing to do with our little "self". So, looked at in this fashion, everyone, yes even you, are saved/sustained by "other power.

Of course the concept of Tariki is not unique to Shin. Hindu's speak of Indra's net. Christ teaches "the Kingdom of God is within you". But I think the most fascinating aspect of this, and perhaps it's the reason I write these words, is that scientists too are talking about "other power". Especially when you get in to the area of relativity and quantum mechanics. I will mention two books for those who may be interested in exploring this connection. "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra, and "Belonging to the universe" also by Capra and co-authored by a Catholic monk named Brother David Steindl-Rast.

There was also a really cool movie that came out in 2004 called "What the bleep do we know!?" which was quite entertaining and deals with this whole science/spirit thing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wendell Berry

Here are two poems by man named Wendell Berry. He is probably my all time favorite poet. He has also written in other forms, mostly novels and essays, but I think it safe to say he is best loved as a poet. At least by me. These poems were originally published in 1968 in a collection called "Openings". He is still alive and publishing today, but his primary occupation has always been farming. He continues to live and work in his native Kentucky and is 74 years old. I was fortunate enough to hear him in person once when I was in college, way back in the 80's.

The Want of Peace

All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman’s silence
receiving the river’s grace,
the gardener’s musing on rows.
I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.