San Mai Ittai : the Trinity
There is thought that there is traditional power in the “Trinity”, gathering/grouping of threes, in many religions and philosophies. In the Kyudo world, it is called San Mai Ittai. The harmonious unity of spirit, bow and the body. The truth of this unity is the shot. My Cha’n Shifu says our purpose in life is to find/ understand the truth. In SuiZen it is the unity of the body, spirit, and Shakuhachi, the truth of this harmony is the sound, the tonal note. In general Taoist and Native American philosophy, there is Heaven, Man, Earth., there is Father Son and Holy Ghost, even in forms of Buddhism there is the Trinity. One of the dharma of life. There is a great power, a truth revealed in this trinity, in SuiZen it is Bamboo, Spirit, Breath, the truth of the mix, the arrow is the sound, the tone. Other mediums can be used in place of the bamboo, however, to the ears of the sensitive it is the organic sound and connection of the once living bamboo that gives more spirit to the sound-note of a Bamboo Shakuhachi.
This note is not just the sound one hears, but it is also the breath we do not, the vibration. It is given from the heart of the player, it has life, spirit. It is a natural phenomenon. This touches the heart of the listener when the komuso plays for others. Like the people in a club get excited from the “feel”, the beat of dance music. It is physical pleasure and action, caused by some that can not be seen or touched. It has form but is formless. It can touch you but you can not touch it. In a sense, it is like the heart to heart transmission dharma transmission. It is wordless and soundless. It is there, but it is not there. When receiving the precept transmission say from master to student, the master is the catalyst. In the case of shakuhachi, it is the catalyst to the sound, this tone, this note. Like the dharma, it is there yet not there. This spirit, the tone it can touch you, move you to tears or joy, health or sickness, yet you can not touch it with your hands, arms or fingers. Like Dharma it is real, yet cannot be held. One can take in, drink, swim in this ocean of sound dharma, through the heart, but can not see it with your eyes. Like the wind, you see only the results. One can not grasp the wind, but it can push you.
In Kyudo when the blend of the body, bow, and spirit, (San Mai Ittai), is in harmony, the awakening, the enlightenment, their truth is the striking of the target. For Shakuhachi Buddhist the target would be “enlightenment “. For the SuiZen practitioner, the modern Komuso, his/her playing is following the path of the Bodudisiva and whilst seeking personal awaking, also helps ferry others to
Buddhaland, via audio – Dharma. Heart to heart transmission via sound.
BodhiBass a Dharma brother and priest, also a Bass player, says this below about Zen and Verdi. It could be also said for music as a whole for the nature of a drop of water is the same as an ocean. Same as for selections of music such as that played by Komuso. I will substitute Shakuhachi for “Verdi” ( the classical composer) in BodhiBass’s statement:
What’s the connection between Zen and Shakuhachi (Verdi) music?
When you apply an ordinary mind of non-abiding awareness and strive to perform without any form of self-reference then Shakuhachi playing is Zen and all activity is Bodhisattva activity.
I like wording for explaining Buddhist wise, what is being done in Takuhatsu whilst doing Komuso training. The wearing of the Tengai ( straw hat ) covers the playing is about the music, the sound not “self-reference”. Non-abiding awareness!
Here is a link to another thoughtful writing on Shakuhachi and Meditation.
I had someone get upset when he thought I was making light of Komuso and just seeing it as entertainment. Yet another traditional player says : “At present, Komuso practice with the shakuhachi exists only in a ceremonial way, although the Fukeshu remains as a Zen sect and has retained its traditional base in Kyoto’s Tofukuji Temple.”… Kouzan (Website)
So how is the Shakuhachi used in the modern world besides entertainment? In the real world that is what it is most known for these days, entertainment, Meditation, and ceremony?.
As an offering,
Another undertaking of modern Komuso is the musical offering of prayers at ceremonies. Some of these involve a walking meditation others are just in front of some shrine. What is interestingly different the players pay to be in the ceremony and play something. There maybe be some small lunch or light drinking afterward but, nothing of note, just light comradely. It is the function as a hold that is of significance.
There is also the sound offering. Sometimes it is a whole song. Or it can be just a note. It is the spirit to spirit connect that matters. I did several one note offerings in Cambodia at misc temples. My Sensei had told me long ago one did not have to play a complete song when making a musical offering. It is the sharing of the spirit that matters.
As a healing
Did the Komuso do anything for the ill or dying? Their main note in history is that they traveled about and begged. The are some accounts they at least in the early days had standard duties at a monastery. I also read about them playing for the terminal sick person. I think at the most it was a song of blessing, like Tamuke, or spiritual balancing tune like Cho Shi. Nothing that was carefully thought of as part of, a tool against sickness. Certain tones, vibrations, effect certain organs or illness. L.ike in Native American healing or Asian healings
There is in other traditions and practices, like Taoism that use sound to connect and heal certain Chakras. For example, the note F is said to be the keynote of the heart Chakra.
Crown Chakra (Top of the head; ‘Soft spot’ of a newborn)
Sound Note: B
Colour: White ( combination of all the colours ) or Violet
Element: No Element
Mantra: No Sound
Frequency in Hz: 123.5, 246.9, 493.9, 987.8, 1975.5, 3951.1
The keynote of D, corresponds to the Sacral – Svadisthana Chakra, the 1.8 Shakuhachi is also tuned to the D, keynote.
Ajna (आज्ञा) Brow
Third Eye Chakra (pineal gland or third eye)
Sound Note: A
Frequency in Hz: 110, 220, 440, 880, 1760, 3520.
In traditional Chinese medicine and Feng Shui, there is the Five element theory on healing and chi. There are labels for the five holes of the shakuhachi as Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Metal. Speculative theory on my part that the cross ties could be useful in healing as well. Eg: playing Tamuke in a key of a certain Chakra to active the “chi” of that Chakra. There is a path these days of Sound Healing and there are healers.
I am not saying here all these things were done in the past by Komuso, or in the present. They are a possibility of exploration for myself or future other’s practice.
The reasoning behind this loose collection of sort of rambling thoughts is when, doing Takuhatsu the Komuso is also giving healing. Being out there is not just about the collection of alms. An offering of love to the spirit of another is in the healing, the gift of heart and spirit sounds. It is said on a stroll when I joined the Komuso, the Komuso’s first duty is to play for others. Some are sensitive and are moved to also make an offering this time to the Komuso. However the return offering is not the point, the point is the non-abiding original healing gift.
We humans and some animal have some natural instinct about music, sounds, and emotions, that goes beyond whether or not we have the technical education to understand how it works on our body and physic. This sound or that sound combination relaxes us, that combination makes one feel alert, edgy. Music is a natural wordless dharma that goes directly to the heart. A True Heart to Heart connection.
It has been said in Kyudo when one shoots, his spirit is shown naked to the viewers. When a Komuso plays their spirit is shown bare to the listener. Doing Takuhatsu is a combination of meditation, offering, and healing. It is itself a trinity…and I am just trip’n…
to be continued…