“The foremost samaya is when you compose yourself in a state in which you in actuality experience the fact that all sights, sound and awareness are visible emptiness, audible emptiness and aware emptiness. To have that certainty is called keeping all the hundreds of thousands of samayas“
Thursday October 24
According to Wickipedia, a 'Shaku' is an “archaic measure of length”. I'm guessing 'Hachi' is too, since it basically means '8 / 10ths of a Shaku'. Together a Shaku and a Hachi equal a Shakuhachi or approximately 55cm…which, funny enough, is the name and standard length of the instrument.
During Japan's 'Edo' period, the country was ruled by a military government. The head of that government was called 'Shogun' (also the title of my all-time favourite book)
For two hundred and sixty eight years, every Shogun came from one clan…the Tokugawa Clan. Of course, the Shogun had help, namely 300 Daimyos or district leaders….much like European Barons…who maintained order within their own little fiefdoms and pledged allegiance to, or plotted against, the Tokugawa Clan.
And what, pray tell, does any of this have to do with the Shakuhachi?
'Fuke Zen' is a Japanese form of Zen Buddhism which was popular during the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Fuke monks, known as 'Komuso' (priests of nothingness) would wear baskets on their heads (symbolizing their detachment from the world) and play their 'Honkyoku' (songs paced to their breathing) as meditation or 'Suizen'.
The monks would travel and survive by collecting alms (the original street musicians)
The Tokugawa clan (like most ruling families) had a lot of enemies, particularly amongst the 300 powerful Daimyos. In order to suppress resistance to their rule, the Tokugawa Shoguns severely restricted travel throughout Japan.
This made life very difficult for the Komuso, who needed to travel in order to practice their meditations and collect alms. They asked for special permission from the Shogun to travel and to be the only ones allowed to play the Shakuhachi. The Shogun agreed to this…and in return, some of the monks became spies for the Shogun.
Since the monks were unidentifiable anyway (remember, they're wearing baskets on their heads), the Shogun also sent some of his own spies out wearing baskets and masquerading as monks. This led to a huge distrust of Shakuhachi players…in fact, some Daimyos would test these monks with very difficult Honkyoku and failure to perform adequately could result in a death by Samurai (that's a tough crowd)
In 1868, the Shogun and the Fuke sect was abolished (think Tom Cruise in 'Last Samurai') and the playing of the Shakuhachi was banned. It was many years before the Honkyoku we're allowed to be played again in public.
The Shakuhachi survived.
There are two Shakuhachi Masters currently residing on the Sunshine Coast (that we know of). One of those will give his first public performance on November 17th (a date we'll confirm as we get additional information). We don't know his name but we have heard that until now, he has refrained from playing in public because of the sacred nature of the flute and the Honkyoku.
The other, Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos, is a Grand Master, the only Canadian and one of very few non-Japanese to have attained this honor. By the way, 'Ryuzen' stands for 'Dragon Meditation'.
Alcvin is playing tonight at St. Hilda's Anglican Church in Sechelt…and he's not alone. He'll be playing with several other very good musicians in a group they're calling…
The concert starts at 8.00pm. Wendy and I have tickets set aside for the two of us, J.J.and Nancy (a very good friend of J.J.'s)
We eat early, clean up and head out around 7.30pm.
St. Hilda's By The Sea, is a pretty little church that sits up on a corner overlooking the RCMP and Courts buildings in Sechelt. Wendy and I park in the fairly substantial lot, which is full…geez, it looks packed…I hope there's a seat left.
St. Hilda's By The Sea Anglican Church
We enter and take care of our tickets. We're more than a little surprised that the pews are so empty…where are the people from all of those cars?
Ahh…turns out they're here for the Tai Chi class happening in the auditorium.
No matter, there's J.J. and Nancy…on the bride's side, about three rows from the front. We still have time to say hi to J.J. and to meet Nancy, we've heard a lot about her but this is our first actual visit. She's absolutely lovely.
Finally, the concert is ready to proceed.
Let's introduce you to SAMAYA
Shakuhachi and vocals, Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos (http://alcvin.ca/ryuzen/)
Indian flute, classical flute, bass guitar and vocals, Dr. Bruce Harding (http://www.bruceharding.com)
Tabla Master, Amarjeet Singh
Cello Virtuosa and vocals, Allannah Dow
There is another musician onstage, we don't catch her name but she lives here in Roberts Creek, is Bruce Harding's relative and is playing two backup instruments, one of which looks like a Harmonium and the other a long, four stringed instrument (perhaps a 'Tanpura')
I'm not sure what I expected…something Shakuhachi'ish I suppose…but what we get is unfreakinbelieveable. Some songs sound very traditional, some pluck at the strings that reside deep within our bodies and some are almost jazz-like. It is a garden of vibratory delights. The audience (about sixty people) is either deep in a music induced trance or jumping in their pews to the magical beats and sounds.
Before the start of the second set, Amarjeet takes some time to describe the Tabla. What we remember is that the beats of the bongo-like drums match the words of a prayer or story
The last song is an ancient and dark piece…created for the Assasins, a religious order of trained killers founded by Hassan-i Sabbah around 1080AD. The song may be dark to it's roots…but it also ROCKS
These musicians are all Masters and their performance leaves us aching for some kind of recording…that we might listen again. Luckily, as the concert ends, Alcvin tells us that if we are interested in purchasing their upcoming CD, to write our names and e-mails on a sheet provided at the front of the church.
We leave the church, bodies resonating, and head out into an evening thick with fog (perfect weather for Assasins). Our bodies will vibrate for many hours after this…and that's a very good thing
If you're interested in learning more about, or even purchasing a Shakuhachi, a really great site is at this link, http://yungflutes.com/guide/category/how_to_buy_a_shakuhachi
Well, that's it for today. Thanks for dropping in and checking out what we're up to here on Canada's Sunshine Coast. We're going to be busy studying for a few days…we have volunteered to be 1st Aid providers at the opening of a massive new mountain bike park on Saturday. It's all very hush-hush, Top Secret right now (i could tell you but then i'd have to get an Assasin to kill you…and me) but we've done the math and if our calculations are correct…mountain bikes + challenging course + young men = busted heads and bodies so, we have some work to do (namely to practice our 1st Aid).
You have a great day…and watch your back (they're out there)
Moose and Wendle