BLOOD TO ROCKS
the past twenty-odd years things Japanese have had an attraction
Starting - as far as I am aware - when my interest in war-gaming
and militaria was hooked by the then new fashion for samurai conflicts.
(Some would say the seed was sown long ago in the karmic past.)
It was not too long before Zen cropped up in my studies, and the
ephemeral nature of life became a frequent topic of reflection.
So much so, that only the appearance in my life of the Bodhisattva
Kwan Yin happily turned my face to the West.
Westward, long lost feelings came to the fore. Long buried memories
of great trees and wonderfully shaped and patterned rocks of natural
beauty. To see, along country lanes in washed out banks ancient
roots twisting and flowing, weathered trunks dancing skyward, embracing
water-worn rocks with patterns beyond man's art.
live with and cultivate a miniature tree (Bonsai) that evokes feelings
of silent woodland depth or growing clinging to a remote cliff face,
or to find a stone (Suiseki) arousing thoughts of great mountain
vistas or a storm-washed coastline is wonderful, but even more than
this the stones, over time, allow more and more to be seen in subtle
textures and colours as they gently age.
The trees and stones of practised eyes evoke a feeling just as a
Haiku does, and each day a new poem is composed.
first-found stone is black with white stripes speckled with minute
light-catching minerals, and I see the head of the reclining Buddha
- Shakyamuni returning to the Infinite.
25mm armies have been garrisoned in a box for many years now.
the above was published in Pure Land Notes (March 96), I (Jim Pym)
visited the London Book Fair, and there spotted a book, The Japanese
art of Stone Appreciation by Vincent T Covello and Yuji Yoshinaura.
(published by Charles Tuttle, at £14.99)
not a Buddhist book, it does show how suiseki grew out of Buddhism,
particularly Zen. In Zendos there are often cahhigrapbzed scrolls,
or even just a vase of flowers, instead of a Buddha image. Why then
should riot a stone, which has been centuries in the making, be
a symbol of Buddha nature in all things. Such things are in the
eye of the beholder.The authors give many examples of stones, beautifully
mounted on carved stands, used in conjunction with hanging scrolls
as a focus in tile tea ceremony. In this, they do specifically represent
the Buddha nature. They are also shown with miniature bonsai trees
evoking the beauties of the wilderness in miniature. And if we cannot
all live each day among the beauties of nature, why not use these
miniature landscapes to help evoke for us the beauties of the Pure
again, the stone gardens of Buddhist Temples have been a focus for
meditation for thousands of visitors engaged on the search for enlightenment.
We may not be able to visit Japan in our own search; but surely
it is within the heading of 'skilful means' to bring something of
their peaceful atmosphere into our homes. Also, many of the stones
featured actually remind one of a Buddha or other meditating figures.
anyone who has this kind of imagination, this book is a must. It
throws up so many ideas that you want to rush out and pick up as
many stones as you can. But actually, it also makes the point that
even collecting the stories is a meditative act, or, in Pure Land
terms, an act of surrender to Amida. Not for nothing does the word
'natural' appear in the titles of many books on the Pure Land Way.
(Hozen Seki calls it The Great Natural Way.) Amida's Light is found
throughout the universe; the Way of Stone Appreciation is yet another
means of discerning it.
article first appeared, with the Author's permission, in PLN 6,
March 1996. Republished here in agreement with the compiler/editor
of the inaugurate hard copy Journal. The Author, any person or any
organisation credited, quoted or connected with this article are
cordially invited to contact me with any comments, amendments, fresh
contributions or complaints. email