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Fudo Myo-o; the 'bird" of paradise

So despite my cracking, growling, allergy-damaged voice, my mini-gig Thursday went over pretty well. I had done some singing at Liz's party, borrowing a guitar for a few songs, and thought I might be ok; but when I got in to my first song "She Belongs To Me" my voice started to crack like I was 13 again. I went into a more gravelly mode and finished, then explained in my pidgin Nihongo, "Sumimasen, my voice....chotto byouki deshita. Allergy, araji. Demo...ganbatte!"

Ganbatte. That's the big one. Give it your all and they will love you here. I made my way through two more songs (my own "Floating World", and "I Know You Rider"), and they actually demanded one more from me (I did "In the Pines").

The fellow who runs the folk night asked me (with the bar owner acting as translator) when I was leaving, when I'd be back in Japan. When I told him I might be back for a karate tournament in November, and mentioned Seido Juku, he went wild. Turns out he used to train in Seido. Had nothing but praise for Kaicho Nakamura, such a "good and upright" man.

So that went well.

Yesterday, went out to Takatsuki to catch the second half of a two-day jazz festival. Eric was playing with a salsa group early in the afternoon, then we hung around watching other bands all evening. Saw wild fusion with a guy playing shamisen, as well as more standard jazz trio and small bands, at halls and at cafes. Another bit of the whole international thing, jazz in the suburbs of Kansai (Takatsuki is between Kyoto and Osaka, Columbia to their Baltimore and Washington perhaps.)

Today I did some day-job work, and did some reading around Gary Snyder's "Smokey the Bear Sutra". When I went for lunch in Nara with Kaz, the topic of sacred mountains came up, and I tried to explain the line from that poem, about how "all true paths lead through mountains." It occurred to me that it might be a nifty thing to include in the book a "commentary" on the Sutra - if he had the balls to write a "Sutra" on Smokey, I'll take the idea and run with it. Maybe do one on Camden Benares's "Enlightenment of a Seeker" story, too.

So I was looking at the "Smokey the Bear Sutra", and the one part I had no idea about was the mantra that's mentioned. A little Goggle-ing turned up that it's the mantra of Achala, Fudo Myou-ou as he's known here, foremost of the wrathful deities known as "Vidyaraja", "Bright Kings" or "Incantation/Mantra Kings".

I saw a bit about him in the main exhibit at the National Museum in Nara. He is the Immovable One, who carries a sword of wisdom and a rope for binding demons, often depicted standing upon a rock symbolic of unshakable peace of mind. He is seen as a manifestation of Dainichi Nyorai, Mahavairocana, the Great Sun Buddha.

In 'Spel Against Demons', part of "The Fudo Trilogy" which also includes "The Smokey the Bear Sutra", Snyder writes:

Bound by the Noose, and Instructed by the Diamond
Sword of ACHALA the Immovable, Lord of Wisdom,
of Heat, who is squint-eyed and whose face is terrible
with bare fangs, who wears on his crown a garland of
severed heads, clad in a tiger skin, he who turns
Wrath to Purified Accomplishment,

whose powers are of lava,
of magma, of deep rock strata, of gunpowder,
and the Sun.

He who saves tortured intelligent demons and filth-
hungry ghosts, his spel is,


Interesting use of "spel[l]" there, for the whole Pagan connection. Mantras and spells, both means of focusing the minds, altering consciousness.

Fudo Myou-ou is sometimes associated with Shiva the Destroyer. One translation of the mantra is: "Homage to the all-pervading Vajras! O Violent One of great wrath! Destroy!"

The question then becomes, just what is being destroyed. As a Buddhist deity, his nature is compassionate, and he destroys ignorance and fear and craving.

The Myou-ou are mostly venerated by Shingon Buddhists, but Fudo is popular more generally. There was a great image of him at Tenryuji.

Later, at the Blarney Stone, well after the show...

After a few drinks, plus a few more, Fudo Myou-ou seems like a fine deity to venerate, as the world takes on a slight rotation...

Three girls, hostesses perhaps, at a table across the way...every guy trying to catch their eye, without seeming to try too hard too hard to be catching their eyes...

Earlier, this Spanish(?) guy, trying so hard to connect with the girls by dancing, trying to draw me into his comprehension of the power of detachment, trying so hard that he made success impossible...who was it who said that the bird of paradise alights only on the hand that does not grasp? It applies just as much to the old British sense of "bird" as pretty girl...sometimes I want to smack my fellow males upside the head and say, "You'll have better luck with the ladies if you pull back a bit." The power of detachment, as Snyder put it: "Fearlessness, humor, detachment, is power"

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