Sweeping Zen Under Attack

Readers may be familiar with Adam Tebbe, the senior editor at Sweeping Zen, which calls itself the “Definitive Online Who’s Who of Zen.” The website aims to be a comprehensive archive of biographies of, interviews with, and teachings, videos, blogs and podcasts by Western Zen teachers from all the various and diverse lineages and traditions.

 

Adam Tebbe

Adam Tebbe and Sweeping Zen are now under assault, and everyone in the Buddhist community needs to be aware of the situation.

Here’s the story.

A former student of Ken McLeod’s, a Canadian social worker with a Ph.D. in philosophy, alleges that an inappropriate romantic and sexual relationship developed between her and Ken McLeod [1] the principal teacher and executive director of Unfettered Mind, an affair which contributed to the eventual dissolution of her marriage. In August, 2012 the former student published a copy of a letter which she sent to Unfettered Mind Board Member Robert Conrad discussing Ken McLeod’s and Unfettered Mind’s alleged unresponsiveness to her grievance about the relationship. The former student also established a website devoted to reforming the grievance procedure at Unfettered Mind.  She alleges that she is not the only one of Ken McLeod’s students to complain of an inappropriate relationship. In addition, one long-time member of the Unfettered Mind community has come forward to allege that he was present when Ken McLeod acknowledged that “emotional entanglement and physical intimacies” had in fact occurred.

So far this is just the story of an allegation and a grievance.  A sad set of circumstances, but a private matter that would not ordinarily be discussed in The Existential Buddhist.

How did Sweeping Zen get swept up into all of this?

In August 2012, Buddhist Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson, a Dharma heir in the Suzuki Roshi lineage and head teacher with the Central Valley Zen Foundation, posted an essay called Those Misbehaving Zen Monks in a Sweeping Zen hosted blog, a thoughtful and beautifully written essay which I whole-heartedly recommend to everyone. The article discusses misbehavior in Zen communities in general and concludes:

Buddhism has a long history of authentic practice and a long history of corruption, child sexual abuse in monasteries, war-mongering, and personal financial gain through accumulation of sangha resources. Along with all the Buddhist saints, you can read about these behaviors in Japanese history (Zen at War by Brian Victoria, and Lust for Enlightenment by John Stevens).  Through information, study and honest self-examination we may come out of our clouds and dreams about Zen practice, we may be more able to actually define, identify and establish a more wholesome and nourishing Western Zen.

Her lengthy essay includes one sole sentence referring to Ken McLeod, to wit:

 Recent disclosures about the sexual misconduct of Ken McLeod at Unfettered Mind… and Fusho Al Rapaport[2] of Open Mind Zen… point out how much help Buddhist teachers and their sanghas need to develop a wholesome practice in the West.”

Should her article have included the word “alleged” before the words “sexual misconduct?”  Prudence might have dictated it, but let’s move on.

As it turns out, Unfettered Mind Board Member Robert Conrad is also Ken McLeod’s personal attorney. He sent Adam Tebbe a letter stating:

This office represents Ken McLeod. I understand that you are the registered owner of
the domain name and website www.sweepingzen.org. I am enclosing a copy of my
 letter dated September 7, 2012, to Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson regarding her
 libelous article posted on the sweepingzen.org website on August 24, 2012, of and
concerning Ken McLeod. I have not received any response from Abbess Schireson and
surmise that she has ignored my letter to her – a potentially very costly mistake.

Demand is hereby made that you at once issue an open apology to Mr. McLeod, a
retraction of all statements made about him and delete all references to Mr. McLeod 
from the August 24, 2012 post by Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson….

Because the internet exists throughout the United States, the courts in Los Angeles,
California, have jurisdiction over you; should a lawsuit be filed, it will be filed here. I
 estimate that the legal cost of defending any libel action is likely to exceed $100,000, to 
say nothing of the damages you and your organization may sustain….

So Ken McLeod’s attorney is threatening Adam Tebbe and Sweeping Zen with an expensive lawsuit.

I don’t know what happened or didn’t happen between Ken McLeod and his former student. If McLeod is guilty of violating his role as teacher he should man up, admit imperfection, apologize, and learn from his mistakes. (Why is it so hard for Buddhist teachers to do just this?[3])  Regardless of the truth of the allegations, Unfettered Mind should establish an ethics code and a more transparent grievance procedure.

If McLeod is innocent of blame and responsibility, he should still call off his attack dog. In my opinion, threats and intimidation are no way for Buddhists to resolve their differences. Sweeping Zen is a great asset to the Buddhist community and Adam Tebbe labors tirelessly to bring important issues into the open for free and unfettered discussion. I suspect that Adam would happily allow Mr. McLeod to post his own open letter to Sweeping Zen explaining his position if Mr. McLeod wishes to do so.

There is a well known Zen story that provides some guidance on how to deal with false accusations of sexual misconduct.  The story concerns the famous Japanese  Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686 -1768)

A girl’s family lived near Zen Master Hakuin.  One day her parents discovered she was pregnant. The girl wouldn’t divulge the name of the father, but under duress finally blamed Hakuin. The parents accused Hakuin, who only replied “Is that so?”

Untroubled by the loss of his reputation, Hakuin raised the child himself.   A year later the girl confessed that the real father was a young man in the village. The parents apologized to Hakuin, requesting the child back. Hakuin only replied “Is that so?” as he returned the child.

Whatever the truth status of the former student’s allegations, threatening Sweeping Zen is an inappropriate action. Problems like these should be resolved through mediation if possible, and not by threats to third parties.

In the meantime, I encourage the Buddhist community to support Adam. Justin Whitaker has done a fine job reporting this story here and here in his American Buddhist Perspective. I hope we can continue to publicize this issue until Unfettered Mind realizes it is pursuing a counter-productive strategy. You can lend financial support to Sweeping Zen here.

 


Disclaimer: I have never met anyone associated with Unfettered Mind, have no special insight into what has occurred or not occurred there, and have never met Adam Tebbe in person.  Adam and I are Facebook friends, however, and he has previously generously allowed me to republish one of his cartoons without compensation.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Share
  1. [1] Ken McLeod is not a Zen teacher.  He trained extensively in a variety of Tibetan traditions and received authorization to teach from Kalu Rinpoche. Unfettered Mind is his own amalgam of Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada and Zen and not, to my knowledge, associated with any traditional lineage.
  2. [2] Fusho Al Rapaport at Open Mind Zen owned up to the allegation against him and took appropriate responsibility for his actions.
  3. [3] See my previous post here.

The Second Precept

The Second Buddhist Precept states simply:

I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.

Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

This means abstaining from taking what belongs to others — in other words, stealing. Unlike the Judeo-Christian Eighth Commandment, it’s not a divine edict.  It’s training in the practice of non-greed for the good of one’s character and for the happiness of oneself and others.

Most of us don’t go around breaking and entering, mugging, or shoplifting, so it would seem that abstaining from stealing should be a relatively easy matter — but it’s not. There are more subtle forms of theft — downloading and uploading copyrighted material without permission, underreporting cash income on one’s taxes, using ideas without attribution, bringing paper clips home from the office, inflating damage estimates for insurance reimbursement.  The temptation to petty larceny runs deep within the crooked human heart, and aspiring to impeccability requires some heavy lifting.

Corporations can also violate the Second Precept.  Ethical businesses obtain raw materials and labor at a fair price and create something of value which they sell at a fair price.  Ethical businesses also abstain from passing hidden costs along to stakeholders.  Companies that purchase raw materials from developing nations at unfair prices, exploit workers through unfair wages and working conditions, expose consumers to risk through unsafe products, and pollute the environment are engaging in a form of theft.  So are industries that systematically mislead others about the real costs of their products, for example, the health costs of tobacco and soft-drink consumption, or the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal, deep sea drilling for oil, hydrofracking for gas, or storing “spent” nuclear fuel in cooling ponds.

Governments can violate the Second Precept through unjust confiscatory taxation.  Zen Master Hakuin (1686-1769) railed against the typical Japanese Daimyo (feudal lord) of his day who lived:

“a life of the greatest luxury… with never a thought of the difficulties of the common people under him. From the blood and sweat he wrings from them he is able to fill his tables with fine sake….  As there is never enough money to satisfy such appetites, he ends up dispatching merciless ministers….  Not only do officials reckon the tax rate yearly, they also raise the rate two or three times during the same year.” [1]

Closer to our own time, the American revolution was fought over taxation without representation, and some present day third-world countries are governed by oligarchies so corrupt they can only be called “kleptocracies.”

Political conservatives sometimes claim taxation levels in the United States are confiscatory.  In fact, personal U.S. taxation levels are considerably lower than most Western European democracies.  Additionally, federal tax revenues currently constitute a smaller percentage of our gross domestic product than they did during the decade of the nineteen-fifties.

The Bush era tax cuts have, however, contributed to a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest Americans. This transfer is also a function of exponential increases in executive compensation while the hourly wages of American workers have declined.  Fortune 500 CEOs enjoyed a 23% increase in compensation in 2010 alone.  The wealthiest one percent of the country now owns 38% of all privately held stock, 60% of all financial assets, and 62% of all business equity, returning concentration of wealth to levels not seen since the Roaring Twenties and the Gilded Age. [2]  Current tax policy benefits the richest at the expense of improvements in infrastructure, education, and health care for all.

No doubt, the reasons for the increasing disparity in wealth are multiple and complex, including the globalization of the world economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs overseas, the decline of labor unions, the deregulation of the banking industry, the rising cost of energy, the failures of our educational system, and the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy.  The simple, unbridled exercise of human greed fits somewhere into the mix as well.  Not unexpectedly, the wealthy continue to vigorously advocate for a variety of policies (subsidies, incentives, tax write-offs, deregulation, union busting, shredding the social safety net, shifting medical risk from insurers to patients, ending the estate tax, hobbling Medicare’s bargaining power, etc.) that further accelerate the ongoing transfer of wealth.  We might also note that the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision gives the wealthy even more of an advantage in shifting the political playing field to their advantage.

The Second Precept applies to more than just the theft of property and wealth, however.  It can also apply to the giving and receiving of affection, attention, and caring in personal relationships and the sharing of tasks and responsibilities within them.  Most imbalances within relationships are not regulated by law and some are reinforced by prevailing customs, making it easier to fail to recognize them when they occur, and allowing their justification since “everyone does it.”  Focusing on the needs of our partners and dependents more than our own is an important part of Buddhist practice.  We might consider replacing the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us” with the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would wish to be treated.”  This isn’t to suggest one should neglect one’s own needs — self-compassion is important too.  As Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be?  If I am not for others, what am I?”  It’s just that most of us are so self-focused that a little overcompensation in the other direction couldn’t hurt!   Is it possible to give more of ourselves emotionally — to be more generous than we are at present — without resentment — without fearing we might give more than we get in return?  Can we make that our ongoing practice?

The beauty of the Precepts is that they turn all our interactions into fields of practice in a way solitary sitting never can.  They allow us to explore the degree to which we express integrity, generosity, and compassion in our daily lives.  In following the Second Precept we aspire to more than mere equity, the fair giving of tit-for-tat, but to being open-hearted, caring, and mindful of the needs of others.

Thich Nhat Hanh has rewritten and expanded the Second Precept to make its intention clearer:

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

The beauty of Thay’s reformulation is that it turns a negative — abstaining from stealing and avoiding greed  — into a positive — the practice of generosity along with genuine activity to reduce individual and systemic suffering.

In discussing his reformulation in depth, Thay adds:

“When you practice one precept deeply, you will discover that you are practicing all five. The First Precept is about taking life, which is a form of stealing — stealing the most precious thing someone has, his or her life. When we meditate on the Second Precept, we see that stealing, in the forms of exploitation, social injustice, and oppression, are acts of killing — killing slowly by exploitation, by maintaining social injustice, and by political and economic oppression. Therefore, the Second Precept has much to do with the precept of not killing. We see the “interbeing” nature of the first two precepts. This is true of all Five Precepts.”

Buddhist practice is truly holographic — every part of the practice contains and reflects every other part of the practice.  If all we do is practice the Second Precept, we are decreasing self-aggrandizement, increasing generosity, increasing mindful awareness of our greed, grasping, and self-justification, and increasing awareness of how we depend on and influence the interconnected web of existence.

Not a bad payoff for one simple precept.

 

 

 

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Share
  1. [1] Katushiro Yoshizawa (2009). The Religious Art of Zen Master Hakuin. Berkeley: Counterpoint.
  2. [2] http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

Borscht Belt Zen

When did this post begin?  Some would say it began with the Big Bang.

Once the universe was set in motion, this blog post became as inevitable as the formation of the solar system, the emergence of life and consciousness, and Doug Adams’ creation of the Improbability Drive.

I personally think it began in 1966.  That was the year that the legendary Alan Watts, the renowned Buddhist[1] interpreter, psychedelic advocate, and alcoholic, arrived at my small East-coast liberal arts college to give a series of talks.

It’s said we are born anew every moment, that every moment is a turning point, a hinge of fate.  Attending Alan Watts’s talks was certainly a turning point in my life, although I couldn’t have known it at the time.

For one thing, it marked the beginning of a life-long interest in Buddhism.  See Exhibit A:

That’s a photo of me reading D.T. Suzuki’s Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism in 1966 taken by my father.  I might not be a Buddhist if it hadn’t been for Alan Watts.  He was my Dharma door.  His talks also sparked an interest in psychedelics, and later that year, while it was still legal, I prepared for taking LSD using The Psychedelic Experience, the Leary-Alpert-Metzner adaptation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as my Frommer’s guide.  Shortly thereafter I read the Evans-Wentz translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead which introduced me both to Tibetan Buddhism and C. G. Jung (who wrote the introduction to the book).  My ensuing interest in Jung helped spark a growing interest in psychology. I became a Psychology major in 1968.  One thing leads to another.

In the same year Alan Watts visited my school, I befriended a fellow undergraduate named Art who was an aspiring comic book artist.  We collaborated together on three projects that year.  The first was a sophomoric underground comic strip that caused a minor scandal on campus.  The second was a dreadful campus radio satire of Star Trek in which Captain James T. Kirk battled a creature made of pure lethargy.  The third is the only one I really remember with any degree of clarity.  (I know, anyone who remembers the sixties wasn’t really there!)

Those of us with a rapidly approaching sell-by date will remember Mutt and Jeff.  

Mutt and Jeff was a multi-panel comic strip created by Bud Fisher in 1908 that remained in syndication until 1987.  Mutt’s the tall one, Jeff’s the short one, and Bud Fisher’s the well-heeled chump on the left.

Inspired by our interest in Zen, Art and I came up with a four-panel Mutt and Jeff homage based on “Joshu’s Dog” — Case Number One in the Mumonkan. In the first panel Mutt asks Jeff if a dog has a Buddha-nature.  In the second panel, Mutt replies “wu!” In the third panel Mutt glares at Jeff with daggers in his eyes.  In the final panel we see poor Jeff in a garbage can with a blackened eye and a banana peel resting on his head.  Early twentieth century Zen Masters could be quite fierce!

 

If my memory serves me correctly, the cartoon eventually appeared in the East Village Other around 1967, but I could be mistaken.  In any case, it seems to have subsequently disappeared. Neither Art nor I have a copy, and I’ve been unable to locate it on the internet.  Like a Tibetan sand painting, it exemplifies impermanence.  Art and I never collaborated on any further projects.  We went our separate ways.  I went on to graduate school.  Art went on to invent the genre of the graphic novel and win the Pulitzer Prize.

The Mutt and Jeff cartoon exemplified the vaudevillian quality of the Zen koan.  I’m currently reading Andy Ferguson’s monumental Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings that was just reissued by Wisdom Publications.  The book covers 25 generations of Chinese Ch’an teachers, which means an awful lot of baffling Zen stories drawn primarily from the Compendium of Five Lamps by the eleventh century Zen Master Dachuan Lingyin Puji.  The Mutt and Jeff cartoon keeps returning to my mind as I read them.  Some of these Zen stories would have made wonderful routines for Borscht Belt comedians. The following is a current favorite of mine.  As you read it, just imagine Groucho as Zhizang:

After Zhizang became abbot of the Western Hall, a layperson asked him, “Is there a heaven and a hell?”

Zhizang said, “There is.”

The layman then asked, “Is there really a Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha — the three jewels?”

Zhizang said, “There are.”

The layman then asked several other questions, and to each Zhizang answered, “There are.”

The layman said “Is the master sure there’s no mistake about this?”

Zhizang said, “When you visited other teachers, what did they say?”

The layman said, “I once visited Master Jingshan.”

Zhizang said, “What did Jingshan say to you?”

The layman said, “He said there wasn’t a single thing.”

Zhizang said, “Do you have a wife and children?”

The layman said, “Yes.”

Zhizang said, “Does Master Jingshan have a wife and children?”

The layman said, “No.”

Zhizang said, “Then it’s okay for Jingshan to say there isn’t a single thing.”

The layman bowed, thanking Zhizang, and went away.

It’s a great joke.  It has a terrific build up, and Zhizang’s timing’s impeccable.

The story points to the reality of both absolute and relative truth.  Zhizang and Jingshan teach the same Zen, but Jingshan does it from the vantage point of absolute truth, Zhizang from relative truth.  The joke is that it’s all well and good to dwell on the mountain top of oneness if you don’t have a wife or kids.  If you do, however, you have to come down and dwell in the world of the ten thousand things.

It reminds me of Zen Master Hakuin’s colophon to his painting of Eaglehead Mountain:

 

“Looking above, Eaglehead Mountain —
Looking below, the fishing boats of Shige and Shishihama.”

We have to coordinate the heights of the mountain top with the view below — both equally valid views.  If you stay at the top you risk altitude sickness.  If you just stay in your little fishing boat, you miss the glorious heights.

 

I love Zen because it has a sense of humor.  It follows Oscar Wilde’s advice that “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

Everything is of the utmost importance.  We do everything with care, attentiveness, and concern.  We just carry the importance lightly.

Sometimes jokes in the West also contain serious messages.

I love the following joke for what it has to say about humility often being egotism in disguise, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing:

“It was Yom Kippur and the cantor left the standard liturgy to improvise before the congregation.  “I’m nothing,” he cried out.  “God, I’m like a worm crawling on his belly, like dust beneath your feet.”  He began to wail and rend his clothing.  Hearing him, all the rich congregants in the expensive seats in the front of the Synagogue took up his cries of piety.  ”Forgive us, dear God.  We’re nothing.  We’re lower than the low.”  And they too began to wail and rend their garments.  Hearing this, little Mottel the Tailor in the cheap seats way in the back echoed the cry of humility.  “Oh, God,” he said, “I’m lower than the lowest vermin.  I’m garbage!  I’m nothing!”  With this the congregation stopped its prayers and stared at Mottel.  “Who is he,” the rabbi said incensed, “to think he’s nothing?”

Who is Jingshan to think there’s not a single thing?

 

 

Technorati Tags: , ,

Share
  1. [1] Watts wasn’t strictly a “Buddhist” interpreter.  He expoused a mixture of Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism, and sometimes his understanding of Zen was a litle idiosyncratic.  Nevertheless he was a brilliant and inspired speaker who did much to familiarize Westerners with Eastern Philosophy.

On Hakuin, Hotei, and Mice

Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768) took up brush painting in the last decades of his life.  He was a prolific artist producing over 1,000 brushwork scrolls.  His painting and calligraphy were more than a creative pastime, however:  they were an expression of his enlightenment and a new way of teaching the Dharma to the lay community. His art transcended the boundaries between high and low, sacred and profane, serious and playful, and verbal and visual.  They are the very essence of “no separation.”  His rough, simple brushstrokes were also a natural expression of Zen spontaneity and Japanese aesthetics.

Take the following scroll as an example:

The happy fellow on the right is Hotei.  In Chinese folklore he’s an eccentric Zen monk and the epitome of contentment.  His name means “cloth sack,” because he carries all his belongings in a bindle wherever he goes.  He also stuffs the sack with donations of food and clothing from laymen, and candy to give to children — a veritable fat, jolly, Asian Santa Claus.  In this picture, Hotei himself is in his bag — and some have noted  that the bag is a kind of ensō or Zen circle symbolizing Enlightenment, non-duality, and/or emptiness.  Non-Buddhist Westerners often confuse Hotei with the historical Buddha, and the Chinese themselves sometimes refer to him as The Laughing Buddha.  Some believe he is an earthly manifestation of the bodhisattva Maitreya.  Legend has it that when Hotei died, he recited the following verse:

Maitreya, the true Maitreya

Has billions of incarnations.

Often he is shown to people at the time;

Other times they do not recognize him.

Hotei also serves duty as one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Good Fortune — the god of abundance and good health.

That’s a lot of weight for that happy little guy to carry in his bindle!

There’s a Zen story about Hotei.  When asked “What’s the significance of Zen?” he put his sack down on the ground.  When then asked “What’s the actualization of Zen?” he picked his sack back up and walked away.  Clever Hotei!  The very essence of Zen — letting go and dropping off whatever we’re holding.  The very actualization of Zen — drawing water and chopping wood.  Hotei lives life at the crosshairs of the Absolute and the Relative.  A lot like Hakuin himself.

When Hotei was not busy being all these things, he served double duty as Hakuin’s alter-ego and his Everyman.   While Hakuin’s Hotei is a spiritual fellow and sits zazen, he also enjoys the pleasures of secular life.  In painting after painting we see him puffing on a pipe (and what comes out of the pipe is not a smoke ring, but the prostitute Otufuko!), flying up in the air as a kite, playing go, riding a colt, playing kickball, and street juggling.

In the above painting, Hotei is watching mice sumo wrestling.  The colophon on the scroll simply reads “this is where mice do sumo.” [1]  With the rise of the merchant class in 17th century Japan, professional sumo groups were organized to entertain merchants and commoners, and Sumo wrestling moved from the Imperial Court into the public arena.  As a boy growing up in a post station on the well-traveled Tokaido road, Hakuin would have been very familiar with sumo.

The painting shows two mice rikishi (wrestlers) with an officiating mouse gyōgi (referee) holding a traditional gunbai (wooden war fan).

Gunbai from Edo era

Sumo grew out of Shinto ritual and rikishi live very regimented lives.  In Hakuin’s day they were mostly rōnin (itinerant masterless samurai) trying to support themselves.  Today’s rikishi live in communal “stables” called heya where every aspect of their lives is governed by ritual and tradition.  The first rudimentary heya appeared towards the end of Hakuin’s lifetime.  During Hakuin’s era, rikishi took part in ten-day kanjin-zumo tournaments where money was raised for Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Woodblock of an Edo era heya

Hakuin is having fun here, but to what purpose?   All of his other scrolls have a Zen message, but the message in this scroll seems somewhat obscure.

Could Hakuin have been alluding to parallels between the activities of rikishi and monks?  Is Zen training like rikishi training in some way?  Is sumo a metaphor for zazen?  Could Hakuin have been making fun of sumo by turning the huge wrestlers into small mice?  Is Hakuin showing that enlightened beings live with contentment in the world of the ten thousand things?  Do the black and white mice represent yin and yang — two, but not two?   It all seems so far-fetched, and I have to confess, I have no idea. Maybe, dear reader, you know more about this scroll than I do.  I saw it last month at the Japan Society’s exhibit of Hakuin’s painting and calligraphy called The Sound of One Hand. It’s puzzled me ever since.  I’d love to hear your suggestions as to its significance.  In the meantime I’ll just enjoy it.  It makes me smile.

P.S.  I thought these mice bore a certain family resemblance to another group of anthropomorphic mice — the Ashkenazic mice of Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

When I asked Art about any possible family resemblance, he only suggested that Hakuin’s mice must be Israeli mice because of their martial arts prowess — definitely not diaspora mice!

P.P.S.  My brush painting Dharma friend Toinette Lippe sent me some of her own mice just to demonstrate that not all Japanese mice are anthropomorphic.

If you like Toinette’s mice you can see more of her beautiful work here

Technorati Tags: , ,

Share
  1. [1] Many thanks to Professor Stephen Addiss, co-curator of the recent Japan Society Hakuin exhibition, for translating this colophon for me.