A Spirit's Journey ...

Artist's Statement for the portfolio, A Spirit's Journey in Japan Most Japanese consider themselves both Shinto and Buddhist at different times and places. They are said to be born Shinto and die Buddhist. Shinto rituals are traditional at birth, marriage, and festivals. Buddhism is practiced at solemn events like funerals. Shinto worshipers are moved by awe and reverence rather than piety, ethics, or doctrine. Mythological spirits (kami) are believed to inhabit rocks, trees, and animals and are both revered and feared. Rituals, like purification rites, are ways of communicating with kami. Buddhism is based upon the verbal discourses of the historical Buddha, the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama. He believed that all life involves suffering that is caused by attachment, desire, and ignorance. Release from suffering can be attained (Nirvana). Mahayana Buddhism was imported into Japan from China and Korea. It teaches that especially enlightened saints, known as bodhisattvas (Bosatsu in Japanese), are capable of attaining release from the round of birth and death, but chose to remain incarnations of Buddha (Nyorai in Japanese) in order to assist other beings. The best known Buddha, Amida, is the protector of the human race and revered by "Pure Land" Buddhists. Kannon Bosatsu, one of Amida's two companions is an especially revered bodhisattva that appears in seven forms. She embodies compassion. Her task is to listen to the prayers of those in difficulty and assist them in achieving liberation. Another much loved bodhisattva is Jizo Bosatsu, recognizable as a monk with a six-ringed staff in his hand. He is the patron of travelers and appears along roadsides. He is also the protector of children, and his statues are often adorned with caps, red bibs, and toys. Zen Buddhism, in contrast to Mahayana Buddhism, shuns scripture and doctrine and emphasizes self-discipline and meditation (zazen). Zen has inspired the arts of calligraphy, painting (sumi-e) poetry (haiku), garden design, flower arrangement (Ikebana), and the tea ceremony. Zen is as much Taoist as Buddhist. This ancient "Way" cannot be described adequately here except by "pointing" to it:   The student learns by daily increment   The Way is gained by daily loss,   Loss upon loss until   At last comes rest.    Tao Te Ching, no. 11, from Blakney My immersion in religion and spirituality arose from the smell of sawdust floors in open-air "brush arbors" of the rural South—a world of ecstatic "speaking in foreign tongues," casting-out of demons, and visions of fire and brimstone. This experience crystallized into one Biblical passage: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light." Within the first week after arriving on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, I bought The Way of Life—Lao-Tzu, translated by R.B. Blakney (1955) and The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts (1957). After over 40 years of studying Eastern religions, I finally traveled to Japan and produced "A Spirit's Journey in Japan." It was profoundly moving to photograph places where the religious devotion I respected so much had originated and developed. I felt myself to be a wandering pilgrim on a spiritual quest. I was constantly aware that, as with other religions, the sacred places are just the containers of "the Way."   With a wall all around   A clay bowl is moulded;   But the use of the bowl   Will depend on the part   Of the bowl that is void.   Cut out windows and doors   In the house that you build;   But the use of the house   Will depend on the space   Between the walls that is void.    Tao Te Ching, no. 48, from Blakney
Bibliography Blakney, R.B. (trans). The Way of Life—Lao Tzu. New York: New American Library, Inc., 1955. Cleary, Thomas (trans). The Secret of the Golden Flower. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991. Mitchell, Stephen (trans). Tao Te Ching. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. Watts, Alan W., The Way of Zen. New York: New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1957.       ****** My heartfelt thanks to my cousin, Tom McDonald, and his wife, Shinko Kageyama McDonald, for making my trip to Japan possible. In particular, I want to thank Shinko for being such a gracious hostess, tour guide, translator, and sociologist!