Friday, November 28, 2008

Some meme to die for?

I was flipping through a pamphlet I found the other day at my university and came across the following well known hymn written by the Buddhist thinker Shinran:



Such is the benevolence of Amida's great compassion,
That we must strive to return it, even to the breaking of our bodies;
Such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers,
That we must endeavor to repay it, even to our bones becoming dust.

The introduction to the pamphlet states that this hymn expresses the fundamental spirit of Shin Buddhism. Read the hymn again carefully--do you feel a twinge of discomfort?

Doesn't anyone around me see that these ideas are only a few steps away from the death cult mentality? Are religious ideas worth dying for? I'm glad that the Shin Buddhists I know only play lip service to their religious beliefs. They sure get a kick out of propagating these memes though.

Maybe you think I'm going too far. What's wrong with repaying gratitude? I can comprehend working hard to repay the generosity of one's "master" or "true teacher," whatever that means, but the benevolence of Amida? Where is this benevolence? I haven't seen it. What does a statement like "the benevolence of Amida" even mean? Are empty concepts like Amida worth "breaking our bodies" for? Is this any different from saying you will die for the ideals of scientology?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.8)

RV 2.12.8

ya/ṃ kra/ndasī saṃyatī/ vihva/yete
pa/re a/vara ubha/yā ami/trāḥ
samāna/ṃ cid ra/tham ātasthivāṁsā
nā/nā havete sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui que les deux armées-hurlantes, se heurtant, appellent de façon distincte,
étant (l'une) en deçà, (l'autre) au-delà, l'une et l'autre ennemies (entre elles),
--bien que les deux (hommes) soient montés sur un même char,
ils appellent (Indra) séparément-- celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.

Geldners Übersetzung:

Den zwei Schlachthaufen, wenn sie aneinander geraten, anrufen,
die beiderseitigen Feinde hüben und drüben--
auch die zwei, die den gleichen Wagen bestiegen haben,
rufen ihn jeder besonders an--der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.



My translation:

Whom the two roaring armies call on [in their various ways] when they clash;
[Whom] both foes, [being] far and near, [call on];
Though [they both] have mounted the self-same chariot,
They call [on him] in separate ways: He, O men, is Indra!

This verse reminds me of two sports teams (or two political parties!) who conceitedly pray to the same Christian god in the hope that he will bring about their victory. Isn't it odd that you never see the losers get pissed off at the sky daddy after the game--the hypocrisy is quickly and conveniently forgotten.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

White noise

Just got back this evening from a series of presentations at my university. Three 3rd-year PhD students gave their presentations on different aspects of Buddhist Studies. Some of the presentations were mildly thought-provoking but nothing really eye-opening.

Buddhism has a long history, and an incredible variety of philosophical speculation has been done in its name. But it strikes me that this speculation is nothing more than that--just empty speculation. The worldview of Buddhism could be seen as being internally consistent, but that is not saying much. One has to accept on face value the existence of certain propositions to make the system seem viable. This is what bothers me about Buddhism and the field of Buddhist Studies.

Another thing that gets on my nerves is that many scholars of Buddhism see it as something with great significance for our so-called "material" age. They have the attitude that there is something really meaningful that Buddhism has to say, and we should get down to the bottom of it. So many of us are programmed to see the "spiritual," whatever that is, as all that is meaningful and good in the world.

A surprising number of humanities scholars have views about human nature that don't stand up to what modern scientific research is uncovering about us. Buddhism essentially sees the human mind as something that can be freely molded through certain processes of mental training, a process that leads, according to some sects, to complete emancipation from subjective forms of suffering. But is this really how the mind and our subjective states really are? Are there actually "enlightened" people? It seems like so much empty speculation, but it is something that so many people want to believe is true. We want to believe that it all has a meaning and that we won't have to face annihilation.

The rhetoric of Buddhism is misleading. By creating a detailed fantasy realm with concepts about the world and human experience, by giving complex definitions and classifications of concepts that have no real referents and then debating and refining these concepts over the course of history, Buddhism gives the believer the illusion that these concepts are describing an actual reality. If you repeat the memes over and over again, they start to take on a life of their own!

But all of this is just white noise to me now. And it seems pointless to research white noise. While I grant that studying Buddhism academically is important to find out about how people have thought about things over time, in terms of relevance to real life, it is like painstakingly researching the history of the hobbit community in the Lord of the Rings series. I simply can't help but feeling this way about religious white noise such as this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.7)

RV 2.12.7

ya/syā/śvāsaḥ pradi/ṣi ya/sya gā/vo
ya/sya grā/mā ya/sya vi/śve ra/thāsaḥ
ya/ḥ sū/r(i)yam ya/ uṣa/saṃ jajā/na
yo apā/ṁ netā/ sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui sous le commandement duquel (sont) les chevaux, duquel les vaches,
duquel les fantassins, duquel tous les chars,
qui a engendré le soleil,
qui (est) le guide des eaux, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Unter dessen Befehl die Rosse, die Rinder,
die Dorfmannschaften und alle Wagen stehen,
der die Sonne, die Morgenröte erschaffen hat,
der der Leiter der Gewässer--der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.



My translation:

Under whose command the horses, the kine,
The village troops, and all chariots [lie];
Who has engendered the sun and the [red] dawns;
Who is the leader of the waters: He, O men, is Indra!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.6)

RV 2.12.6

yo/ radhra/sya coditā/ ya/ḥ kṛśa/sya
yo/ brahma/ṇo nā/dhamānasya kīre/ḥ
yukta/grāvṇo yo/ avitā/ suśipra/ḥ
suta/somasya sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui qui (est) l'incitateur du lent, qui (l'est) du maigre,
qui (l'est) du tenant de formules qui implore, étant faible(ment inspiré),
qui est l'auxiliaire de (l'homme) qui a attelé les pierres-presseuses,
qui a pressé le soma, (ce dieu) aux belles lèvres, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Der dem Schwachen, der dem Kranken,
der dem notleidenden armen Priester Mut macht,
der dem beisteht, der die Preßsteine in Gebrauch nimmt und Soma keltert,
mit der schönen (Trinker-)Lippe -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


ソーマを搾りたる者の、髯美しき支援者、〜 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

Who is the inciter (prime mover?) of the obedient, who [is the inciter] of the feeble,
Who [is the inciter] of the poet priest [who prays] seeking aid,
Who, with beautiful [flushed] lips, is the protector of the joiner of the pressing stones,
He who has extracted the soma: He, O men, is Indra!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.5)

RV 2.12.5

ya/ṃ smā pṛcha/nti ku/ha se/ti ghora/m
ute/m āhur na/iṣo/ astī/ti enam
so/ 'rya/ḥ puṣṭī/r vi/ja ivā/ mināti
śra/d asmai dhatta sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Lui sur lequel on s'interroge: "où est-il?"
et l'on dit de lui (en réponse): "il n'existe pas"
c'est lui qui amenuise comme des enjeux (mauvais) les prospérités de l'étranger,
faites lui crédit! celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Nach dem sie fragen: Wo ist er?
--nach dem Furchtbaren, und sie sagen von ihm: 'Er ist nicht'--
er läßt die Reichtümer des großen Herrn verschwinden wie (der Glücksspieler) die (schlechten) Würfel,
glaubt an ihn-- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


~しかして彼につき人々はいう、「彼は存在せず」と ~
彼を信ぜよ ~ 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

The terrible one about whom they (unbelievers) [skeptically] ask: "Where is he?"
And the one about whom they have said: "He is not."
He, like a [lost] wager [of a gambler], whittles away the wealth of the enemy,
Place [your] trust in him--he, O men, is Indra!

Rig Veda 10.136.1-7

Recited from memory (I made a few mistakes, but this stuff is tough!)
Meter: Anuṣṭubh (iambic cadence)

My rough translation:

(1) The long-haired one [carries] the fire, the long-haired one [carries] the poison (potion), the long-haired one supports both heaven and earth (the "weepers"), the long-haired one shows the sunlight to all--[thus] the long-haired one is called this light.

(2) The ascetics, wind-belted, are wearing brown and dirty [garments]; they follow the rush of the wind as soon as the gods take possession [of them].

(3) Ecstatic in [our] state as ascetics, we are standing on the winds; You mortals look only at our bodies.

(4) He flies through the atmospheric space, peering down on all forms; the ascetic, companion of god after god, [is] fit for benevolent acts.

(5) The horse of the wind, the companion of the breeze, and also the ascetic sent by the gods. [He] dwells [in peace] over both oceans--that in the east and that in the west.

(6) Moving around the stomping grounds of the nymphs, the gandharvas, and the wild animals, the long-haired one knows [their] intention. He is the sweet companion, the most intoxicated one.

(7) The breeze churned [the soma] up for him. Kunamnamā used to grind [the grain for the drink]. The long-haired one just drank of the poison from [his] bowl, when Rudra [drank] with him.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Agua e Vinho

I recorded my arrangement of Egberto Gismonti's Agua e Vinho, a lovely ballad from his 1972 album of the same name.

Unfortunately, I have never heard the original composition. It's hard to get one's hands on older Gismonti recordings. I made this arrangement by ear based on some piano and guitar performances that I heard.

The piece is tricky to pull off well on the guitar, yet I believe it is relatively simple for the piano.

I'd like to do some other arrangements of Gismonti's music. Loro is one of my favorites right now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recent Performances

Our guitar duo had a couple of concerts over these last few days.

On Friday we played at the reception of Yamazaki Ryo's sculpture exhibition. It was at a gallery near Mototanaka Station called Sukaboro. Around 30-40 people showed up. We performed for about 20 minutes at the beginning of the reception. This was our program:

1. Granados: Spanish Dance No. 2
2. Morricone: New Cinema Paradise
3. Fujii Keigo (arr.): Jag vet in Delig Rosa
4. Fujii Keigo (arr.): Genkotsu Yama no Passacaglia

On Monday we played at Entokuin, a subtemple of Kodaiji. We played the same program as above before the priest's lecture. There were around 70-80 (?) people there. The setting was quite lovely. To our front was a smallish rock garden surrounded by mossy rocks and small trees.

It has been a while since we have played in public, so I felt a bit stiff. But the performance was fairly good overall. I was reminded of the importance of performing regularly in public.

Our next performance will be on the 25th of this month!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.4)

RV 2.12.4

ye/nemā/ vi/śvā cya/vanā kṛtā/ni
yo/ dā/saṃ va/rṇam a/dharaṃ gu/hā/kaḥ
śvaghnī/va yo/ jigīvā/ṁ lakṣa/m ā/dad
arya/ḥ puṣṭā/ni: sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Lui par qui tous ces exploits (ont été) faits,
qui a fait (en sorte que) la race dāsa (fût) en bas (comme) en cachette,
qui, comme un joueur-heureux qui a vaincu (enlève) la mise,
a enlevé les prospérités de l'étranger, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Durch den alle diese Umwälzungen geschehen sind,
der die dasische Rasse unterworfen und verdunkelt hat,
der die Reichtümer des großen Herrn wegnahm wie ein
siegreicher Glücksspieler den hohen Einsatz -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


-- 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

By whom all these transformations were made;
Who subjected and pushed into hiding the Dāsa race;
Who, like a victorious dice-player [winning] the prize,
Took the wealth of the enemy: He, O men, is Indra!