Illumine Your Own Heart: Words of Rengetsu

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If you want to

Extend the light

Of the Dharma

Let it first illumine

Your own heart.

Rengetsu

Rengetsu’s Waka poem, a traditional form similar to Haiku, reminds us that we can only bring compassion to the world with the healing of our own hearts.

The Dharma represents the teachings of the Buddha and the truth he brought to the world, how compassion flows out of clear seeing that lifts the delusion of our separation from others.

I can only imagine the statue of the young girl at the entrance to Chion-in, an  temple complex in Kyoto, represents the pure heart with which we enter this world.

Female imagery at Buddhist temple sites in Kyoto is uncommon and remarkable when it appears.  It appeared that this figure had a quieting effect on the visitors as they walked toward the entrance gates.  I wondered if it represented Rengetsu, who was raised by a kindly monk within the temple of Chion-in over two centuries ago.

Please let me know what you know of this lovely statue!

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TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

FREE Talk/Slides: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

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Responding to Nature: What the Video Editor saw

When I first started imagining a video for my Indiegogo campaign to promote The Female Buddha book a good friend suggested I work with Bill Woolery, an accomplished editor of film trailers.  Lucky for me he had switched to making trailers for documentaries after many years working commercial films in Hollywood.  Some of them quite well known!

I sent him most of the photos from my book and he immediately began seeing a nature theme and used most of my work from Japan, where gardens were the best place to get a stunning shot of the Bodhisattva, Kwannon or Guanyin as she is known in China.

For me, nature has a feminine quality, a place where you are inspired and have to yield to her whims.  In Japan, a temple is always surrounded by the beauty of the natural world.  In the garden is where Kwannon always resides, to welcome you and offer you peace of mind.

I feel very blessed to have Bill’s creative mix of images to show you here.  Please take the time to watch the trailer and if you are inspired buy a book or contact Bill to make your own video.  I learned a lot from what he chose to use to tie the piece together and feel very blessed to have a nature loving man on my team.

Steps to the Temple

Kyoto Temple Steps

For more information go to http://www.thefemalebuddha.com

Be the Lotus: Emerging From the Mire

Lotus Buds

Don’t you know that afflictions are nothing more

than wisdom?

And that the purest of blossoms emerges from

the mire?

  Benming

Lotus Buds, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus represents the interdependent nature of samsara and nirvana, or suffering and enlightenment. Blooming out of the muck and mire of worldly existence into a pure, beautiful flower, the lotus blossom represents the enlightened mind.  The lotus bud symbolizes inner purity and our potential to awaken at any moment.

Lotus Bud Bouquets, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus buds have begun to open and will be bought by individuals and families to offer at temple sites through out Bangkok.
Mother and Daughter offering Lotus Flowers

Mother and Daughter Offerings, Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok

These two women offer individual lotus blossoms, incense and candles at an altar to Guanyin within the Royal Palace complex in Bangkok.  The presence of Guanyin figures at sites in Thailand is seen in large cities where Chinese practitioners also come to visit. Guanyin is becoming an important figure for a growing number of Thai women.

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Dear friends,

The Female Buddha book is available this Christmas!

You can receive a signed gift copy by donating through the Indigogo Campaign beginning Nov 1. through Dec 7.  Other valuable gifts include notecards, photographic prints and a weekend workshop in February.

Go to www.thefemalebuddha.com to see the offerings. Be the first to receive a book  and support a great cause.

Yours most appreciatively, Deborah

P.S. don’t miss the Discovering the Female Buddha slide presentation and lecture in Boulder on Fri, Nov 2, 7 – 9 pm.  READ MORE

Deborah Bowman with Guanyin statue

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see more images at www.thefemalebuddha.com  or  www.luminousbuddha.com

More Poems from Rengetsu: Touching in and Letting Go

To forget the chill of

The frozen hearth

I spend the night

Dreaming of gathering

Violets in a lush field.

 

The Japanese nun Rengetsu gathers violets in every poem she writes.  In the poem Winter Dreams she captures moments by plucking the petals of her memories one magic moment at a time.

 

To recall the verdant colors of spring in the depth of winter is an expression of faith in the seed of Buddha-nature and the lush field of our heart and mind.

 

When the Dalai Lama describes emptiness as fullness he helps us grasp the fertility of space.  The violets arise against an empty palette, fill the canvas as we gather them in a beautiful bouquet and disperse in the next sweet, sad lapse of time.

 

The evanescence of

This floating world

I feel over and over:

It is the hardest

To be the one left behind.

 

In Thirty Years After my Husband’s Death we enter into a loving sanctum as she reflects on her loss and feast in the vastness of her broken open heart. Her words dance on the razors edge of bliss and emptiness, one image a flash of ecstasy, the next of letting go.

 

 

Clad in back robes

I should have no attractions to

The shapes and scents of this world

But how can I keep my vows

Gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?

 

Set against the autumnal blaze of the maple leaves Rengetsu’s non-attachment to the effervescent floating word is reflected in her black robe. We see through her contemplative eyes the brilliant juxtaposition of the longing of the human heart and clear awareness.

 

Who else but a poet could evoke the bounty of the void so well?  As a sky dancer her word play evokes a tango.  The seduction is so acute and the beauty so sublime. In this last poem, As a Nun Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn she touches in and lets go.  Touches in and lets go.    

 

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

Japanese Nun Rengetsu: A Poetic Movement of Mind


Western Kyoto temple grounds

Taking up the brush

Just for the joy of it,

Writing on and on,

Leaving behind

Long lines of dancing letters.

To escape into the world of writing is no escape.  I’m sitting in a plane about to launch for Japan reading Rengetsu’s word play.  She is one of the reasons why I endure long flights to see through the imagined eyes of another time and place.

Her five-line waka poem, The Pleasure of Calligraphy celebrates a rhythmic moment of flow, a movement of mind expressed in beauty.  She writes blissfully as ink captures the grace of nature at work in her discipline.

I write as if awkwardly learning a new language, two phrases forward and the next, scratched out.  I’m slowly learning to trust the flow of my mind: noting what thoughts pop forward, which get edited out.

The calligraphy of Rengetsu is masterful.  Her brushstrokes confident and rounded as if they were grass bending sensuously in the breeze.  Her hand is steady into her eighties.

I write in fits and starts. Pleased in the end that I’ve gotten anything coherent on paper.  Her genius is her total alignment with nature pure and direct.

She shatters my stereotype of the nun divorced from delight.  Her joy breaks all bounds as she fearlessly leaps off the page and into my heart.

The roar of the waterfall,

The howl of a

Mountain storm—

Will they shout out to me

Until morning?

In Mountain Retreat her words plunge over the abyss of my insomnia.  She implores us to pay attention to the deafening roar of our inherently wild nature.

I must listen to the terror lurking in my sleepless heart.  Rengetsu powerfully frames awakening with awe struck wonder. Here she portrays life in relentless yet captivating terms.

Her question points to our all too human fear.  Do I have the capacity?  Can I reside in the storm moment-to-moment?  Or will I contract into a dreaded future?

The choice to shout-out the beauty and the terror is ours.  In her poetic howl we can guess Rengetsu embraces the night with valor. I cannot resist her invitation to celebrate it all.

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

Light: Haiku, Poetry and the “Aha” Moment

Watching the moon

at midnight,

solitary, mid-sky,

I knew myself completely,

no part left out.

Izumi Shikibu, Women in Praise of the Sacred Anthology

Share the details of an “aha” moment.  What sparked your experience of awe or wholeness?  What literature or art captures your longing for deep knowing?

                                                                 

                                                                     ~*~

Late last spring I was teaching Nature and Art, a class I imagined for the Wilderness Therapy program at Naropa University that is now in it’s tenth year.  Fourteen of us gathered at Sawhill Ponds, a reclaimed gravel pit outside of Boulder that is home to fox and nesting Great Horned Owls.

After sharing the voices of Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver and haiku artists, I send my students out to find the “just right spot” to spend the next 45 minutes contemplating and writing their own verses. 

Dead tired, I thought about lazing in the sun while the students worked their words.  I’d led this exercise many times on the banks of a rushing river or by a placid lake like the one I claimed that day.

Some of my favorite word-smithing has occurred on these occasions yet the rebel inside kept nagging me to chill.  Laying down and closing my eyes the sun melted my last resistance. Then hearing a birdcall, I sat up and looked across the lake where a massive cottonwood was speaking to me.

I began taking dictation; none of my usual crossing out and backtracking scribbles sprawling across the page.  Here are the phrases that flew out of my pen:

Cottonwood speak to me

Tell me of your majesty

Your mighty arms dance

Is it Butoh?

You stand where others have fallen

Fierce beauty with green buds

on ancient twisted limbs

Teach me Zen Master

Your grace withstanding storms

When the lightning strikes

will you split open

and share your marrow?

Later we collected our circle and everyone who was moved shared their musings, reciting each poem twice in the tradition of a Japanese haiku club.  In delight and listening closely to each individual, I thanked my lucky stars the “student poet” in me was called to the “aha moment.”

Walking back to our cars a bald eagle flew low over our heads and the few remaining slivers of ice sparkled on the ponds.

~*~