Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kaisei Hôgo

By Hisamatsu Fûyô

This essay was written by Hisamatsu Fûyô in the year 1838. It has reached us through a copy by Yoshida Itchô, one of his students. The title means “Sermon from the silence of the sea”.

Authentic mind erects no barriers between past and present. Inauthentic mind separates everything into foot-length parts1. The devout listener hears at the crossing the long sustained sound of founder Fuke’s handbell2.
The customs of the Fuke tradition have changed very much over the roughly thousand years since its founding3. Above all its long connection to the military has weakened its faith4.
Alas, can a person who is busy with arms follow the law of Buddhism and practice shugyô? Fortunately, the doctrine of the Fuke tradition has not perished but has survived thanks to roughly two hundred years of peace5.
Nonetheless, there are no more true masters, nor is there anyone who shows the true way. These false masters are only skillful in their disdain of patience, and their narrow-minded arrogance dominates. Thereby they have debased the status of the shakuhachi as an instrument of faith6 and have extinguished the Buddhist mind. This is an example of how people of war cannot conceal their nature. Through their bad influence, the intention of the founder, Fuke, has been distorted. They
have taken the jewel of his teaching and thrown it away as if it were a fish’s eye7. They have the jewel, but let it lay unnoticed like a dirty pebble8.
Truly immense are the offenses of these false masters! Truly painful is the illusion of their students! They do not even notice that they are sitting together in the error of their false egotism, and that as they strive for their own profit and personal welfare they are doubly
mistaken. Bit by bit, however, they are remembering that the shakuhachi is an instrument of faith. So they are suddenly ashamed of the injustice they have done to the founder, Kinko. Is it not truly as if they have found a jewel among shards of pottery?
But still, this renewed study of the true teaching has not yet brought forth any fruit. Even Kinko I could not spread the true teaching sufficiently, for he had only limited time left to do so9.

1 An attempted translation of these first two sentences.

2 These first three sentences form an introduction to the main part of this essay.

3 Fuke is said to have died around 845 C.E.

4 Membership in the Fuke tradition was by law limited to members of the bushi class.

5 This refers to the Edo era.

6 Hôki.

7 This refers to the Chinese saying “mistaking a jewel for a fish’s eye” which means not recognizing the value of something.

8 In the Japanese original in two phrases a square was inserted to indicate a kanji which could not be read in the original handwritten manuscript. I think Mr. Ichikawa Motoo for the tip that perhaps Kurihara could very well read the missing character, but omitted it out of modesty. In both phrases strong or perhaps even obscene expressions would be possible. Throughout this essay, in other respects as well, Fûyô does not mince words.

He asked his successors to do so, but there were few good students. As he died, with woeful thoughts, he left behind this request. Alas!
At this time Nyodô10 seized the opportunity and confused people. He ransacked the name of the master and insidiously spread wild rumors. To the old errors he added a serious new mistake: enjoying great riches. Like flies attracted by the stench, many people gathered around him. They were like a family, poisoned and infected with a serious illness.
In they end, they could not escape their grave sins, and like fleeing rats they withdrew from the Fuke tradition. Still today there are many who have not recovered from the remains of this poison.
In the past, they were separate from the true teachings like fish that live in a dirty inlet anddo not know the taste of pure, flowing water. But like insects that live in thick grass and seek open land, there are also some that seek the truth but do not yet recognize it. It is not
difficult to explain it to them, as it is not easy to admonish those who do not seek the truth. So let us here expose it for those who do not yet know it. Shall we not explain it as well to those who are already looking for the truth? I have done this already once earlier in Hitori Mondô. In the 20 years that have passed since then11, less than two or three out of ten have understood the problems discussed therein12. Perhaps in time, it may be half.
Oh, how few understand the shugyô of the way! Oh, how difficult it is to choose what is essential to reaching the goal!
Successful shugyô depends in truth only on the mind and on the breathing. When the mind is awakened, the breathing becomes mind. When the mind is still, the breath is completed. This is the meaning of completely entering Zen.
Furthermore: concerning enlightenment, the prerequisite is that the mind resides in the body, in the same way that a tone appears when the breath gathers in the form13. The shakuhachi is the body-mind and thus the spiritual breath gathers in it. Truly, how can truth not appear here?
When the spiritual breath arises, the ten thousand illnesses cannot break out. But whoever wants to allow the spiritual breath to arise must first free himself from poison. Whoever wants to free himself from poison must not fear the dizziness caused by the antidote. Do not shy away from the dirty sound which arises when the great bamboo is blown. This sound is like an emetic which drives out the evil phlegm.
When someone has gone through this cure, then certainly he will entirely reach the stage where there is no illness. Whoever has become this healthy can also allow the spiritual breath to appear. Whoever really allows this spiritual breath to appear reaches the stage of the true tone14.

9 It was only three years before his death that Kinko I assumed the leadership of the shakuhachi schools of both main temples of the Fuke tradition in Edo, although he was already previously active there.

10 Yamada Benzô. The attacks against him are today no longer understandable. Presumably he was a popularizer of the shakuhachi who managed to achieve personal success and wealth.. Especially the latter seems to have attracted Fûyô’s anger.

11 Hitori Mondô was written in 1823; so it was only 15 years that had passed.

12 Mondô.

13 An attempted translation. The possibility of a misprint is not to be rejected. The two phrases follow a parallel construction: “The mind which resides in the body is ki; The breath which flows into form, is tone” In this translation the kanji ki was interpreted in a secondary meaning (kongen) as “reason, cause, requirement” and taken to refer to both parts of the phrase. This has little effect on the argumentation of the essay as a whole.

Do not doubt! Those who are most decisive do not fear dizziness and after long shugyô will reach the true way. For those who are less decisive, who fear the bitter difficulties of the cure and do not take the medicine, it is difficult to avoid the wrong path. The undecided, those who learn of the difficulties of the cure and out of fear do not take the medicine is one who loves the “little bamboo”15. Someone like this is self-complacent with respect to the spiritual breath. He is only playing around on the path, and the tone he produces is like absurd blathering16. Someone like this is a dishonest person and one who
only sees illusion. Keep away from people like these!
The difficult way17 of renunciation is the prerequisite to achieving the true way. Those who follow the easy way18 are descendants of an evil spirit. Those on the difficult way forget how difficult it is, but those on the easy way even forget how easy it is. The solution is not to be found in the mind tied to reality19, but do not strive either to free yourself from this reality20.

No striving
Endlessly going
No stopping
No goal
Become like the silence of the sea!

What I said above about the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen was known to various branches of Zen. But the teachers of different directions have distanced themselves from this, sutras are not terribly respected and the writings are studied too rarely. Thus it must be explained how the shakuhachi is a tool of Zen with the expressions mui21 and kisoku22. Additionally, Fuke’s words, “tomorrow there is a ceremonial celebration in Daihiin” must be studied well.
Above I said that warriors cannot deny their nature. They do not fear death, nor are they attached to life. When ominous clouds approach, they stomp upon them; and when an evil wind rises, they smash it to pieces23. One must not shirk the trials of the difficult way. Then one recognizes that also with the image of the stomped cloud Fuke’s words “bright-dark strike”are to be applied24.

They way of bamboo was founded in China and came to our country later. Those who want to understand the founder, Fuke, and strive for the truth, can no longer understand the way of bamboo.

14 Tettei no oto.

15 In contrast to the “great bamboo” referred to above, the blowing of which is a part of the “cure”.
16 Fûyô uses here four characters of his own invention. The possibility of a misprint can be excluded, since Kuriharas printer created at least two of these characters by splitting other standard characters. All four characters are seemingly intentionally incomprehensible, have though as radical gonben (speech), which is why they have been translated here as “absurd blathering”. A more radical translation would be something like “Blablabla”.

17 Nangyô.

18 Igyô.

19 Ushin in contrast to mushin.

20 Mushin. In the translation, this sentence is connected to the previous sentence, which means “being on the easy way” was understood as the subject. It is, however, also possible to understand the sentence as a general remark without any specific subject, similar to the following.

21 The principle of inactivity, or better, of non-goal-oriented activity.

22 Spiritual breath.

23 This passage means that warriors tend to favor absurd “solutions” to all problems which arise, like “stamping clouds” and “smashing the wind”.

24 This means that also in the case of “stomping clouds” (problems solved falsely, i.e. through violence) the dualistic contraction of reality (“bright-dark”) remains unresolved. Further below Fûyô terms this contradiction as “the bright-dark rain” that cannot be escaped. The words “bright-dark-strike” come from a saying passed on from Fuke

What can one then do to recognize it?
There are only very few writings and not a single clarifying word. The next two expressions for example: “in the three existences25 everything is an articulation of the infinite and wondrous”, and “the voice of the ethics of the soldier class26 is an articulation of the five
elements27 and the five virtues28” are nothing but illusions of yûi29. These expressions are misrepresentations and fabrications and explain nothing. They do not bring even a little bit of understanding. But the members of the Fuke tradition who love these sayings are not
few, and thus they do not practice shugyô.
Today we have indeed reached the end of time30. The teachings of the founder Fuke and the path transmitted by him must nonetheless realize their greatness and significance.
Deep sayings are nothing more than many words and false notes32.
That blowing sounds like ten thousand howling dogs.
In no cave can you escape the bright-dark rain.
Who completely understands the fearless founder Fuke33?
In the first month of the ninth year of Tempô (1838)
Chikuin Fûyô34 Sei
25 See Hitori Mondô on this term.

26 Budô, also bushidô, “way of the warrior” or class ethic of the warrior (samurai).It is possible that this expression budô onsei (“Voice of the ethics of the soldier class”) refers to the shakuhachi, as shakuhachi playing was originally limited to members of this class.

27 Wood, fire, water, earth, metal.

28 Justice, manners, wisdom, loyalty, goodness.

29 Yûi is the complement to the above-mentioned mui, the principle of goal-oriented activity. Both expressions are thus characterized as illusions of the world of purposeful, goal-oriented activity.

30 cf. similar closing words in Hitori Kotoba.

31 Fûyô apparently often uses soku, “breath”, as a closing exclamation, similar to Rinzai’s “katsu!

32 An attempted translation.

33 These four lines in Chinese style, each consisting of seven characters, conclude.

Hitori Kotoba

By Hisamatsu Fûyô 

Hisamatsu Masagorô (ca. 1790-1845), named Fûyô, was a fourth-generation successor of Kurosawa Kinko1 and was of exceptional importance to the Kinko school2. Like Kinko himself, Masagorô made great efforts to further the Zen aspect of shakuhachi playing and had strong reservations against the use of the instrument in worldly music. Three writings of his have survived: Hitori Mondo (written in 1823), Hitori Kotoba (before 1830) and Kaisei Hôgo (1838). These writings are of special importance as they comprise the only surviving statements from a shakuhachi player from the Fuke tradition on
the spiritual background to this practice.
This essay was printed in the Chikuyû journal, a quarterly publication of the Chikuyûsha3. In the introduction is it said that Fûyô wrote this essay before 1830, and that it was often copied. It is not stated whose hand wrote the manuscript which served as a basis for this printed version.
The title, which can be read as either Hitorigoto or Dokugen, means “monologue”.

■ Whoever studies the shakuhachi must rid himself of worldly thoughts, separate himself from his desires and put aside [the idea of] being superior or inferior. He must concentrate his mind in his stomach4, so that he can hear the sound of the bamboo. That is the most important thing. For this reason, he must play with his eyes closed. Especially in the case of beginners, worldly thoughts will arise when they do not close their eyes.
■ The shakuhachi must not be too tightly held. If it is too tightly held, tensions arise. Should tensions arise, you must relax your mind. Know that tension is the “sickness of the shakuhachi”. The shakuhachi is held with only the thumb and middle finger of the right hand, but you must not grip it too tightly5.
■ There are rules for playing the shakuhachi. The basic rule is the notation itself. Whoever injures the rules is outside of the tradition. For this reason one must not repeatedly deviate from the notation.
Meri-kari is of particular importance. If meri-kari is lacking [when playing the shakuhachi], it is as if you were blowing through a stick, and it is most disgraceful. It is actually good when the tone becomes certain and firm, but wildly blowing about is most unpleasant.
1 Kurosawa Kinko (1710-1770) joined the Fuke tradition at the age of 19 and studied the shakuhachi under Ikkei, komusô at Shôjuken Temple in Nagasaki. He travelled throughout Japan as a begging monk and compiled a collection of 36 honkyoku, which have remained until today the definitive repertoire of the Kinko school in Japan. In the year 1768 he became shinanban, teacher of both main temples of the Fuke tradition in Edo (modern day Tokyo), Reihô-ji and Ichigetsu-ji and taught there until his death two years later.

2 The Kinko school began as a revival movement within the Fuke tradition and was originally not a movement that aimed to further develop shakuhachi music. Instead it represented simply one of many traditions within the Fuke lineages. In any case the movement acquired particular importance as it from that point on shaped the tradition in both of the tradition’s main temples in Edo.

3 The Chikuyusha forms today one of the traditions within the Kinko School. At this time, it is head by Kawase Junsuke III.

4 Literally “settling one’s mind in the region below the navel.”

5 It is worth mentioning that today the best players prefer a reversed hand position in which the left hand is the lower hand which holds the instrument.

■ One must not deliberately strive from the beginning to achieve a beautiful tone. It is disgraceful when someone loves to produce a splendid tone.
■ When the pieces are played they should be uninterrupted from beginning to end, like the stem of the lotus6. They must be played without interrupting this connection. In the interruption-connection of the breath the playing happens by using one’s mind7. In this way from the beginning, no interruptions will arise. There is no place for interruptions in the case of tsukiro, nayashi and so forth8.
■ Concerning the pieces, it is of great importance that with respect to the time structure the correct measure prevails. The correct measure must not be omitted. Calm pieces have the correct measure when they are played calmly; energetic pieces have the correct measure when they are played energetically. Each individual piece has a different time-structure. This must be thoroughly practiced.
■ A beginner must firstly practice the technique of playing the shakuhachi. When he has mastered the technique, he must penetrate the mind of the music. Mastery does not lay in [the mastery of] technique, but in [penetrating] the mind of the music. Penetrating the mind of the music, however, is contained in technical mastery. Whoever has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the mind of the music. Whoever preoccupies himself as a beginner with the mind of the music, will stay his entire life a theoretician of the way of bamboo. [This is] beyond doubt!
■ It is bad to always blow around wildly with all your strength. One must play evenly and with certainty.
■ Recently the finger holes have been enlarged10. But still [instruments with] small finger holes should not be called bad. When the bamboo is played fully and with a mature style, then the difference between large and small finger holes is of no importance. For the beginner it is difficult to play [on an instrument] with small finger
holes. But [for him as well] it is of no importance whether the finger holes are large or small.
■ There are people who believe that the true meaning of the bamboo tone “sadness about impermanence”11 is to be expressed sadly and with deep emotions. How ridiculous! Playing shakuhachi is actually not about being heard by others. The shakuhachi is an instrument to develop one’s own mind. He who has freed himself from everything can hear this. Whoever feels sadness [when listening to shakuhachi music] becomes even sadder;
whoever feels happiness becomes even happier. Sadness and joy are not on the side of the musician, but on that of the listener. [This is] beyond doubt!

6 Unlike bamboo, the lotus has no nodes.

7 This means remaining present with the mind over the breath pauses, thus establishing a connection between individual tone units.

8 Tsukiro is the older term for nayashi; the meaning of the phrase, however, remains unclear.

10 Around the turn of the 18th century, the finger holes of the shakuhachi of the Kinko School were enlarged, in particular making the execution of the meri-kari technique easier.

11 Mono no aware

■ No one should be criticized when he strays [from the set form of the pieces] when playing alone. However, when he plays together [with someone else] and his partner strays [from the form], they must harmonize with one another. When one of the two wants to dominate the other, the bamboo's tone becomes chaotic. Indeed, the true meaning of the shakuhachi is not found in playing together, but nonetheless those
who play together in harmony actualize shugyô12. When playing together, helping the other must be the most important concern.
■ “Other pieces”13 should not be disregarded as “farmer’s music”14. Do not such pieces also have the wondrous yûgen tone15? Should we not learn them as well?
■ The beginner must take care that the pitch of the shakuhachi is balanced. If the pitch of the bamboo is poor, and he continues to practice in this way, his own [perception of correct] pitch becomes poor and he will stray from the correct path. It is difficult for the beginner to judge if his intonation is good or bad. Still he will, if he
studies seriously, later be able to recognize it more or less correctly.
■ The [purity of the] intonation of an individual shakuhachi16 varies. Normally the intonation of the first and second finger hole is better than that of the third and fourth. Holes four and five are [on most instruments] not as good as two and three17.  A good shakuhachi is one on which the pitches of the five fingerholes sound out clearly, neither too weak nor too bold18. On most [instruments], however, the five holes are insufficient19.  What the bamboo does not automatically produce [i.e. an even intonation], human skill cannot correct. Such shakuhachi are to be played by submitting to their intonation and by equalizing the intonation through playing technique.

12 The practice of playing the shakuhachi. The essence is playing “free from reason”, shugyo is thus the spiritual discipline to reach the stage where tettei on, “the absolute tone”, appears. The “great bamboo” is then blown with kisoku the spiritual breath. Kisoku shugyô (“the discipline of spiritual breathing“) defines the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen. Within this context of shugyô, the honkyoku are not a repertoire to be mastered in their entirety in order that one is considered a true player. It is not important how many pieces you have mastered, but rather much more how you play one single piece. In a source text, all honkyoku are reduced to a single piece; this piece
is reduced to mukyoku “no piece”; this in turn is reduced to kisoku the spiritual breath; and kisoku finally is reduced to kyomu, “emptiness and nothingness”. “What meaning”, ends the text, “has the number of pieces learned?”

13 Meant here are pieces which stand outside the Fuke tradition.

14 Jap. inakadake “rural bamboo“.

15 Jap. yûgen (: unclear, gen: secret, dark) describes the aesthetic principal of honkyoku. This ideal that penetrates all of Japanese art, consists in the fact that innuendo is valued more highly than complete clarity, the excerpt valued more than the whole. It also consists in a turning away from closed symmetrical forms in favor of freer wanderings in which the individual parts are to be found in mutual interdependence. The contradiction between precisely executed details and the loosely-fitted entire form is not to be seen as a contradiction but as complementary elements. Yûgen is, however, not only realized in the form. The rhythm of honkyoku is not manifested as a series of regular and predictable stresses, but consists of a sort of hesitation so that an irregular
sequence of tension and relaxation arises. Another aspect of this veiled art is the inexactly definable pitch of grace notes. The same goes for the slow tempo in which the honkyoku are played: a significant moment of time is placed between the tone-events, for even taking a breath becomes part of the music.

16 Plural.

17 As is also common in the notation, the numbers refer to the opened finger holes.

18 Possibly this last remark refers less to the tone color than to its pitch. Then the translation would read “neither too low nor too high”.

19 This means the pitch is irregular.

■ Nothing has been transmitted by a master in writing on the subject of how shakuhachi are made. Many make the holes according to their own ideas and without much knowledge, and polish the shakuhachi with all sorts of herbs to produce an outer shine that confuses the [innocent] beginner. Such people are only interested in money. I will not say anything more about that. What a pity for the bamboo, which is naturally provided with a good tone! When shakuhachi are produced by such idiots, the bamboo is crippled forever and in the end is nothing more than a bamboo club. How sad!
■ There are many who only think about memorizing the external form when learning a piece. This is a grave misunderstanding. Meri-kari and the proper time-structure is the essence [of shakuhachi playing] and one who plays, understanding this after having learned the external form, is a good player. A beginner or a mediocre player is under no circumstances capable of doing so20. [For such players] the most important thing is that they imitate their teacher in everything. This is why the choice of teacher is of such fundamental importance. One must not be careless in this! Only playing the outer form may not be called playing the shakuhachi and has nothing to do with the shakuhachi. Be very careful to avoid this!
■ There are many who can produce a tone that resembles [that of the shakuhachi] and who already criticize others, disdaining some who are better than themselves. Entrusting yourself to such people and learning from them is meaningless. With deceitful slander they mislead beginners. Whoever is [once] misled will his whole life long never be able to step onto the correct path. A village without birds will be invaded by [false teachers like] bats21, who spread untruths and cheat the ignorant. So keep your distance when people appear who have not themselves achieved [mastery]. Do not linger there! How pitiful! In the end one must give one’s life entirely to this matter. That is everything!
■ Shakuhachi teachers who meet someone who plays better than themselves should truly wish to allow his students to hear this bamboo tone22, and to teach and lead them accordingly. These students should not separate from their teacher but should have trust in his judgment.
■ In today’s practice there are pieces which are not played alone, but rather together with sangen23. Yet in doing so, the shakuhachi is deprived of its bamboo tone and loses its true meaning. This practice is like being arrogant of being the most common of people and being proud of going about with base prostitutes. These people should be careful about straying from the right path to the wrong one. Keep away [from them]!  Such people have nothing to do with the shakuhachi. They seem to play it, but in fact only steal its name and defile the shakuhachi, which is an important tool in Zen. They should be on their guard! Members of the Fuke tradition should forbid this [practice]. In any case, the end of time has been reached and the end of the right path is in sight. Nonetheless, whoever wants to study the way of bamboo seriously and with dedication must put [these people] aside and not get involved with them.

20 This means indeed that he cannot yet understand the essence of playing the shakuhachi, as he has not yet mastered the external form of the pieces, which is a pre-requisite to this understanding.

21 This refers to the saying: “Bats come to a village without birds”. In this case: where no authentic masters are to be found, false ones settle in.

22 i.e. the better player

23 Jap. sangen, lit. “three strings”, one name for the shamisen.

■ As I have described here, it should be easy for the beginner to find the right path. Still these were [only] general explanations so that [the student] does not end up on the wrong path. How one plays shakuhachi is something each person must learn from his teacher.

24 A closure common in letters.

Hitori Mondô

This essay by Hisamatrsu Fuyô was written in the 6th year of Bunsei (1823). It was transmitted as a copy written by Yoshida Itchô, a student of Fuyô and was published by Kurihara. For the translation a modern Japanese version was used. It is, however, obviously based on Kurihara's text.
The numbering of the questions comes from the translator. In the Japanese original the questions are notated with a triangle, the answers with a circle.
In Zen, a Mondô is a method of questioning which takes place between master and disciple. The title could perhaps be translated as “Questioning myself”.

1▲ Some people ask why you play the shakuhachi.
Ο The answer is that there is no purpose, you play simply because you have developed an affection for it.

2▲Then comes the question: so is it of no benefit?
Ο The shakuhachi is something which is of no benefit. As the shakuhachi is a tool of Zen, it would be false to treat it superficially1.

3▲In what way is the shakuhachi a tool of Zen?
Ο Throughout the three existences2 there is nothing that does not have Zen mind. The shakuhachi is above all different from all other musical instruments. I practice kisokushugyô3; how could I do so, if the shakuhachi were not a tool of Zen? In any case, the layman cannot understand the fact that the essence of making music is being free from reason for doing so.

4▲But although there is no place for logical reasons in the playing of the shakuhachi, aren't there at least more and less important things?
Ο When reason is exhausted and you have freed yourself from it, nothing more can be judged.

5▲If it is so, please first explain to me those things which can be explained with reason.
Ο That is a good and at the same time a difficult request. When I have said that shakuhachi is something which is of no benefit, I was only mentioning one side of things. On one hand, the shakuhachi player plays for the world; on the other hand, he plays for himself.

6▲In what way does he play for the world, and in what way for himself?
Ο If you do not make it into a guiding principle to free yourself from the greed of the world, you cannot do both successfully. If I do not principally practice the mind, I cannot attain the secret. If someone, however, is honest and pure, shouldn't he be able to play for the world
and for himself4?

▲What sort of man was the Zen master Fuke?
Ο I don't know much about him. Please ask someone who knows more about Zen.
1 A superficial treatment would be something like using it to make money.
2 Past, present and future existences.
3 See the glossary.
4 With “playing for himself”, Fûyô means playing in the context of shugyô; with “playing for the world”, playing the
shakuhachi to pass the time.

7▲Wasn't Fuke the founder of the shakuhachi? If you have chosen this path and don't know about its origins, aren't you incompetent?
Ο I know indeed about the origin of the shakuhachi. However, I know little of Fuke. He was a very enlightened man, but is it as if he sought the way of enlightenment with help from the shakuhachi5?
Someone like myself, without knowledge and enlightenment, and who plays the shakuhachi simply because he likes to do so can nonetheless bit by bit recognize the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen and see that there is no difference between nonunderstanding and understanding6.
Even if Fuke had played the shakuhachi, he only would have been able to play around a bit on the instrument. When it comes to the art of playing the shakuhachi, even I after many years am still not accomplished. Still, if Fuke were now to come back to life, he would certainly become by disciple and would ask me for advice in these matters. If we were to see records from the time of Fuke, we could learn everything about him. But if you don't possess his enlightenment, you won't really understand. Someone who knows nothing about Fuke, but has his degree of enlightenment, will understand him. I don't understand him yet.

8▲Does the shakuhachi have twelve ritsu7?
Ο The shakuhachi, be it long or short, thick or thin, embodies only one principle8. It doesn't possess the twelve ritsu. The twelve ritsu are an organizing principle for the universe9 and for human beings. If someone manages, even if only for a short time, to encompass the twelve ritsu of the universe within the body of the shakuhachi, you can distinctly feel it. If you feel the universal twelve ritsu, the human twelve ritsu appear automatically. In any case, people are according to their character more or less receptive towards this manifestation of the ritsu. This remains incomprehensible to an unreceptive person, even if
you explain it to him. For someone who knows, this understanding develops naturally.

9▲Does it have a special significance that the shakuhachi has four holes in front and one behind, that it has seven nodes and that it is one foot and eight inches long?
Ο The shakuhachi is a Zen instrument, and because it is one foot eight inches long is was named the shakuhachi10. But because it represents the entire universe and the principle of yin and yang its meaning cannot be exhausted by a single name. If I knew about these things and gave the shakuhachi various names and could present everything thoroughly, I
wouldn't play any better; and if I didn't know, I wouldn't play any worse. I will never know. In my opinion, the shakuhachi is an instrument to be played.

10▲Some count the shakuhachi's holes from bottom to top and some from top to bottom. Which is right and which is wrong?
Ο Both are right and both are wrong. The method of counting is manmade and isn't part of the nature of the shakuhachi. Someone who counts the holes from top to bottom is right, someone who counts them from bottom to top is also right. Someone who wants to count outwards from the middle should do so. Because I learned to count from bottom to top I consider this way to be correct. When one has reached the level of mastery, it is natural to count from the bottom. Reaching this level
is like awakening from a dream. If you, however, investigate these many matters, you will only waste your time.

5 Although Fuke is the founder of this sect, he did not himself play shakuhachi.
6 This is my attempt to translate the last part of this phrase.
7 In this section, Fûyô plays with the term “ritsu” (half-tone, ordering principle). The 12 ritsu which are asked about
here are the 12 tones of the Sino-Japanese tonal system.
8 Ichiritsu.
9 The 12 astrological signs.
10 Shaku: “foot” (as a unit of measurement); hachi: “eight”. The name is thus an abbreviation of a description of the
length of the instrument, isshaku hassun: “1 foot, 8 inches”.

11▲For the shakuhachi one used the lower part of the bamboo, for the hitoyogiri, the top. What is the difference?
Ο It is worthless to discuss this question. The human mind could extend over the entire world, but because people are limited in their possibilities they cannot move. Your question is as limited as the vision of a frog in a well; you're only making a fool out of yourself.
Wasn't it established in ancient times that the shakuhachi should have seven nodes11? Aren't pipes with five or six nodes also called shakuhachi these days? The human mind might have changed since ancient times, but it hasn't gotten any wiser. When it comes to the number of nodes and the length of the shakuhachi, I follow my intuition. Shouldn't one respect the number of the nodes and the form of the bamboo? One
needn't break with tradition, but at the same time one shouldn't cling to old empty appearances. There is the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen and the shakuhachi as a means of passing the time. The shakuhachi as a tool of zen is the essence; the shakuhachi as a means of passing the time in the substance12. Many people play the shakuhachi as a leisurely pastime. Those who treat the shakuhachi as a tool of zen are rare. I practice shugyô with the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen and therefore don't worry whether it is long or short nor about how many nodes it has.

12▲About when was the number of pieces in the Kinko School set at 36?
Ο Kinko III told me that Kinko I already set the number of “fore” and “rear” pieces at 36; the number of secret pieces, however, were three13. But I didn't hear this myself from Kinko I so I do not know.

13▲About when was the notation of the pieces established?
Ο Kinko II and Ikkan, a disciple of Kinko I, as I have heard, established the notation of the pieces. But I haven't heard it from them myself so I do not know.

14▲If someone can play each piece without deviating from the notation, doesn't that make him a good shakuhachi player?
Ο Not in the least! Someone who plays the pieces without deviation has indeed a good memory, but this isn't enough to make him a good shakuhachi player. It isn't difficult to memorize the 36 pieces, like a guard to the notation. Everyone can learn one piece per month, but it isn't the number of pieces learned which makes a good player, but rather how he plays a piece.
39 pieces are 36 pieces14,
36 pieces are 18 pieces15,
18 pieces are three pieces16,
Three pieces are one piece,
one pieces is no piece,
no piece is the breath of the mind17,
the breath of the mind is nothing besides emptiness and nothingness.
What meaning could the number of pieces learned possibly have?

11 The true Fuke Shakuhachi had only three nodes and was not made from the lowest part of the bamboo, including the
three uppermost root-nodes. It cannot be said with certainty exactly when the development of the shakuhachi of 7
nodes took place.
12 Essence (kyo) and substance (jitsu) are terms from Japanese poetic theory. The meaning is not completely clear here,
other than that “essence” is more highly esteemed, as it is associated with shugyô, whereas “substance” is connected
with passing the time (yûgi). Toyoshima interpreted kyo as butsu (no oto), the “tone of Buddha”, and jitsu as
shikiyoko no oto, the “tone of desire”.
13 According to the oldest documents, going back to before the time of Fûyû, the original repertoire consisted of only
35 or 36 pieces.
14 The entire repertoire with the exception of the three secret pieces (hikyoku).
15 The 18 “fore” pieces.
16 The three oldest pieces (koden sankyoku), Shin Kyorei, Kokû Reibo and Mukaiji Reibo.

15▲So is it allowed to deviate from the notation of the pieces?
Ο It is an offence to deviate from the notation. Kinko II and Ikkan feared that the tradition of the shakuhachi would fall into disorder and therefore fixed the notated form of the pieces. To play from the onset according to ones one’s discretion is false. Although one can still
hear the beauty of the bamboo's sound, you cannot recognize the nature of the shakuhachi as a tool of Zen. However, if someone plays the shakuhachi and realized that it isn't merely a shakuhachi, but rather a tool of Zen, this person doesn't have to worry about the fixed notation. The pieces are set in notation in order to help the beginner to the
essence of the shakuhachi. Wouldn't it be an offence to compromise this?

16▲When you play, do you deviate from the notation?
Ο I do not deviate, but my way of playing is very different from another's. For example: you are a person and I am a person. Your body, your hair, your inner organs are like those of other people, but yet you are very different from them. So: think for yourself about the difference between deviation from the notation and non-deviation!

17▲How does one recognize a good player and how does one recognize a master?
Ο Treating the shakuhachi like a living thing makes a good player. The secret is that a master plays like nature itself and doesn't simply show off his technique. When he does not abandon this, he cannot pass the threshold of mastery. I become the bamboo, the bamboo becomes me.
Whoever is in the essence and works on the substance, that person is a master. No matter what piece he plays, it becomes “the mind of emptiness”18. Making this expression “the mind of emptiness” into the foundation of music – that is the essence. It is also the essence not to separate the three pieces19 from the others. Naming emptiness and nothingness is also the essence. The reason I practice shugyô wholeheartedly is to be in the essence and to work on the substance20.
For the unschooled this is hard to understand.

18▲Are there masters to be found nowadays?
Ο There isn't a single one. I don't see either any who have understood shugyô.

19▲Are you a master, a good player or a poor player?
Ο I am a master, I am a good player and I am a poor player. What makes me a master is that I know the threshold of mastery, and yet I cannot cross it. I am a good player, because I try to become a good player, but I cannot attain this. So I’m a very bad player, am I not?

20▲Can you be compared to any contemporary players?
Ο I don't resemble whoever you might compare me to. If you compare me to another I do not reach their level. If you compare someone else to me, they don't reach my level. The less you compare me to others, the better.  When my thoughts and wishes, by tendencies and worries become one, then I will automatically become a good player and a master. Only when I earnestly study the way will I become happy and reach my goal at the right time. Not even in their dreams are humans occupied with such things! Bamboo should be blown, the questioner should be quiet, his mouth should close. I entitle this essay Hitori Mondo. What an offence to have wasted paper and ink like this!
Written in late autumn of the sixth year of Bunsei.
The Hermit of Edo, Fûyô Kanteisei

17 Kisoku.
18 Kyorei. This is the most common way the Kinko School reads the title of the “original pieces” of the Fuke School, which Hottô Kokushi is said to have brought with him from China.  
19 Either the three secret pieces or koden sankyoku, the three central pieces of the Fuke School. The latter is more likely.
20 For “essence” and “substance”, please see above. If I have correctly understood the second part of this response, it means that for the person who executes shugyô with his entire heart, the difference between playing the shakuhachi as a spiritual practice (kyo: essence) and playing as a pastime (jitsu: substance) becomes irrelevant. For the person who plays with right mind, each piece becomes kyorei, “the mind of emptiness”.