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SALA 2019 provides engaging fare for South Asians in the Bay Area – indica News

Posted: October 11, 2019 at 4:46 pm

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Raji Pillai

The picturesque Villa Montalvo in Saratoga is the venue for the Bay Areas first South Asian Literature and Art Festival (SALA 2019).

The festival, which opened Oct 6, is presented by the Art Forum SF, a non-profit that promotes all visual, literary and performing arts emerging from South Asia, and the Montalvo Arts Center, in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, Institute for South Asia Studies.

The festival goes from noon to 5pm daily, with different panels every hour on topics spanning art, literature, non-fiction and film.

Harsha Ram, professor of comparative literature at UC Berkeley, spoke with beloved actor Deepti Naval. The session started with a video collage of scenes from several of Deepti Navals movies. She has acted in more than 90 films. A film she directed, Do Paise ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane ki Baarish is soon to be released on Netflix. She writes poetry in two languages, and has published a book of Hindi poetry and another in English.On the response to the art films in which she made a name for herself, she recounted that film producer NC Sippy said to her Dont change: dont put on makeup, lehengas and do dances. What you have brought is something we dont have.

She read a poem in Hindi, Registan ki Raat from Lamha Lamha, and mentioned that she has posted her poems on YouTube. A collection called The Silent Scream in Black Wind and Other Poems," stemmed from observing women at a mental institution. She read two moving poems from the collection.

On the opening day, painter Rekha Rodwittiya discussed her reflections at age 61 with Dr Prajit Dutta of Aicon Gallery, NY, with images of several of her paintings appearing on a screen.

Speaking in winding sentences, she painted a colorful picture of her life and art. In the late 1970s, she was a student of art at the MS University in Baroda, Gujarat, which then had a very fecund and wonderful environment of discourse.

In 1982 there was a seminal space of change, she said. Soon after, she read Salman Rushdies Midnights Children and Alice Walker (whose 1982 novel The Color Purple won a Pulitzer and was also made into a movie). It was a watershed moment and gave South Asian artists and writers the confidence to tell their stories differently.

Later, she studied at the Royal College of Arts in London. Her years in London were formative: she did not need to validate or explain her history. There she felt that each thread in a fabric is significant regardless of the color it is dyed.

Poetry can transport you in a way that prose cannot, said moderator Ritu Marwah in a conversation with poets Athena Kashyap and Tanuja Mehrotra Wakefield.

Kashyap has written Crossing Black Waters and Sitas Choice. Her family emigrated from Lahore in Pakistan. She read Partition Story, based on a true story from her family, and a poem about Leela, her domestic help in India.

Wakefield, author of The Undersong, grew up in Cleveland to Indian immigrant parents. She said she is inspired to write on long walks. She read a short poem titled Fear and Reverie.

Wakefield referred to her second poem as speaking the unspeakable. She was a brown girl trying to grow up in a very white environment. The poem is called Skin Hymn. It begins:

Hamilton, you promised medung for Valentines Day,because it would match my skin.

An audience member asked whom she wrote for? Wakefield replied with a quote from Yeats. Out of our argument with others, we make rhetoric. Out of our arguments with ourselves, we make poetry.

Next, Prof Harsha Ram of the Institute for South Asia Studies was in conversation with Minal Hajratwala and Siddharth Dube, LGBTQ writers.

Hajratwala read a poem on her childhood experience of Hinduism, and another, Insect Koan, that draws upon her experience with Zen Buddhism.

Dube, a non-fiction writer, was involved in the activism that led to the reading down of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalized homosexuality. He read two sections of his book, An Indefinite Sentence. The first was personal, about his encounter with the Delhi police in 1988, where homophobic insults were hurled at him.

Moazzam Sheikh, writer, translator and editor of an anthology of South Asian literature, spoke with Bay Area writers Nayomi Munaweera and Shanthi Sekaran, both with books on motherhood, childhood and immigration.

Munaweeras first book, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, about the civil war in Sri Lanka, was a broad portrait. In her second, What Lies Between Us, about the journey of a mother and daughter from Sri Lanka to America, she wanted to write a more intimate story, taking a closer look at a character.

The character has committed a terrible crime and is in jail. Her challenge was to make the reader feel empathy toward the character. She read a portion from the beginning, and remarked that it is a cautionary tale about the culture of silence, and what happens when silence is unbreakable.

Shanthi Sekarans book Lucky Boy is set in the US. She spoke of her characters Soli, who is Mexican, and Kavya, who is Indian-American. She read from a section where a friend tells Kavya, I hear youre trying to have a kid. And then proceeds to give her perspective on what it will be like. They will suck you dry, she says.

The Lucky Boy of the story is preverbal: Shanthi spoke of the research she did into children who were adopted or fostered as toddlers. Their experience is very different from that of an infant, or of an older child who has learned to speak.

Munaweera commented that in her early writing, she paid homage to writers like Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. Now she claims Americanness: We are claiming that we are as much American as we are South Asian.

When Sheikh commented that Lucky Boy creates a space where two minorities, South Asians and Mexican Americans, dont have to negotiate political space, Shanthi responded that her characters are all South Asians in general; she made Soli Mexican only because she wanted to tell the story of crossing the southern border of the United States.

Journalist Raghu Karnad, writer of Farthest Field, spoke with Jonathan Curiel, a journalist with The San Francisco Chronicle.

During the audience Q&A, a woman remarked on the account in the book that in the spring of 1943 there was a Japanese invasion of India and the same ship that bombed Pearl Harbor attacked India.

On the scarcity of stories about women, Karnad commented that womens stories, which he called the other half of human experience, were not captured earlier in history.

On view in the Open Space Gallery was Revelations: The Evolution of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, with paintings by Jamini Roy, Anjolie Ela Menon and MF Husain, among others.

Tushar Unadkat was an engaging MC for the event. In keeping with SALAs support of all performing arts, troupes of dancers (children and adults) came and performed in front of the villa between each session, their colorful costumes, charming dances and lively music adding a celebratory touch to the event.

More events remain in the festival through Oct 18.

SALA 2019 provides engaging fare for South Asians in the Bay Area - indica News

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October 11th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

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tomoko ikegai / ikg inc encloses yan bookstore in shenzhen using rammed-earth walls – Designboom

Posted: September 23, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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designed around the concept of life in the east, which lies at the base of chinese culture, yan bookstore by tomoko ikegai / ikg inc provides a space in which visitors can engage in deep self-reflection and create their own unique stories. the 2,475 sqm bookstore is located on the third floor of shenzhens MIXC commercial complex, closed off by a long faade of rammed-earth walls to create a very different, zen world within.all images by nacasa & partners

over the past thirty years, the population of shenzhen has exploded from 300,000 to 14M people, explains tomoko ikegai of ikg is unique among chinese cities that sixty-five percent of these residents are in their twenties and thirties, giving it a powerful new energy. located in the citys MIXC commercial complex, in a development area facing shenzhen bay where hotels, residences, sports facilities, and office buildings are clustered, yan celebrates chinese culture and offers a space where visitors can feel the calm and dignified spirit of zen buddhism. recently, bookstores have been opening all over china which on a surface level are beautifully and strikingly designed, adds the tokyo-based studio. however, we felt that especially in this proactive city, it was important to value chinas originality and individuality, exploring mystical images of the east in the context of globalization.

the bookstore is closed off from the lavish surroundings of the complex with a long faade of rammed-earth walls, reminiscent of layers of deep strata, that incorporate soils varying in color, from amber to milky white. these shades form the base for the color scheme inside the store, which is composed entirely of natural earth tones. tile in a mock italian travertine pattern covers the floor, expressing the idea of accumulation through marbles visual representation of earth hardening over many long years.

the gold color of the bookshelves derives from the image of minerals within the earth, while the slender, delicate metal shelves express spirituality. by nearly eliminating the presence of these exceedingly thin shelves, the design conveys the concept of immersing oneself in a sea of books. five custom-made original artworks that match the concept have been installed, while each piece of art has a theme to match the pattern and concept of the space. tomoko ikegai / ikg inc has also designed an event area with a small gathering space within the bookstore for a variety of events where visitors can interact and exchange information.

project info:

name: yan ( in chinese)

architect: tomoko ikegai / ikg inc.

sales floor area: 2,475m

client: china resources land limited

design cooperation: arterior co., ltd.

lighting: sola associates

graphic design: ujidesign

location: no.2888, keyuan south road, the mixc (shenzhen bay), nanshan disctrict, shenzhen, china

sofia lekka angelopoulou I designboom

sep 17, 2019

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tomoko ikegai / ikg inc encloses yan bookstore in shenzhen using rammed-earth walls - Designboom

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September 23rd, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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Borusan Contemporary hosts Bill Violas first exhibition in Istanbul – Hurriyet Daily News

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Borusan Contemporary has opened the new artistic season by hosting the first Istanbul exhibition of the pioneering U.S. video artist Bill Viola.

Bill Viola: Impermanence, which opened on Sept. 14, features works from different phases of the artists oeuvre, including works from the early years, to delve deeply into the world-renowned artists practice.

Viola has been investigating the mysteries of the human condition for more than 40 years, employing video technology as a medium that during those decades evolved at a rapid pace.

Each work seduces us with its hint of a grand narrative at work, a promise to reveal to us something we dont already know about birth, death, fear, desire, or reality. Certainly the works are enigmatic, but with their lush visual clarity, and with the presence of humans and human agency, with some conflict being confronted, the viewers feel compelled to search for the story.

The works are like koans with their narratives, classic Buddhist riddles that are unresolvable, inviting us to experience a glimpse of what Viola calls the invisible world where our standard intellectual configurations of existence are revealed to be artificial.

Violas work has been shown worldwide and the artist has received numerous awards for his achievements, including a U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship (1980), the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1989), XXI Catalonia International Prize (2009), and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2011). His works have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism.

In this exhibition curated by Kathleen Forde, there are themes that run throughout all 10 works: Immersion, transformation, a confrontation with basic elements of air, and water.

Chott el-Djerid, a much earlier video from 1979, addresses the question of perception, and serves to underpin the connective strands of the later pieces. Subtitled A Portrait in Light and Heat, it considers the phenomenon of a desert mirage, the dry Saharan lake of the title, and features the near-whiteout of a winter prairie landscape.

The exhibition will be on view until Sept. 13.

[HH] Inspired by Turgut Uyar

Curated by Necmi Snmez, They Are Uttered and Left Unfinished All the Loves in the World II is an expanded continuation of the exhibition including a selection of works from the Borusan Contemporary Art Collection last season, inspired by the poet Turgut Uyar.

Bringing together important names of contemporary art from across the world, this exhibition aims to produce new interpretations through installations that strengthen the viewers esthetic senses, referring to todays economic and social problems while forming a special parenthesis for visual arts using the images in Uyars poetry.

Ranging from video-sculpture to photography, neon installations to interactive digital works, the exhibition foregrounds experimental approaches and the artists predictions, interpreted through digital media, visualizing what Uyar aptly described as the troubles of today.

The exhibition will be on view until March 8, 2020.

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Borusan Contemporary hosts Bill Violas first exhibition in Istanbul - Hurriyet Daily News

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September 23rd, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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Humanity and Nature are Not Separate We Must See them as One to Fix the Climate Crisis – Resilience

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From transport and housing to food production and fashion, our civilisation is driving climate and ecological breakdown.

Its no coincidence that almost every single sector of industry is contributing to the planets downfall, either. A deeper issue underlies each ones part in the malaise enveloping the planets ecosystems and its origins date back to long before the industrial revolution. To truly bring ourselves into harmony with the natural world, we must return to seeing humanity as part of it.

Though a varied and complex story, the widespread separation of humans from nature in Western culture can be traced to a few key historical developments, starting with the rise of Judeo-Christian values 2000 years ago. Prior to this point, belief systems with multiple gods and earth spirits, such as paganism, dominated. They generally considered the sacred to be found throughout nature, and humanity as thoroughly enmeshed within it.

When Judaism and Christianity rose to become the dominant religious force in Western society, their sole god as well as sacredness and salvation were re-positioned outside of nature. The Old Testament taught that God made humans in his own image and gave them dominion over the Earth.

As historian Lynn White famously argued, such values laid the foundations of modern anthropocentrism, a system of beliefs that frames humans as separate from and superior to the nonhuman world. Indeed, those who hold literal beliefs in the Bible tend to express significantly more concerns over how environmental degradation affects humans than animals.

Ren Descartes considered it an absurd human failure to compare the souls of humans and those of non-human brutes.W Holl/Giorgos Kollidas/Shutterstock

In the early 17th century, French father of modern philosophy Ren Descartes framed the world as essentially split between the realm of mind and that of inert matter. As the only rational beings, Descartes saw humans as wholly separate from and superior to nature and nonhuman animals, who were considered mere mindless machines to be mastered and exploited at will. Descartes work was hugely influential in shaping modern conceptions of science and human and animal identities in Western society.

White and philosopher Val Plumwood were among the first to suggest that it is these attitudes themselves that cause the worlds environmental crises. For example, when we talk of natural resources and fish stocks, we are suggesting that the Earths fabric holds no value apart from what it provides us. That leads us to exploit it recklessly.

According to Plumwood, the opposition between reason and nature also legitimised the subjugation of social groups who came to be closely associated with nature women, the working class, the colonised, and the indigenous among them.

Scholars such as Timothy Morton and Bruno Latour remind us that viewing the natural world as separated from humans is not only ethically problematic but empirically false. Microorganisms in our gut aid digestion, while others compose part of our skin. Pollinators such as bees and wasps help produce the food we eat, while photosynthetic organisms such as trees and phytoplankton provide the oxygen that we need in order to live, in turn taking up the carbon dioxide we expel.

In the Anthropocene, we are seeing more and more how the fates of humanity and nature are intertwined. Governments and corporations have developed such control over the natural systems they exploit that they are destabilising the fundamental chemistry of the global climate system. As a result, inhospitable heat, rising seas, and increasingly frequent and extreme weather events will render millions of humans and animals refugees.

The good news is that the perceived separation from nature is not universal among the planets human inhabitants. Australian, Amerindian, and countless other indigenous belief systems often portray nonhumans as kin with intrinsic value to be respected, rather than external objects to be dominated or exploited.

In Bhutan, humans live largely in harmony with the natural world.Pulak Bhagawati/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Eastern philosophies and religions such as Zen Buddhism also entangle humanity and nature, emphasising that there is no such thing as an independent self and that all things depend on others for their existence and well-being. For example, strongly influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, Bhutan has enshrined ecological resilience into its constitution. Mandating that at least 60% of the nation remain forested, the country is one of just two in the world to absorb more carbon than it emits. It measures progress not by GDP but against a gross national happiness index, which prioritises human and ecological well-being over boundless economic growth.

Of course, entanglement with nature exists in the Western world too. But the global socioeconomic systems birthed by this region were founded on the exploitation of the natural world for profit. Transforming these entrenched ways of working is no easy feat.

It will take time, and education is key. Higher education textbooks and courses across disciplines consistently perpetuate destructive relationships with nature. These must be redesigned to steer those about to enter the world of work towards care for the environment.

However, to bring about widespread fundamental change in worldviews, we need to start young. Practices such as nature journaling in early primary school in which children record their experiences of the natural world in written and art form can cultivate wonder at and connection to the natural world.

Schools should use every opportunity in the curriculum and playtime to tell children a new story of our place within the natural world. Economist and philosopher Charles Eisenstein calls for an overarching Living Earth narrative that views the earth not as a dead rock with resources to exploit, but as a living system whose health depends on the health of its organs and tissues its wetlands, forests, seagrass, mangroves, fish, corals, and more.

According to this story, the decision of whether to fell a forest for cattle grazing is not merely weighed against carbon accounting which allows us to offset the cost by installing solar panels but against respect for the forest and its inhabitants.

Such a world might seem unthinkable. But if we use our imagination now, in a few decades we might find our grandchildren creating the story we want them to believe in.

This article is part of The Covering Climate Now series

This is a concerted effort among news organisations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage. This article is published under a Creative Commons license and can be reproduced for free just hit the Republish this article button on the page to copy the full HTML coding. The Conversation also runs Imagine, a newsletter in which academics explore how the world can rise to the challenge of climate change. Sign up here.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Teaser photo credit: Reconnecting with nature. Steve Carter/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

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Humanity and Nature are Not Separate We Must See them as One to Fix the Climate Crisis - Resilience

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September 23rd, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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Steve Jobs Death: How He Died & His Last Words – New Idea

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RELATED: Medic breaks silence: Princess Diana's final words revealed

Steve Jobs is a tech mogul and entrepreneur who is best known for being one of the co-founders of Apple Inc, formerly Apple Computers.

Born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, Steve grew up in Mountain View, California. He was an electronics whiz as a child, and was friends with engineers who lived nearby. He went to Homestead High, where hed meet Steve Wozniak through a classmate. He and the other Steve worked at HP over the summer, becoming friends. He then went to Reed College for a year before dropping out and working at Atari. Then, he began a fascinating spiritual journey that practically deserves its own article.

In 1974, he travelled to India with a schoolmate from Reed to visit the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, only to find that hed died the previous year. Nevertheless, Steve remained for seven months, and when he returned to the US, he was a changed man. He began experimenting with LSD and other drugs, adopted Zen Buddhism, and even became part of the All One Farm, a hippie commune.

This journey would seem to suggest a very different career path for Steve, but he would eventually return to Atari where he reunited with Wozniak. In 1976, the two founded Apple Computer, and in 1977 they introduced the Apple II, changing the world of personal computers forever.


Steve and Apple would go on to develop and release the Macintosh in 1984, which the company designed based on the legendary Xerox Palo Alto Research Centers mouse and keyboard interface. Steve himself went onstage on January 24 during Apples annual shareholders' meeting to reveal and demo the Macintosh in one of his most iconic appearances.

Steve left Apple in 1985 after being forced out of power by Apple CEO John Sculley. Between then and 1997, he went mostly under the radar, founding a company called NeXT and becoming the top financier and CEO of Pixar.

In 1997, Steve returned to Apple, now a floundering business deeply in debt and ready to go bankrupt, this time as CEO. His tenure between 1997 and 2011 transformed Apple into one of the most valuable companies in the world, with a combination of innovation and powerful marketing that led to industry-defining products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and Mac OS.

On October 5, 2011, Steve ended his long battle with cancer and passed away surrounded by family. He was 56 years of age. He left behind his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, and their three children, Reed, Erin, and Eve. He also has a fourth daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, whom he had with Chrisann Brennan, his high school sweetheart.

Steve died from pancreatic cancer, specifically a rare form known as neuroendocrine tumour or islet cell carcinoma, which represents about 1-2% of significant pancreatic tumours. Pancreatic cancer typically has a very low five-year survival rate and poor options for treatment, but Steves form of cancer is actually highly treatable.

With many cancers, the earlier treatment begins, the better the chances of survival. However, after Steves tumours were discovered in 2003, he delayed surgery and medical treatment for nine months while he explored alternative treatments such as acupuncture, a vegan diet, herbs, and cleansing juices. Steve later told his biographer that he regretted the decision to delay medical treatment. By the time he finally had surgery in 2004, the cancer had spread to his liver.

In 2009, Steve underwent a liver transplant and reportedly improved after the surgery. Unfortunately, the cancer relapsed, with him looking progressively paler and more gaunt leading to this last photo of him in public at WWDC 2011.


Eventually he would pass away due to complications from the relapse.

Some cancer experts believe that Steve would still be alive today had he not delayed treatment.

After Steves death, The New York Times published a eulogy delivered by Mona Simpson, Steves sister. In her eulogy, Mona described Steve Jobs last words on his deathbed as, OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Four years later, in 2015, an essay that purported to be Steve Jobs last speech began circulating. It was billed as a warning that non-stop pursuit of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like [him].

Snopes reported that the essay has not been published by any official sources close to Jobs, and has never been verified to actually have been written by Steve. The essay itself hardly matches Steves own manner of speech or writing, and it has mutated over the years with several additions or changes as it spread.

Steve was a controversial figure. Famously difficult to work with and generally considered to be a jerk, he wasnt exactly the kind of person youd want to be friends with, and may even be an example of Never meet your heroes for Apple fans. But theres no denying the impact hes had on the tech world, and for that we honour his contributions to society, eight years after his death.

RELATED: Leaked images show Apple's new smartphone BEFORE launch!

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Steve Jobs Death: How He Died & His Last Words - New Idea

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September 23rd, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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Japanese Zen Buddhist artist and the influence of China – Modern Tokyo Times

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Japanese Zen Buddhist artist and the influence of China

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist, Sami, is known for an array of areas linked to high culture in the land of the rising sun. Hence, he is strongly linked to Japanese aesthetics and the power of high culture that impacted greatly on the ruling elites. Therefore, throughout his life, he focused on the finer things in life and connected this strongly with Zen Buddhism.

Sami (1472-1525) belongs to the world of the Ashikaga Shogunate and the power processes that utilized Japanese aesthetics. Indeed, his rich family history in relation to Nami and Geiami meant that high culture was second nature for Sami.

Along with the importance of Zen Buddhism and Japanese aesthetics, Sami also was inspired by the art of the Southern School emanating from the Middle Kingdom (China). This meant that Sami wasnt afraid to go against the grain because this art form from China was disregarded by many Japanese artists of his day.

Sami, known for Japanese aesthetics, focused on an array of areas related to Japanese high culture. Hence, the areas of art, flower arranging, landscape gardening, poetry, the tea ceremony, and other notable areas related to high culture, were all part of his aesthetics spirit. This was naturally enhanced by the philosophy of Zen Buddhism to Sami and how he viewed the art of the Southern School emanating from the Middle Kingdom.

In the realm of Japanese landscape gardening, Sami designed the distinguished Ryoan Temple and Daisei-in gardens. Of course, the influence of Zen Buddhism and philosophy related to this faith naturally flowed during his esteemed designs.

Overall, this notable artist was inspired greatly by Mu-chI Fa-chang from the Middle Kingdom and in the realm of ideas, Zen Buddhism. Therefore, given his family background and his love of Japanese aesthetics this notable Japanese artist continues to be cherished by individuals who adore high culture.

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September 23rd, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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Zen Meditation Guide (zazen) | Zen Buddhism

Posted: July 29, 2019 at 10:48 am

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The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen is at the heart of the Zen Buddhist experience. Originally called Dhyana in India, Zen meditation is a very simple yet precise method of meditation, where the correct posture is imperative. The Room

Before starting your meditation, you need to find a quiet and peaceful place where you will not be disturbed. The room where you will practice in should not be too dark or too bright, too warm or too cold.

There are different ways that you can practice Zen meditation. Traditionally, only the full lotus position or the half lotus position is used. If you lack flexibility, it is also possible, yet least recommended, to practice Zazen kneeling or to sit on a chair.

Zazen is practiced sitting on a zafu, a thick and round cushion, in the full lotus (Kekkafuza in Japanese) or half-lotus position (Hankafuza in Japanese). The purpose of this cushion is to elevate the hips, thus forcing the knees to be firmly rooted to the floor. This way, your Zazen will be a lot more stable and also comfortable. Additionally, you need to have a zabuton, which is a rectangular mat that is placed under the zafu to cushion the knees and legs.

Ideally, its is recommended that you buy a zafu but, as a beginner, you can fold up a thick blanket to work as a zafu. Zafus are usually around 13-14 inches in diameter but can be found in a variety of sizes. You can also utilize a thick blanket as a homemade zabuton.

For the half-lotus position, put either foot on top of the opposite thigh, and place the other foot on the floor underneath the other thigh. For the full lotus position, put each foot on the opposite thigh with the line of the toes matching the outer line of the thighs. It is important to push the sky with the top of your head and to push the floor with your knees.

These postures might seem uncomfortable and unnatural for most beginners, but with practice, your legs and hips will become more flexible, your mind will relax, and you will find the posture to be quite comfortable.

If these postures are too uncomfortable, try sitting in seiza, the traditional kneeling position used in Japan for regular sitting in daily life. If that posture is also too uncomfortable, you can use a meditation bench. You can also sit on a chair without using the backrest.

The important point of this posture is to keep the body upright and well balanced; try not to lean in any direction, neither right nor left, neither forward nor backward.

Whatever the position you choose to adopt, make sure that your back and neck stay as straight as possible. Pull your chin in a little to erect the neck and try to push the sky with the top of your head. Do not be too tensed or too relaxed while you do this; try to find balance in your posture. Keep your mouth closed during zazen; your teeth should be together, and your tongue should be against the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth.

Traditionally in Zen, the eyes are kept open during meditation. This prevents the meditator from daydreaming or becoming drowsy. Without focusing on nothing in particular, direct your vision about one meter in front of you on the floor. Your eyes will naturally come to rest in a position that is half opened and half closed. When doing zazen in a soto dojo (meditation hall), the meditator sit facing a wall in order to avoid distracted by external movement. It is suggested to do the same at home.

The position of the hands during Zazen is the same for the full lotus, half lotus, seiza and chair positions. This hand position is called the Cosmic Mudra or Hokkaijoin in Japanese. First, put your left hand on the right one, and palms turned towards the sky. Now, make an oval by touching the tips of the thumbs together so that your thumbs touch each other and form a somewhat straight line. The tips of your thumbs should lightly touch each other. Both of your wrists should rest on your thighs; the edge of your hands should rest against your belly. Keep your shoulders relaxed.

There are two reasons for this hand position. First, shape of the hands harmonizes the condition of our minds. The meaning of the mudra is beyond duality. Secondly, if your mind is somewhere else when you sit, naturally the shape of this oval becomes distorted. This can be a signal for yourself that something is wrong with your meditation and for your teacher so that he can correct you.

If you're interested in creating a Zen Dojo at home, please read this article for more ideas and inspiration.

Zen breathing cannot be compared with any other, and it is a fundamental part of the Zazen practice. The correct breathing can only be achieved through the right posture. During Zazen, breathe quietly through the nose and keep the mouth closed.

Try to establish a calm, long and deep natural rhythm. You should focus on exhalation while inhalation is done naturally. Zen breathing and martial arts breathing are similar, and they can be compared to the mooing of a cow or the roaring of a tiger.

As with breathing, the mindset is essential in the practice of Zen meditation. The right state of mind emerges naturally from a deep concentration on the posture and breathing. During zazen, it is normal to have images, thoughts and emotions coming up to the surface, appearing from the unconscious mind. Do not pursue them or fight escape from them. The more you try to get rid of them, the more attention you give them, and the stronger they become. Try not to attach to them. Just let them go without judgement, like clouds in the sky.

So, as soon as you become aware that you are interacting or grasping on thoughts, immediately bring back your concentration to your posture and breathing; your mind will settle down naturally.

With experience, you will have less and less thoughts during Zazen, and your mind will come to rest more easily and more quickly.

As Zen master, Taisen Deshimaru said: By simply sitting, without looking for any goal or any personal benefit, if your posture, your breathing and your state of mind are in harmony, you will understand the true Zen; you will understand the Buddha's nature.

Now its time to start Zazen. To avoid distraction, it is recommended that you practice facing a wall, as you would do in a training hall (dojo) or a monastery. Place your zafu on your zabuton so that, once sitting, your body is about one meter away from the wall. If you are using a kneeling bench or a chair, also try to position yourself a meter away from the wall.

Once you have taken the position that is the most comfortable for you, take a few deep breath. Close your hands into a fist with your thumbs inside your fingers and the back of your hands on your knees, with the fingers up. Now, slowly balance your body from left to right three or four times.

Next, do gassho. Place your palms against each other as if in prayer, and bend forward a few seconds as a sign of respect for the Buddha and the Buddhas teaching or Dharma. Finally, place your hands in the Hokkaijoin position, and keep your back and neck straight (push the sky with the top of your head) and start Zazen. As a beginner, it is advised to practice for 15 to 30 minutes. A good way to keep track of timer during zazen at home, instead of checking time constantly, is to use a meditation timer on your phone. I would recommend two timer: Enso for iOS and Undo for Android.

Once you have finished Zazen, do gassho again. Remain sitting on the cushion calmly and quietly for a few moments; don't hurry to stand up. Try not to talk for a few minutes after completing Zazen.

*These images were respectfully taken from the highly recommended book "How to Practice Zazen" by Gudo Nishijima and Joe Langdon.

Learn more about Zazen (video): How to do Zazen?

If you're seeking to explore Zen or Buddhism more deeply, here is a list of my favourite Buddhist books that you can use to learn more about this ancient tradition.- Fuyu

Zen Meditation Guide (zazen) | Zen Buddhism

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July 29th, 2019 at 10:48 am

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What is Zen Buddhism and how can it make you happier …

Posted: June 18, 2019 at 3:48 pm

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Trying to explain or define Zen Buddhism, by reducing it to a book, to a few definitions, or to a website is impossible. Instead, it freezes Zen in time and space, thereby weakening its meaning.

Defining Zen () is like trying to describe the taste of honey to someone who has never tasted it before. You can try to explain the texture and scent of honey, or you can try to compare and correlate it with similar foods. However, honey is honey! As long as you have not tasted it, you are in the illusion of what honey is.

The same goes with Zen because Zen Buddhism is a practice that needs to be experienced, not a concept that you can intellectualize or understand with your brain. The information that we'll give here won't cover all of what of Zen is, but is a starting point to the Zen experience.

At the heart of the Japanese culture lies Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism. Zen is, first and foremost, a practice that was uninterruptedly transmitted from master to disciple, and that goes back to the spiritual Enlightenment of a man named Siddhrtha Gautama (Shakyamuni Gotama in Japanese) - The Buddha - 2500 years ago in India.

The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen ( - za meaning sitting, and Zen meaning meditation in Japanese), is the core of Zen Buddhism: without it, there is no Zen. Zen meditation, is a way of vigilance and self-discovery which is practiced while sitting on a meditation cushion. It is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now. It is through the practice of Zazen that Gautama got enlightened and became the Buddha.

Zazen is an attitude of spiritual awakening, which when practiced, can become the source from which all the actions of daily life flow - eating, sleeping, breathing, walking, working, talking, thinking, and so on.

Zen is not a theory, an idea, or a piece of knowledge. It is not a belief, dogma, or religion; but rather, it is a practical experience (read our Buddhism FAQ for more details). We cannot intellectually grasp Zen because human intelligence and wisdom are too limited - the dojo (the hall where Zazen is practiced) is different from the university.

Based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, Zen is not a moral teaching, and as it is without dogma, it does not require one to believe in anything. A true spiritual path does not tell people what to believe in; rather it shows them how to think; or, in the case of Zen - what not to think.

Zen is not interested in metaphysical theories and rituals and focuses entirely on the mindful practice of Zazen. Zen is very simple. It is so simple, in fact, that it's very difficult to grasp.

In the silence of the dojo or temple, quietly sit down, stop moving, and let go your thoughts. Focus just on your Zazen posture and your breathing. Keep your back straight. Let your ego and your unconscious mind melt away, merge with the universe.

This is Zen.

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What is Zen Buddhism and how can it make you happier ...

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Zen Mindfulness

Posted: May 27, 2019 at 2:50 pm

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What is it? Continuous, clear awareness of the present moment. Always returning, whether from an enjoyable fantasy, an emotional outburst or a melancholy remembrance; always returning to this moment. Being fully here, present-moment after present-moment. This is mindfulness. Its not about having your mind-full of something, its actually the opposite its the setting aside of your mental and emotional baggage, resulting in a clarity and a fluidity that lets thoughts, feelings and perceptions flow smoothly through your awareness without sticking.

How do we get it? Mindfulness is something you do rather than get. But, as you find as soon as you start trying, it can be quite difficult to simply pay attention to what is happening right in front of you. If youre like most people, youve trained yourself over many years to spend your energy following your inner narratives. So, as soon as youve set your awareness on something, it bounces away to interpretations, speculations and projections, and often ends up in a swirl of emotion. To change this you have to re-train your mind.

3 steps

The Three Step method is a roadmap to the mindful life. Rooted in Zen Buddhism, its new approach begins with viewing our states of mind as physical places that we visit. We explore the landscape of each one and discover its main characteristics so that we can pinpoint our position on the roadmap at any time. As we do this we learn to move between these mindstates at will. Ultimately we see how to integrate and balance these states, moving from one to the other to live our life in a dynamic way directly inspired by the living moment rather than being unconsciously driven by our fears, worries and fantasies. When were emotionally overwhelmed, well recognize that were in that place and know which mind-state to move to in order to regain equanimity. When we need to take resolute action, well know which state is best suited to the task. The end result is a self-perpetuating mindfulness: when practicing the techniques the mind becomes calm and clear, which in turn makes the process itself more effective.

How can I learn it?

The Three Steps to Mindfulness method is now available online as the third section of the Zen Mindfulness Cloudbook.

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Zen Mindfulness

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The Belief System of Zen Buddhism | Synonym

Posted: May 22, 2019 at 1:45 pm

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Rock gardens are a well-known example of Zen art.

Zen is a Japanese school of Buddhism that, along with schools that include Nichiren, Tendai, Shingon and Jodo-shu, has existed for centuries and remains popular today. Perhaps more than any other Buddhist school, Zen is concerned with the awakening of awareness in the present moment. It is a disciplined, minimalistic and sometimes fierce system that is more concerned with practice than philosophy. According to its practitioners belief itself is counterproductive to awareness and hinders awakening.

The patriarch of the Zen lineage is Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who traveled from India in the 5th century AD to bring the practice of dhyana, or meditation, to China. The lineage became known as Ch'an, a word derived from dhyana. In the 12th century, the Tendai monk Eisai traveled to China to study Ch'an with the Lin-chi school -- Rinzai in Japanese -- and brought the teachings back to Japan. The nobility continued to prefer the flowery Tendai rituals, however, and Zen, which is the Japanese pronunciation of Ch'an, did not become immediately popular. Dogen, another monk who traveled to China, helped establish Zen by founding the Soto school in the 13th century.

The core beliefs of Buddhism are contained in the Four Noble Truths. They state that the world is suffering, that suffering has a cause, that you can end suffering and that the way to do so is to follow the Eightfold Path, which is a set of guidelines for proper behavior. Zen does not contradict any of these truths, but it places more emphasis on the third truth than other branches of Buddhism. For the Zen practitioner, ending suffering by waking up into this moment is not only possible, it is the only religious practice that matters.

Practitioners of Zen meditation, or zazen, sit motionless on benches for up to 18 hours a day, subject to a strike from the master's rod if sleep overtakes them. While meditating, they may be struggling with a koan, a nonsensical question posed by the master that frustrates logic. At some point, the practitioner may have an "Aha" moment when the austerity of the practice and the impossibility of solving the koan combine to destroy the thinking process altogether. At that point, the practitioner may awaken into satori, an experience of the present moment unconditioned by thinking. That unconditioned awareness is the goal of Zen practice.

Zen is essentially a system with no belief -- or beyond belief -- and adherents have conveyed inspiration through a multitude of art forms that have come to define Japanese culture. Zen artistic renderings are not expressions of logical beliefs, but of the intuitive understanding that Zen practice awakens. These renderings include rock gardens, tea ceremony, haiku poetry, sumi'e painting and kaiseki cuisine, among many others. Bodhidharma is a favorite subject of sumi'e artists, and his fierce, lidless eyes -- legend has it that he cut off his own eyelids -- glower from countless wall hangings.

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The Belief System of Zen Buddhism | Synonym

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