...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... December 24, 2002
The Blues Harmonica and Buddhism
...by Rev. Kusala
Music and Buddhism ...Ven. Master Hsing Yun
3. Book Review: Rock n' Blues Harmonica
...by Jon Gindick
4. Temple/Center of the Week: Buddha's
Light International Association
The Blues Harmonica and Buddhism
...by Rev. Kusala
"The Blues ain't nothing but
a good man feeling bad."
the movie 'Crossroads')
first time I heard 'Blues Harmonica', it moved me so much...
I said to myself, "I just gotta learn to play" ...
I found myself in a music store back in the 1980's and there
on the shelf was a booklet and audio cassette... 'Blues Harmonica
for the Musical Idiot' by David Harp. That's it, I fit all the
qualifications. I bought it and started to practice. It was
really frustrating at first... I would listen and try and make
the same notes happen (Bent notes with feeling)... But no matter
how hard I tried or how long I played, it just didn't sound
like the blues. I kept at it, and something started to happen.
Moments of joy and happiness from to much oxygen, and my practice
would sometimes turn into performance... The blues would just
happen. Most cool.
I started to carry the harp with me where ever I went, and when
I found some time and space would practice chords and notes.
The blues harp is so portable and inexpensive, I bought a few
of them... some for home and some for carry.
I started going to 'Blues' clubs in Los Angeles. The 1980's
was a great time to be in LA and listen to the blues. One of
my favorite places was called the "Music Machine"
on Pico Blvd. in West LA... I saw some of the real legends...
Albert King, B.B. King, Willie Dixion, Albert Collins, Otis
Rush, Buddy Guy, Brownie McGee, Junior Wells... And blues greats
like... Roy Buchanan, Rory Block, Coco Montoya, William Clarke,
James Harman, Kim Wilson, John 'Juke' Logan, Cephas & Wiggins...
Just to name a few.
My own style was turning into 'Country Acoustic'... Sort of
like- Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson #1, and Phil Wiggins.
1994 came along, I took ordination as a Buddhist Monk and put
the harmonicas to rest, or so I thought.
I became a volunteer at Central Juvenile Hall in Downtown Los
Angles teaching Buddhism to the young folks behind bars. I went
twice a week for four years and was able to find other volunteers
to teach meditation and Yoga.
I started to see, simply talking about suffering was not going
to move the guy's and gal's to think about their lives. So one
day I brought my harmonica, and in the middle of my presentation
on Buddhism, started talking about the blues and how hard it
is to live as a human being in this world of suffering... I
pulled out my harmonica and started playing... It blew them
away... It was so unexpected... This Buddhist Monk guy was playing
blues harmonica. A lot of the kids had never heard the blues
before, but it didn't matter, they could feel it... They were
living the blues.
of the years... I taught blues harmonica at a high risk juvenile
probation camp in Malibu, CA. I was asked by a member of the
camp staff (Mr. Eaton) if I would be interested in teaching
blues harmonica? I said, "Yes, I'd be happy to give it
a try." I was able to get some free harmonicas through
a friend (Jeff Gold) who contacted John Popper (*Blues Traveler).
John was kind enough to donate 'Hohner' harmonicas to the camp,
and the program began. A few weeks into the program a professional
guitar player (John McDuffy) volunteered to play, and put together
a beginning music course for the kids. It was a lot of fun to
share the blues with the guys, and they got to keep their harmonicas.
They heard the blues and it touched them... The suffering I
speak about in my presentations was transformed into the blues...
And when they played, they played for real... It was their life
they were playing about... For years people feeling down and
out listened and played the blues to feel good. It's a magic
potion for the ear... A doorway to the heart!!! A place were
hope lives eternal.
These days, I play more than I practice... The power of the
blues is amazing! It can heal and inspire... It's a kind of
musical meditation. The blues allow you to rest in the present
moment and not feel the pains of the past or the fears of the
The blues fit nicely with the teaching's of the Buddha... "Life
is filled with suffering." But along the way there is joy
and happiness... It doesn't last... But It's there... As a Buddhist
monk my message is--- "Live the Dharma and end your blues
forever." Sometimes though, it's enough just to play them.
friend once asked... "Doesn't playing the harmonica break
a precept?" "Well, yes and no," I said. "If
I can play the blues and end some suffering... Plus, serve the
Dharma... I suppose you could call my playing... Skillful Means.
Music and Buddhism ...Ven. Master Hsing Yun
gives us the capacity to express the deepest feelings of the
human soul. Whether through holy hymns or sincere chants
of praise, it is capable of lifting our minds to an almost sublime
state, and, as such, is regarded as having an important role
in the promotion of religious teachings. In the world's religions,
music has a very important function and a wide range of applications.
The teachings of the Buddha mention music on many occasions.
In the Amitabha Sutra, it is written that heavenly singing and
chanting is heard all day and night as mandara flowers softly
rain down from the heavens. All kinds of birds produce
beautiful and harmonious music throughout the day and night.
Upon the blowing of a gentle breeze, the movements of
jewel trees bring about a kind of wondrous music, as if thousands
of gentle tunes are being played together in harmony. Upon hearing
these melodious sounds, those present naturally become mindful
of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha.
In accordance, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are very skilled
in utilizing music to spread the Dharma and guide sentient beings
Buddhism, sutras sung as hymns and other songs praising the
virtues of the Buddhas have attracted and helped purify the
hearts of countless disciples. One of the Buddha's teachings
(Treatise on the Perfection of Great Wisdom [skt. Mahaprajnaparamita
Sastra]) says, "In order to build a Pureland, the Bodhisattvas
make use of beautiful music to soften people's hearts.
With their hearts softened, people's minds are more receptive,
and thus easier to educate and transform through the teachings.
For this reason, music has been established as one type of ceremonial
offering to be made to the Buddha." In addition to propagating
the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), there is a long history
of adapting Buddhist songs for use in various ceremonies such
as weddings, funerals, etc. In this capacity, Buddhist Music
plays an integral role in common cultural practices.
Master Taixu once said, "Music gives the people of a society
a means by which they can better communicate their moods and
feelings with each other. For instance, if someone plays
a certain kind of tune, it is often quite easy for those listening
to understand exactly what mood that person is trying to convey.
For society to achieve some degree of integration, it is essential
to be able to communicate and understand each other's moods
and feelings and as a result establish a sense of unity.
This is one of the important functions of music."
The capacity of music to capture people's attention, touch them
deeply, and tug at their heartstrings makes it one of the most
beautiful forms of human expression.
Buddhist Music utilizes a rich variety of musical instruments
during chants and hymns. Because these instruments are
used in the propagation of Buddhist teachings, they are collectively
named Dharma instruments. Other than the inverted bell, which
originated in India, the instruments used in traditional Chinese
Buddhist Music are native to China. Instruments such as
the gong, large bell (ch. qing), large drum (ch. gu), wooden
fish, small cymbals, large cymbals and Chinese tambourine punctuate
both Chinese folk and Buddhist Music. In modern practice,
Chinese Buddhist Music is frequently accompanied by a variety
of Chinese orchestral instruments, piano, or traditional European
symphony orchestras. From its humble beginnings, Buddhist
Music has developed to such an extent that it is currently performed
in temples and concert halls throughout the world and can now
rival the beauty of western philharmonic orchestras.
Development of Buddhist Music
India during the time of the Maurya Dynasty (317-180 B.C.E.),
powerful King Asoka spared no effort to preserve Buddhism and
spread its teachings. This time period witnessed many
developments in the field of Buddhist Music such as the inclusion
of copper gongs, drums, flutes, conch horns, and harps in Buddhist
ceremonial music. As Buddhism spread to Tibet, the Tibetan
traditions of Buddhism encouraged the use of song and dance
in certain ceremonies. There is, in fact, a section of
the sangha that specializes in the performance of music and
dance, referred to as Leva Musicians, meaning "Gods of
Fragrance and Music." The teachings of the Buddha
(Mahavairocana Sutra) say, "In all acts of singing there
is truth; every dance portrays reality." In accordance
with this, the development of Tibetan Buddhist Music has been
allowed to blossom freely, which in turn has helped foster its
many distinctive characteristics. In Tibetan Buddhism's
larger ceremonies, Lamas can be seen utilizing all kinds of
unique and exotic ceremonial instruments such as specialized
types of drums, windpipes, spiral conchs, and trumpets.
The design and artistry of these instruments is widely regarded
as being of intricate beauty.
Buddhism was first introduced into China (from India), focus
was placed primarily on the translation of scriptures, and the
teaching of Sanskrit Buddhist hymns was discontinued because
of the large differences between these two languages.
As Venerable Master Huijiao of the Southern Dynasty period (420-589
C.E.) stated, "Sanskrit words have many syllables, whereas
Chinese words are monosyllabic. If you pronounce Sanskrit
words but write them in Chinese characters, the text will contain
too many syllables and the pace of the music will sound rushed.
But, if you sing in Chinese and keep the text in Sanskrit, then
you will have to rush through a very long section of text while
pronouncing only a few syllables. For this reason, we
have made translations of the scriptures, but do not continue
to use or teach spoken Sanskrit." In the absence
of traditional hymns, monastics later recomposed and adapted
classical folk songs along with some music commonly played to
royalty and officials in the Imperial Court, which gave rise
to the unique flavor and tradition of Chinese Buddhist Music.
The earliest collection of Chinese Buddhist hymns date back
as far as the Wei Dynasty period (220-265 C.E.). Cao Zhi
(the son of the emperor) was renowned for his singing and compositions.
According to legend, he was passing through the town of Yushan,
in the Shandong province, when he heard a song in Sanskrit apparently
emanating from the sky. Touched by the song's beauty, he committed
it to memory and later wrote it into a melody entitled "The
Yushan Fanbei," the first Buddhist hymn constructed in
a Chinese style. This song served as the foundation for
the development of Chinese Buddhist Music.
response to the uniqueness of Chinese Buddhist Music, The Biography
of Great Chinese Masters says, "All songs teaching the
Dharma that were composed by Indian monastics or lay people
are called "bei" (skt. patha). Intonations or
chants of sutras composed in China are known as recitals."
The collective name for this type of traditional Buddhist Music
is known in Chinese Mandarin as fanbei and has its origins in
the time of the Buddha. Another style of ancient Indian
chants and hymns became widely popular during the period of
the composition of the Vedas. This style of chant was
prominently adopted by Buddhism and has its origins in the sabdavidya,
(the branch of the classical five great studies of India concerning
sound and music). Buddhist hymns composed in this style
are collectively referred to in Mandarin as shengbai (Sabda
the time period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589
C.E.), the contributions of several emperors deeply influenced
the development of Buddhist Music. Emperor Wu of the Liang
Dynasty, for example, was a devout Buddhist whose great love
for Buddhist Music motivated him to write several well-known
musical compositions such as Great Joy (ch. Da Huan), The Heavenly
Way (ch. Tian Dao), The Cessation of Evil and Wrongdoing (ch.
Mie Guo E), and Stopping the Wheel of Suffering (ch. Duan Falun).
Though these were originally composed to teach the Dharma, by
virtue of their aesthetic value they came to be regarded as
quality musical compositions. Emperor Wu also set the
precedent for the establishment of Buddhist children's choirs
with works including The Children's Joy of the Dharma Song (ch.
Fale Tonzi Ji) and Children's Fanbei (ch. Tongzi Yi Ge Fanbei).
In addition, he established the Wuzhe Dahui (skt .pancaparisad),
held for confession, penance, and remission, the Yulanpen Fahui
(skt. ullambhana) ghost festival, and the Liang Wu Repentance
Liturgy. Emperor Wu also initiated the practice of singing
Buddhist hymns during repentance ceremonies. The contributions
of Emperor Wu were instrumental in blending Buddhist Music with
that of the mainstream classical Chinese traditions.
the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties to the beginning
of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.), the great achievements of
monastics in terms of their singing and public speaking abilities
stand out prominently in the field of Buddhist Music as being
peerless in their time. At the same time, Pureland School
monastics composed several songs praising the Buddha that were
sufficiently esteemed to be compiled in the Tripitaka.
It was during this period that Venerable Huiyuan of Lushan pioneered
the use of music as a method of promoting the Dharma and propagating
the doctrines of Buddhism.
recent times, a large volume of Tang Dynasty Buddhist compositions
was uncovered in the Dunhuang Caves of China. Primarily
concerned with interpretations of the sutras, these compositions
are known as Verses for the Common People (ch. Su Jiang), and
were the first Chinese Buddhist compositions to adopt a more
folk-like style and flavor. This music represents a reform
in the style of singing and chanting, and in addition employs
a new system of musical notation. Before the end of the
Tang Dynasty, the style of Buddhist Music in China had become
entirely Chinese and received unprecedented popularity.
during the Yuan Dynasty (1277- 1367 C.E.), Buddhist musicians
adapted melodies of the then popular Northern and Southern Dynasty
Compositions (ch. Nan Bei Qu). In the Ming Dynasty (1386-1644
C.E.), monastics adapted more than three hundred popular and
classical melodies and compiled them on fifty scrolls known
collectively as Songs Proclaiming the Titles of all the Honorable
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (ch. Zhu Fo Shizun Rulai Pusa Zunzhe
Mingcheng Gequ). Some of the most famous secular music
of the time was adapted to create Buddhist pieces. For
example, the Song Dynasty piece A Butterfly Falls in Love with
a Flower (ch. Die Lian Hua) was rewritten as the Buddhist piece
A Spiritual Song (ch. Ju Lingxiang Zhi Qu). Although folk
tunes such as these were widely used to propagate the teachings,
Buddhist Music had already become quite popular among the common
people. However, Buddhist Music still seemed to lack creativity
and continued to remain hampered by elements of conservatism.
the formation of the Republic of China in 1912, Buddhist Music
slowly began to lose its popularity among the general public
and fewer monastics continued the work of writing new compositions.
However, in 1930 at the Xiamen City Minnan Buddhist Institute,
Venerable Master Taixu in cooperation with Venerable Master
Hongyi composed a renowned, beautiful piece called The Song
of the Three Treasures (ch. San Bao Ge). At the same time,
they made a call to all Buddhist disciples to preserve and carry
on the legacy of Buddhist Music. Venerable Master Taixu
was motivated in part by his understanding that Buddhist Music
is a very convenient means for propagating spiritual education.
In addition, he believed that if music could be used to help
spread the Dharma, then it would contribute greatly to the diversity
and richness of religious education of the public. His
associate, Venerable Hongyi, was an accomplished and esteemed
musician before entering the order and ten of his songs concerning
naturalism and its implications in Buddhist teachings were eventually
compiled into an album entitled "The Qingliang Selection
(ch. Qingliang Gequ)." During this time, however,
most people had limited exposure to Buddhist Music and therefore
it did not enjoy widespread popularity.
there has been an upsurge in the popularity of Buddhist Music
resulting from the broad use of hymns and fanbei as a means
to promote the Dharma. Given the little encouragement of previous
years this is a most welcome sign. During the 1950's,
many monastics worked diligently to compose the words for new
songs with the help of musicians Yang Yongpu, Li Zhonghe, and
Wu Juche. A collection of the songs they composed has
been recorded by Fo Guang Shan and released in an album entitled
Fo Guang Hymn Collection (ch. Fojiao Shengge Ji). Their
efforts serve as a great inspiration to those who wish to carry
on work in this field.
1957, the Ilan Buddhist Recital Society's youth group choir
produced several more Buddhist albums under my supervision.
Altogether we produced six albums, which include a total of
over twenty compositions. As this was the first time such
a project had been undertaken in Buddhist circles, a new epoch
in the history of Buddhist Music was born. However, in
those days a lot of prominent people in Buddhist circles did
not agree with this kind of undertaking. Despite criticism,
I continued to feel such projects were important for the propagation
of Buddhism, and I decided to remain undeterred in my efforts.
Then a few years later in 1979, 1990, 1992, and 1995 my persistence
was rewarded by receiving permission to organize some large
performances in Taipei's renowned Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
and National Concert Hall. These performances, featuring
dances coordinated with Sanskrit songs and other music teaching
the Dharma, mark the first time Buddhist hymns had ever been
performed in any large public concert facility in Taiwan.
In addition, a performance entitled "Paying Homage to the
Buddhas of the Ten Directions Dance and Song Ceremony in Sanskrit"
was held as part of a traditional arts festival at the invitation
of the Taipei City Government. This was to mark the first
time traditional Buddhist fanbei and modern hymns had been performed
alongside popular and more established mainstream styles of
Western music, traditional Chinese music, and dance. This
pioneering effort certainly served to affirm the newly established
status of Buddhist Music in society and was rewarded with significant
acknowledgement in all sections of the Buddhist world.
Contributions of Buddhist Music
addition to songs used to expound the truth of the sutras, Buddhist
fanbei also includes an esteemed and beautiful collection of
gentle melodies that give praise to all the Buddhas and great
Bodhisattvas. These were originally composed as expressions
of the deep faith of Buddhist disciples, and by virtue of their
beauty, they have left a rich legacy of superb melodies and
literature. These include all kinds of gathas praising
various Buddhas, such as the Bhaisajyaguru Gatha, the Avalokitesvara
Gatha, as well as statements of Buddhist vows, which have contributed
significantly to the broadening, enrichment, and variety of
Chinese literature. Holy hymns are used in ceremonies
for making offerings or inviting the presence of Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas. Excellent pieces such as the solemn Incense Offering
Prayer (ch. Lu Xiang Zan), the Incense Prayer for Up- holding
the Precepts (ch. Baoding Zan), and the Prayer for Offerings
Made to Celestial Beings (ch. Jie Ding Zhenxiang Zan) embody
and beautifully express the virtues of respect and religious
fanbei has contributed a unique style to the world of music.
Characterized by a relaxed and easy pace, soft tones, and a
dignified, solemn manner, Buddhist fanbei gives elegant expression
to the five virtuous qualities of sincerity, elegance, clarity,
depth, and equanimity. According to the Vinaya in Ten
Recitations, regularly listening to Buddhist fanbei can give
the following five benefits: a reduction in bodily fatigue,
less confusion and forgetfulness, a reduction in mental weariness,
a more elegant voice, and greater ease in both personal expression
and communication. Regarding the regular practice of chanting
or singing fanbei, A Record of the Buddhist Religions as Practiced
in India and the Malay Archipelago (ch. Nanhai Ji Gui Zhuan)
makes mention of six kinds of merits that can be obtained: knowledge
of the depth and extent of the Buddha's virtue, an intuitive
realization of the truths of the Dharma, a reduction in negative
or harmful habits of speech, a clearer and healthier respiratory
system, a mind more free from fear and anxiety, and longevity
and improved health.
the practice of Buddhism, fanbei has important functions in
daily living, in repentance ceremonies, and in ceremonies accompanying
sutra lectures. During daily activities, practitioners regularly
chant fanbei such as The Meal Offering Dharani (ch. Gong- yang
Zhou) and The Meal Completion Mantra (ch. Jie Zhai Ji) to make
offerings and transfer merits to all the Buddhas and all the
sentient beings of the six realms. During repentance ceremonies,
focus is placed on singing several prayers as a means to guide
and teach participants. Before lectures are given on the sutras,
incense prayers are sung to invite all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
to attend the service, helping to generate a dignified, solemn,
reverent, and respectful manner among participants. After
the ceremony's conclusion, The Gatha for the Transfer of Merits
(ch. Huixiang Ji) is chanted, where the merits for attending
the service are dedicated to the benefit of all sentient beings.
Through this, attendees express the wish that all sentient beings
be relieved of all suffering and come to find lasting happiness.
fanbei is not designed to try to elevate or excite the emotions
of participants or practitioners, but in fact aims to achieve
the opposite effect. Its main function is to conserve
emotional energy, calm thoughts, reduce desire, and allow practitioners
to see their true nature with a clear mind. The Flower Ornament
Sutra and The Lotus Sutra contain phrases such as "conduct
ceremonies and teach the Dharma with music" and "with
a joyful spirit, sing the truths of the Dharma."
From this it can be seen that fanbei has an important role in
teaching the Dharma to the public.
music has notably influenced and contributed to the cultural
legacies of various Chinese empires and dynasties. Before
the Tang Dynasty, government artists assumed the work of compiling,
editing, and distributing popular musical pieces and artistic
growth during that period was limited. How- ever, between
the Sui and Tang Dynasties, transport between China's western
and eastern regions was unimpeded, resulting in the introduction
of music from the outer western and northern regions to China's
more heavily populated eastern regions. In addition, wars
and continued fighting resulted in the dispersion and loss of
many Chinese classics. These factors resulted in a period
of renewed creativity and the reinvention of several different
musical styles. By the end of the Northern Song Dynasty
(960-1128 C.E.), local artists began to take on the role of
directing the development of popular music. Commoners
formed their own organizations and even established official
performance halls. As a result, during the Tang Dynasty,
Song Dynasty (960-1128 C.E.), and Yuan Dynasty (1277-1367 C.E.),
Buddhist temples were able to gradually develop and popularize
a new style of giving sermons that featured public talks expounding
and publicizing the Dharma sung to fanbei melodies. This
popular style of lec- turing was known as the singing lecture
technique. This style was successful in attracting the
attention of the public and was considered to be a very moving
style of vocal music. Documents containing historical
details concerning these developments were discovered among
hidden pieces of art found in the Dunhuang Caves. These
documents show the emergence of a style of symbols employed
by the monastics of hundreds of years ago to describe and teach
the chanting of Buddhist doctrines. They also contain depictions
of solemn-looking ceremonial dances, orchestra constructions,
elegant offering ceremony dance postures, and instrument recitals
of Indian music. Today, these documents are highly valued
as being priceless pieces of historical Chinese literature and
underlie an important aspect of Buddhist Music's enormous cultural
light of the way traditional Chinese music and Buddhist Music
have blended together over a long period of time, Buddhist temples
of the past could be considered custodial centers for the preservation
and development of traditional ballads. In testimony to this,
it was recorded that during the Song Dynasty a famous scholar
by the name of Cheng Mingdao attended a ceremony at a Buddhist
temple called Guan Yunmen. When he saw the grand formations
of classical instruments and heard the crisp sounds of drums
and bells he was so excited about what he had discovered that
he yelled out, "So! The ritual music of the three
dynasties can all be found here!" In pre-contemporary
China, recognized scholars were required to be accomplished
in a variety of compulsory fields of study, one of which was
classical Chinese music. As such, Cheng Mingdao's statement
concerning the style of music present is perceived to have the
weight of authority.
contributions of Buddhist music upon the world can be exemplified
in a legend involving a famous Buddhist musician. During
Sakyamuni Buddha's time on earth (500 B.C.E.) there was a bhiksu
named Pathaka whose voice was so beautiful that when he chanted
Buddhist fanbei even animals that overheard him were touched.
One day, King Kausala was leading a large army to invade Anga
(a small state in ancient India) and on the way they en- countered
the Jetavana Monastery while Pathaka was in the middle of a
chanting service. As soon as the horses heard the sound
of Pathaka's chanting, they became so absorbed in the sound
that they came to a full stop and refused to advance any further.
When the sound reached King Kausala, he was so moved by the
beauty of the music that he could not bring himself to shed
blood in battle and immediately decided to abandon his campaign
and return home.
of Buddhist Music
I came to Taiwan from China in 1949, I decided on the basis
of my sincere vow to spread and publicize the teachings that
it would be best to adopt a more modern approach in using hymns
to propagate the Dharma. As such, I placed a lot of emphasis
on the promotion of Buddhist Music, and advocated a strategy
of simplifying the words of tunes to make them easier to understand,
as well as using more modern and popular musical styles. It
was my hope that Buddhist songs could be composed that most
people would find deeply touching, but that were also easy enough
for the average person to sing along with. As a result,
I personally composed the lyrics to several Buddhist songs and
led the Ilan Buddhist youth group choir in a premier performance
of the Sound of Buddhism concert group on the Minben radio station
in 1954. In addition, I made it a point to institutionalize
the singing of modern Buddhist hymns during all types of Buddhist
activities. At that time a lot of people opposed this
very strongly, even saying such methods could destroy Buddhism.
However, history verifies that this strategy has been a success.
The drawing power of music has indeed encouraged many people
to enter into the Buddhist community, where a significant amount
have slowly been transformed spiritually as a result of being
in constant contact with the teachings. In addition, it
has encouraged many talented youth to become active in Buddhism,
and many have later gone on to make life-long commitments and
enormous contributions to Buddhism, such as Venerable Tzu Hui
and Venerable Tzu Jung. Even though there have been many
setbacks and obstructions, I maintained my conviction to bring
a degree of modernization to Buddhist Music.
idea to modernize Buddhist Music is based on a need to respond
to changes in society in order to provide the most appropriate
and suitable methods to help purify the hearts and minds of
the public. Indeed, the lifestyle common to most people
today is very busy and quite stressful, and with many people
seeming to have no place to take any kind of spiritual refuge
it can often become quite easy for them to lose themselves.
However, the pure and clear sounding melodies of Buddhist Music
provide a way to communicate the higher spiritual states of
mind that are advocated by the Dharma, and can serve to enrich
and reenergize the hearts of the people.
melodies are characterized as being strong, but not fierce;
soft, but not weak; pure, but not dry; still, but not sluggish,
and able to help purify the hearts of listeners. Through using
music to perform the task of spreading the Dharma and saving
sentient beings, we can reach the most remote places and overcome
the limitations of time and distance, as well as differences
in cultural backgrounds and nationalities. Music can help
us achieve the task of widely propagating the Dharma and spreading
the wisdom and compassionate vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
across every corner of the globe.
Buddhist Music is focused on bringing harmony into people's
everyday lives, purifying people's minds, and performing the
function of educating and transforming listeners so as to bring
their emotions in line with the teachings of the Dharma.
With modern media and information equipment constantly improving,
we need to make full use of technology to find more efficient
means to give Buddhist Music public coverage, such as through
the use of electronic broadcasting media including television
and radio stations. We need to use music to break through
the barriers of differences in cultural backgrounds, social
customs, and languages. By using all sorts of equipment
such as classical instruments, laser disks, electronic organs,
the piano, and many other kinds of musical implements we can
create and distribute music that can suit the tastes and meet
the needs of people from around the world.
following are five guiding principles I have put forward to
further the modernization and popularization of Buddhist Music:
Buddhist Music should not be something unique to temples and
monastic life, but should move towards spreading out to the
In addition to Buddhist verses and chanted prayers, we need
to continue creating more and more new musical pieces.
Those propagating Buddhism should from now on do more to advocate
the use of music, and should use music to attract the public
to study Buddhism.
Buddhists can start to form bands, choirs, orchestras, classical
music troupes, etc. to use music to spread and teach the Dharma.
I hope that from this day on, we can see new musical talent
make a mark in Buddhist history in the same mould of the likes
of Asvaghosa Bodhisattva and Venerable Master Hongyi.
addition to the techniques and styles of ceremonial music honoring
the Buddhas that are now regarded as defining Buddhist Music,
we can begin to mix the solemn spirit of Buddhist melodies with
some of the qualities of contemporary music to take the modernization
of Buddhist Music to a whole new level.
Rock n' Blues Harmonica ...by
a rich world of blues harmonica instruction and music for beginning
through intermediate players.
by the idea that most music instruction literature is boring
and irrelevant to most people most of the time, Rock n' Blues
Harmonica teaches improvisational music harmony 101 and every
important harmonica technique in a way that communicates to
even the most instruction-hating, theory-phobic, eyes-closed,
"leave-me-alone-I'm-Jamming" harp player.
book includes: choosing your harp, first sounds, sweet tone,
playing chords, single notes, blues riffs, bending, tongue-blocking,
octaves, vibrato, headhsakes, mics and amps, positions 1-6 plus
12, cross harp melodies and more.
the 74 minutes stereo CD jamming buddy, Jon teaches and plays
every major harp technique over an easy jamming blues background
for your C harmonica. Turn off the instruction to hear only
the band. Turn off the band to hear only the instruction. This
fully indexed 74 minute CD will be a constant jamming companion
as you develop your tone and techniques.
slogan for this book and CD is FIVE MINUTES TO PLAY, FIVE YEARS
TO MASTER. This inspirational and informational book/CD combo
has the knowledge and attitude you'll refer to again and again.
Dutch Martin from Rabat Morocco- This is arguably the
best blues harmonica instructional book/cd set for beginners
on the market. Period! For anyone who is just starting out learning
to play harmonica in the style of the blues, Jon Gindick is
the man to get you started. This book/CD set, along with his
video "Country and Blues Harmonica for the Absolute Beginner,"
will definitely get you on your way to blowin' the blues on
the harmonica. Buy them both, and you're set!
Chris Pacquer from scotch plains, nj United States- I
was one of the "musically challenged" people that
Jon refers to in the opening chapter. I had bought a Hohner
with instructions, but it was not until I got this book with
the jammin cd that I really began to understand the harp. Jon's
witty and easy to understand guidelines have given me a great
start. Because of this book, I have bought another harp and
began to build my cd library of great harp players. If you cannot
even keep a beat and don't even know what a chord is, this is
a must to start out.
Buddha's Light International Association
N. Walnut Grove Ave., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA
1-626-307-2938~41 ... E-mail: email@example.com
Ven. Master Hsing Yun, Buddhism has found a reformer, an innovator,
and an educator. Under his strong leadership, Buddhism has extended
beyond traditional temple life to integrate and further enrich
the modern living of city dwellers. Today, it has transcended
national boundaries and has afforded people from all over the
world the opportunity to be a part of it.
Initially formed on February 3, 1991 in response to the needs
of local Buddhist practitioners, the BLIA ROC gradually gained
recognition overseas. Subsequently, "Buddha's Light International
Association" was officially inaugurated in Los Angeles,
California on May 16, 1992 during which a new chapter in Buddhist
history emerged. As Buddhist delegates from Europe, America,
Asia, Africa, and Australia rendered their support by attending
the first BLIA General Conference, Ven. Master Hsing Yun commemorated
the unprecedented event with the following verses:
compassionate vow is to save sentient beings;
body is that of the Dharma ocean that binds no boats;
me what have I achieved in this lifetime?
the Buddha's Light shine over the five continents."
As a starting goal for Buddhist propagation, Ven. Master Hsing
Yun endorsed the spirit of "Joy and Harmony" as the
theme for the first BLIA General Conference. In doing so, BLIA
hopes the seed of joy is sowed throughout the world and the
ideal of harmony prevails among all people.
BLIA is not the organization of a certain sect, temple, or person.
It is an organization that belongs to all the Buddhists in the
world. People who subscribe to the guiding principles of BLIA
are welcome as "Buddha's Light Friends." Currently,
over 100 BLIA chapters have been established worldwide. There
are establishments in the United States of America, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, the United Kingdom,
the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Malaysia, Singapore,
the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, India, Brazil,
Argentina, Africa, etc. Gradually but surely, there will be
BLIA establishments throughout every corner of the world where
the presence of BLIA members will make a difference for the
benefit of humanity.
BLIA works closely with members of other Buddhist temples, colleges,
scholastic organizations, lay practitioners associations, and
meditation groups. BLIA will attempt to accommodate the request
for assistance from any affiliation if a need arises. Evidently,
the primary objective of BLIA is to serve the multitude, spread
a joyous spirit among people, and help others to instill the
virtue of compassion.
As members are aware, BLIA places a lot of emphasis on social
services through a host of well-designed activities. For example,
BLIA is active in the "Save the Earth" campaign and
the preservation of nature and the environment. There are regular
schedules to collect recycled products and the planting of trees.
In the recent past, BLIA was instrumental in planting about
20 millions trees in Taiwan. As a means to help improve the
conditions of our communities, BLIA has also participated in
some governmental sponsored activities such as an anti-drug
campaign, international disaster relief efforts, etc.
Due to the fact that BLIA is able to meet the challenges dictated
by modern technology, the seeds of Buddhism can easily be planted
throughout the five continents. In addition, under the strong
support in the ideal of "Respect and Magnanimity,"
members of BLIA strive to emulate the bodhisattvas' spirit to
help actualize the motto of BLIA:
kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity pervade all dharma
all beings from heaven and earth benefit from our blessings
our ethical practice of Ch'an and Pure Land help us to realize
equality and patience;
we undertake the greatest vows with humility and gratitude."
Modeling our behaviors on the Four Great Bodhisattvas, we recite
this motto before each meal to remind us of our vows to help
others, to make this world a better place, to bring joy to humanity,
and to achieve peace among nations.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF BLIA FOUNDER
Ven. Master Hsing Yun was born in Chiangtu, Chiangsu province,
China, in 1927. Tonsured under Ven. Master Chih Kai at age twelve,
he became a novice monk at Chi-hsia Shan, a mountain monastery
in Nanjing, China.
After arriving in Taiwan in the spring of 1949, the Ven. Master
became the chief editor of Life Journal, Awakening The World,
Buddhism Today, and a host of other publications. In 1952, while
staying at Lei-yin Temple of Ilan, he initiated chanting groups,
student and youth organizations, children's Sunday school, and
various Dharma teams that eventually laid the foundation for
his future efforts in Buddhist propagation.
In 1957, the Ven. Master established a Buddhist cultural center
that became today's Foguang Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd. in
which a variety of Buddhist books are being published with training
tools such as audio and visual aids. Subsequently, the founding
of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order in 1967 actualizes the Ven.
Master's vision of Humanistic Buddhism via education, cultural
activities, charity, and religious practices that "foster
talent, propagate the Dharma, provide relief aid, and cultivate
morality in people." Since then, over one hundred and fifty
branch temples have been established worldwide. Among them are
Hsi Lai Temple, Nan Tien Temple, and Nan Hua Temple, the biggest
temples ever built in North America, Australia, and Africa,
respectively. In addition to art museums, libraries, publishing
houses, and bookstores, the Ven. Master also established a free
medical clinic, a Buddhist research institute, two high schools
(Chih-kuang and Pu-men High Schools), the Hsi Lai University
in the United States, as well as Fo Guang University and Nan
Hua University in Taiwan. In 1970, 1975, and 1987 respectively,
the "Ta Tzu Children's Home," "Fo Guang Light
Lodge," and "Compassion Foundation" were formed
to provide for orphans, abandoned children, senior citizens,
as well as the poor and needy in Taiwan. Fo Guang Tripitaka
Editing Committee was also formed in 1977, and has continued
to work diligently toward the publication and advancement of
the "Fo Guang Buddhist Canon" and "Fo Guang Encyclopedia."
In 1997, "Excerpts of Chinese Buddhism Tripitaka in Modern
Texts" was successfully completed with the "Fo Guang
Encyclopedia" on CD, followed by the formation of Buddha's
Light TV Station and Buddha's Light Internet Network as BLIA
advanced in line with modern technology. Books authored by the
Ven. Master that are widely distributed include The Life of
Sakyamuni Buddha, The Buddha's Ten Great Disciples, Hsing Yun's
Ch'an Talk, The Buddhism Volumes, Ven. Master Hsing Yun's Lectures
Series, The Buddhism Textbooks, Beads of Pearl - Prayers for
Engaged Living, etc.
Today, more than one thousand monastic disciples have been tonsured
under Ven. Master Hsing Yun who has over a million followers
worldwide. Throughout his life, the Ven. Master has dedicated
himself to propagating the ideals of "Humanistic Buddhism"
and being "a global person" in which the spirits of
joy and harmony, integration and coexistence, respect and magnanimity,
equality and peace are widely disseminated. Upon the inception
of Buddha's Light International Association on February 3, 1991,
Ven. Master Hsing Yun was elected to assume its presidency.
As of 1997, over one hundred international chapters of BLIA
have been established to carry out the Ven. Master's ideal of
"letting the Buddha's Light shine over the three thousand
realms and the Dharma's current flow throughout the five continents."
Over the years, the Ven. Master has been recognized with numerous
awards. In addition to the highly acclaimed honors received
in his home country, the Republic of China, the Ven. Master
has also gained international prestige for his selfless dedication
and contributions. For example, he is the first person from
the ROC to be granted an honorary Ph.D. by the University of
Oriental Studies in 1978, and was awarded the "Buddhist
Gem Award" by the Indian National Buddhist Assembly in
1995. In May of 1997, the Ministry for Internal and Foreign
Affairs honored him "the top award" in recognition
of his extraordinary contribution to society, his country, and
Buddhism at large. In February of 1998, the Ven. Master hosted
the Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony along with the
Five and Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremonies in Bodhgaya, India
so as to restore the Theravada bhiksunis precepts, which had
been lost for over a millenium. On April 8, 1998, he was bestowed
the Buddha's tooth relic which he personally escorted from India
to Taiwan where it would remain. The Ven. Master's contribution
toward Buddhism is truly phenomenal, and has helped Buddhism
gain a better understanding from society amidst current trends
of institutionalization, modernization, humanism, and globalization.
Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:
Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:
Subscribe or Unsubscribe: