What I’m Reading Now
Last November of 2010, arriving early on the final night of MKZC’s Tuesday night sit at the Crow Collection, Joni and I wandered upstairs to the sitting/reading room that’s above the Jade Collection. Looking over the reading material that was on display we discovered several volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha series and we were both immediately captivated. Buddha is an 8 volume manga (or graphic novel) series that tells the story of the life of Buddha. Most of us are familiar with the basic story: the birth of prince Siddhartha, his encounters with suffering, old age, disease and death, his decision to leave the palace where he was born and become a monk, and his eventual awakening and transformation into Buddha. In his interpretation, however, Tezuka mixes his own fictional characters with history. In the first volume, Kapilavastu, he tells the story of Chapra, a slave who attempts to escape his fate by posing as the son of a general; his friend Tatta, a wild boy who is one of the ‘untouchables’ and who has the ability to communicate with animals; and Naradatta, a monk who is trying to discover the meaning of strange omens foretelling Buddha’s birth. Siddhartha is born near the end of the first volume. In volume 2, Siddhartha is growing bored with the privileged life of a prince. He leaves the palace towards the end of the book to become a monk. In volume 3, he is a struggling monk. After many trials in the Forest of Uruvela, Buddha achieves enlightenment in the fourth volume. He continues to teach his disciples and inspire others until his death in volume 8. These books are beautifully illustrated and I especially enjoy the way Tezuka weaves the fictional characters and their stories and adventures into the historical story of Buddha’s life.
I love this little book of koans. I re-read it frequently and every time I find something new. Master Raven is the leader of a Zen community who provides teaching to different animal members (Owl, Porcupine, Grey Wolf, Woodpecker, Mole, and others) as they struggle with their practice. What I like best about their conversations is that some of them just puzzle me – so they have a way of moving me out of my comfort zone to a place where I don’t really know what’s going on. Here’s one of my favorites called The Spirit of Practice: Relaxing with the others after zazen one evening, Owl asked, “ What is the spirit of practice?” Raven said “Inquiry.” Owl cocked his head and asked, “What do I inquire about?” Raven said, “Good start.”