Instruments on Zen
What are the "musical" percussion instruments used ritualistically in Zen practice (mainly in temples, etc..)
For example, I have sympathy for that block of wood "clappers", "mokugyo" "mokugyo" (I do my recitation of the Heart Sutra in japanese striking my bell stick on the ground) and the bells... I buyed me bells (a little one like a "bowl" and a smaller one)...
Can aynone tell me briefly how each of them are used on temple cerimonies (the function of each one as the japanese name if one can... :) ) and what instruments an almost "layman", a practicing guy can use to embellish the ritual?
Why, for example, one goes striking, then striking more and more rapidly the clappers, or the drums... or the bells... is there a ritual significance?
I´m a musician too... then there´s why I´m interested...
For those interested in hear me (poorly playing and trying to sing) click here
Shakuhachi music interests me too... is there zen music... or zen "inspired" traditional japanese music... or any reccomendations?
A quick go at answering your question:
The mokugyo has the shape of a fish because a fish even when dead has open eyes, and thereore it symbolises awakening. It is uses solely to give the rhythm of sutra when we chant.
The wood has also often the shape of a fish but this time the fish has a pearl in his mouth, practice ( zazen) and the treasure of awakening ( the pearl) are one, it is used to call people to the Zendo to sit. Striking more rapidly is also a way to convey that time passes quickly and one has to not procrastinate.
The drum gives the time when priests are sitting.
The big bell outside gives the community clues about things happening, call priests for activities or when sitting, it is hit regularly to help people to come back to zazen when they drift away.
The Bell used coupled with Mokugyo symbolises wisdom .
The metal is used to call people for the meal.
The clappers are used as mokugyo, or to let people know that it is time to go to bed.
But I am sure Jundo will have many more things to share with us.
Thanks, Taigu. I didn't know the meaning of the mokugyo's fish shape. Poignant image of presence.
Taigu, I´ve heard some of these instruments at Busshinji Temple (a Soto Zen Temple, lead by Sokan Dosho Saikawa Roshi), in the city of São Paulo here in Brazil; I´ve heard that drum (think they call it "Taiko" if I´m remembering well), and it was used along with a Bell, yes... to "mark" time... but I didn´t understand how exactly... Thought there was *number of beats on Taiko* = hours... *number of beats on suspended bell* = minutes... I do remember, as well, that the large drum ressonates in all parts of the Temple... at least I though so! A very penetrating sound, a call to "reality"...
Originally Posted by Taigu
It was a good remembrance because they used to chant the "evening gatha" too, after the last period on the night... in japanese and portuguese I guess.
I made some research here in Internet and found out this, without these precious details brought to us by Taigu...
Thanks, Taigu... looking forward for some more comments on this subject.
Maybe there is some book on this subject... on how those instruments became used in Japanese ritual music... were it brought to Japan from China... I mean... ritualistic zen music... Does anyone here knows...? please share... :)
The very best for you is to go to a practice place and experience these sounds with your body-mind in stillness and motion, to learn through being and doing, hands on. And yes, most instruments did come from China with a few adjustments. No English book as far as I know but some stuff in Japanese, I have seen a couple of books on the subject.
Thank you teacher,
By the way, here is a nice list of many of the traditional instruments, bells and drums, found around a Zen temple in China or Japan. (The descriptions are in English, Japanese and Hungarian!)
Thank you, Jundo. Will read the page.
Does anyone know anything about "zennish" music... Shakuhachi, and like?
Some time ago, I knew a musician here in Brasil who arranjed and recorded some traditional Sutras... so cool.
Here is his link: http://www.franciscocasaverde.com/zen_audio.html
Nice recordings. Downloaded 'Sutra do Coraçäo en português. It's a keeper.
Thank you Marcos.