1974 ...: Untruthful 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi Meditation"
Information & Assertions, East & West
- Presented in Western Languages, Primarily
'ŌKI-na SUIZEN no USO'
THE BIG 'SUIZEN' LIE
- The False, Embarrassing "Komusō Zen Priest" 'Suizen' Tale:
An Utter Fantasy World ...
This is a research project in continuous progress - webpage last updated
on February 23, 2022, with even more false and bordering on fraud statements about 'Suizen',
'Shakuhachi Meditation', and Ascetic Shakuhachi history and ideology.
SPECIAL THANKS to
SOAS Ph.D. Christian Theodore Mau, Dr. Oliver Aumann, Bob Berlin-Grous/Monty H. Levenson
(c/o www.shakuhachi.com), and ISS President Elliot Kanshin Kallen, and Makihara Ichirō
for their respective very significant contributions, statements and conclusions regarding the present research matter in question.
INTRODUCTION: There was No 'Suizen' Before the Year 1950 - Simple as That!
Sadly speaking, the history of "'Suizen' misinformation" began in 1974 with Kamisangō Yūkō's explanatory text for
the Nippon Columbia grammophone record set titled 'Suizen'* - a misleading narrative that was subsequently adapted/translated to English
by Christopher Yohmei Blasdel in 1986 and uncritically spread by and among shakuhachi aficionados in the West ever after.
* Nippon Columbia KX-7001-3, 1974.
The special term, or compound, 'Suizen', can not be seen in Japanese writing nor elsewhere, at all, before the year 1950,
at the earliest. Period.
It is therefore not just inappropriate and academically utterly meaningless but also ethically improper and even bordering on fraud
to postulate that the Edo Period 'Komusō' ever "practiced 'Suizen'", or even "shakuhachi meditation", for that matter.
Nor, that anyone else ever did anything like "that" before them. Period.
Therefore, of course, using the term 'Suizen' as some sort of "explanation", or "proof", that the 'Komusō' ever employed the shakuhachi flute
for anything like "Zen-inspired, Zen-related meditation" is completely unfounded.
Truthful historical documentary evidence for anything like that does simply not exist!
'Suizen' stone monument erected at Kyōto Myōan-ji in 1966.
Photo by Torsten Olafsson, early Spring, 1977.
2022 SUIZEN RESEARCH NEW YEAR's NEWS:
REGARDING TWO 'SUIZEN' GROUPS on FACEBOOK
Dated September 1st, 2021, a new Facebook platform, titled "Walking Suizen", administered by Cesar Viana of Spain
was presented, with this introductory text:
The shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) is much more than just a musical instrument:
it is a tool for meditation.
Legend has it that the Komuso, buddhist monks in traditional Japan, would use it for the practice of Suizen (blowing zen),
an alternative to the more widely known Zazen (sitting zen).
Actual historical evidence of the practice of Suizen by the Komuso is scarce and disputed by modern scholars,
but the concept itself can be used in a very effective way as a powerful tool to enhance your practice.
The ritualisation of technical exercises, together with an awareness of breathing and of the passing of time can add a sense of accomplishment
and new spiritual dimensions to your playing and to your life."
Link to "Walking Suizen" on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=walking%20suizen
COMMENTS by T.O., January 9, 2022:
There exist absolutely no written "legends", at all, that "Komuso, buddhist monks in traditional Japan,
would use it* for the practice of Suizen (blowing zen)."
* the shakuhachi.
If Edo Period 'Komusō' could in any way be described as "Buddhist monks", they were only "half-monk, half-lay",**
and they wore their hair long.
** In Japanese: 'han-zō, han-zoku',
In this regard, you can fully trust Wikipedia Japan, quote:
"Actual historical evidence of the practice of Suizen by the Komuso" is definitely not even "scarce" -
it is completely non-existant!
No such documentary, "historical evidence" has ever been produced nor presented.
There was no 'Suizen' before 1950. Period.
In 2015, if not even earlier, a Facebook group titled
吹禅 - Meditation through flute music", administered by Kiku Day of Denmark
was presented, with this introductory text:
"I named this group "Suizen" to honor a Honkyoku tradition I am studying with my teachers.
Suizen is a Japanese word and means "Blowing Zen".
This is an ancient tradition of playing Japanese bamboo flute as a form of meditation."
Link to "Suizen -
吹禅 - Meditation through flute music" on Facebook:
COMMENTS by T.O., January 17, 2022:
As 'Suizen' was non-existant before 1950, there can be no connection with any historical "Honkyoku tradition".
"Blowing Zen" is not a correct "translation" of the term 'Suizen'.
The exists no documentary evidence at all proving any "ancient tradition of playing Japanese bamboo flute as a form of meditation".
A SHORT 'SUIZEN' HISTORY
The "idea" of 'Suizen' originated only during the very early 1950s among a group of devoted revivers of the Kyōto Myōan Temple,
a serious and sincere project that seems to have been headed ideologically by that temple's first fully ordained chief Zen monk named Yasuda Tenzan,
Before then, however, already in 1928-1930, Tomimori Kyozan and Kobayashi Shizan of the Myōan Kyōkai in Kyōto proposed the use of the term
'Sui-shō-zen', 吹簫禅, in writing: "To blow a flute meditation".
Nothing like that had ever existed before!
After 1950, Yasuda Tenzan introduced the new term 'Suizen', and he produced more than one expressive 'Suizen' calligraphy like this one, for example:
Yasuda Tenzan 'Suizen' calligraphy, details"
In 1978, Ozawa Zetsugai Seizan, a direct and very close student of the 40th Myōan Taizan-ha 'Kansu', Yoshimura Fuan Sōshin,
explained the essence of Taizan-ha 'Suizen' like this:
Ozawa Seizan Sensei, 1939-2012
Photo: Torsten Olafsson, Spring, 1978
"Myōan Shakuhachi is related to the Fuke Sect of Shakuhachi and it has as its purpose to employ the ancient Japanese shakuhachi flute as a Dharma instrument [hō-ki]
in order that one understands the Ultimately Adual Nature of the 'Bright' and the 'Dark' [Myō-An] and experiences the Essence of Non-Substantiality
[kyo] through Self-Cultivation.
This [practice] is called 'Suizen'."
By Ozawa Seizan, 1939-2012, Myōan-ji, 1978, in a letter of recommendation to Torsten Olafsson.
1977: 'Zen' & 'Shakuhachi' acc. to the late Prof. Yoshida Mitsukuni, 1921-1991:
'Zen to shakuhachi: Kankei ga zenzen nai.'
"Zen and Shakuhachi?: No Connection at All!"
Source: Yoshida Mitsukuni, 1921-1991:
Since 1977 a highly esteemed professor of Science & Technology at Kyōto University
who also wrote outstanding books and articles about Japanese Arts and Aesthetics.
From a personal conversation in Prof. Yoshida's Higashiyama home in Kyōto, in Early Spring, 1977
1974: The Year that a Commercial Japanese Record Company Completely Destroyed Common Sense,
Credibility & Decency in Ascetic Shakuhachi History Research, Writing, Publishing - & ... Appreciation
At least four, probably even more years beforehand, however, the record company Nippon Columbia had decided to produce an ambitious triple-LP release project titled
'Suizen - Chikuhō ryū ni miru Fuke Shakuhachi no keifu' - published in 1974.
The Chikuhō School shakuhachi player Sakai Chikuhō II was engaged to record 14 shakuhachi tracks for the collection - although he was actually
not a representative of the Myōan Taizan-ha society of shakuhachi players, at all.
Links to track lists with sound samples:
An impressive more than 64 pages booklet with explanatory notes, illustrations and music notations was designed and printed alongside with the three LP records.
Here, four highly acknowledged Japanese musicologists were invited to write about and explain 'Suizen' "history" and "ideology", namely:
Tanabe Hisao, Kishibe Shigeo, Kamisangō Yūkō, and Tsukitani Tsuneko.
Throughout Kamisangō's long narrative, 'Suizen' is being emphasized and honored as the very underlying essence of all the 'Komusō''s 'honkyoku' shakuhachi pieces of the entire Edo period - no less than that.
However, not even a single one of the Taizan-ha personalities that influenced the Myōan Shakuhachi revival,
following WW2 and after 1950, and who invented 'Suizen',
is mentioned by Kamisangō Yūkō in his 'Suizen' narrative of 1974.
Instead, Kamisangō gave the reader the clear impression that 'Suizen' had almost "flourished forever", like here not least, on page 18 in the booklet:
'Suizen no shisō wa sude ni
'Komosō' jidai kara mebaeta mono de aru ga,
Fuke-shū no kakuritsu wa sore o
seiren junka shita no de atta.'
"Suizen ideology is something
that sprouted already since the 'Komosō' era,
but the establishment of the Fuke Sect
refined and purified it."
'Fuke shakuhachi no koten honkyoku wa subete
kono suizen kara umarete kara、
sono shuyō-na ongaku-teki tokushoku mo
suizen ni yurai suru.'
"Since the classical honkyoku of Fuke Shakuhachi
were entirely born from this 'Suizen',
their major musical characteristics
were also derived from 'Suizen'."
Some years later then, first published in 1986, appeared Christopher Yohmei Blasdel's book
"The Shakuhachi - A Manual for Learning".
For Part II of the book: "History and Development", Blasdel "translated and adapted" substantial parts
of Kamisangō's 'Suizen' text to English.
As an example, here is Christopher's rendering of the quotation shown just in the above:
"If the suizen idea was in its infancy
during the times of the komosō,
it reached refinement and idealization
with the establishment of the Fuke Sect."
"The pieces the komusō played, called honkyoku,
were all born from the Zen spirit,
and the musical characteristics of these pieces
have their origins in suizen."
Among the prominent Myōan-ji personalities who were actually involved and "instrumental" in the creation and spread
of the 'Suizen' term and ideology after 1950, directly or indirectly, one way or the other,
Kamisangō Yūkō and Christopher Blasdel did not refer to any of these names in their respective narratives:
Kobayashi Shizan, Tomimori Kyozan, Tanikita Muchiku, Yasuda Tenzan,
Hirazumi Taizan, Koizumi Ryōan, Fukumoto Kyoan & Yoshimura Sōshin.
1974 - Illustrations for the forewords
by Tanabe Hisao & Kishibe Shigeo:
In the 1974 'Suizen' LP booklet, both forewords are illustrated with basically the same picture
of Myōan-ji's now very famous 'Suizen' stone monument, or stele, the so called 'Suizen-hi',
吹禅碑, that was erected on the temple ground in 1966.
For Kishibe Shigeo's text, however, the picture has been somehow psychedelically manipulated, though ...
In their respective forewords for the 1974 'Suizen' LP set booklet, neither Tanabe Hisao nor Kishibe Shigeo gave any credit to the personalities at Kyōto Myōan-ji, who actually formulated the concept of 'Suizen' there during the early 1950s.
Well, Tanabe did indeed write a little about 'Myōan-dō no Shakuhachi',
"The Myōan Way of Shakuhachi" - a really uncommon expression, in fact -
and he mentioned the two Meiji Period personalities, Katsuura Shōzan and Higuchi Taizan, however only in short. That's it.
As for Kishibe, he did not refer to Myōan-ji, at all, but rather focused on discussing the term 'Sui-chiku-zen',
an idea that has only been in vogue among a few Japanese musicologists, I believe - not among the genuine Myōan Taizan-ha 'Suizen' practitioners, themselves.
Anyway, no matter what: There was no 'Suizen' in existence, nor "in action", in Japan before 1950, simple as that.
Genuine, still really well hidden, Myōan Taizan-ha 'Suizen' shakuhachi recordings:
Did Shakuhachi-playing 'Komusō' Ever Really "Meditate" at All?
According to The European Shakuhachi Society, it says on the webpage "THE AIMS OF THE ESS",
"The Japanese, vertical end-blown bamboo flute, the shakuhachi, has become an icon of traditional Japanese music.
The beautiful, mystic sound of the bamboo attracts world wide interest from those cultivating Japanese aesthetics to avant-garde composers.
During the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the shakuhachi was used as a tool for meditation by Zen Buddhist priests in order to reach enlightenment.
Today the shakuhachi is used in a wide variety of musical forms and styles including ensemble music,
pop music, jazz as well as the traditional genres."
The problem here is, of course, that the statement highlighted in red is completely incorrect, absolutely false!
No one will ever be capable of producing even the smallest literary, documentary evidence for such an assertion.
The same goes for 'Suizen', of course:
No one ever practiced 'Suizen' before the year 1950.
Neither 'Komosō' nor 'Komusō' ever performed 'Suizen'.
Not even the slightest "proof" is to be found and presented, at all ☺
No, Forget It: 'Komusō' Were Never Ever "Zen Priests"!
Acc. to Makihara Ichirō's, 牧原一路, weblog:
, August 10, 2007:
- - -
"It is written in Japanese junior high school textbooks that (quotation)
"Within the Zen sect, there are 4 sects, namely the Rinzai Sect and the Sōtō Sect, the Ōbaku Sect, as well as the Fuke Sect;
the komusō are Buddhist priests [sōryo] of the Fuke Sect."
Also, when looking at related internet sites, it generally reads as follows:
"As for the komusō, the founder of the Fuke Sect was the Chinese Zen monk Fuke;
the tradition was transmitted to Japan by Hottō Kokushi Shinchi Kakushin of the Kōkoku Temple
in Yura in the Ki Province [present Wakayama Prefecture]."
This is all wrong, a big lie [taisō/ō-uso].
- - -
Because the komusō neither shaved their heads [teihatsu mo sezu], were not initiated into Buddhist monastic life
receiving the precepts [tokudo jukai mo sezu],
nor were members of the Buddhist priesthood [sōseki mo nai], they were not Buddhist priests.
"Being a priest, or not a priest."
That is, in everything, a Zen paradox [Zen mondō]."
Acc. to Makihara Ichirō's weblog, 牧原一路,
尺八と一休語りの虚無僧一路, August 10, 2007:
"Originally, the komusō temples were places for masterless samurai to gather [rōnin no tomariba].
They neither conducted funerary services, nor did they have cemeteries [bochi mo nai]."
'Shakuhachi to Ikkyū katari no Komusō Ichirō,'
"Ichirō, the Komusō, Talking about the Shakuhachi and Ikkyū"
Acc. to the weblog of Makihara Ichirō, 牧原一路,
, October 24, 2007:
"From the outset, the Fuke Sect and the like did not exist within the world of Buddhism [bukkyō-kai ni wa ... sonzai shimasen],
and - because the komusō were not monks who had been initiated into Buddhist monastic life
receiving the precepts [shukke tokudo o uketa sō de wa arimasen] -
they were not real Buddhist priests [hommono no sōryo de wa arimasen]."
Originally, this quotation of October 24, 2007, was located here, link:
'Heisei no Komusō Ichirō no Nikki,'
"The Diary of Ichirō, the Heisei Period Komusō"
2 B or NOT 2 B a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?
Feel free to read more here:
To be - or not to be: a "Zen Buddhist Priest"?
2019: 'Zen' & "Shakuhachi" acc. to Bob Berlin-Grous & Monty H. Levenson:
"If viewed only in terms of the political, sociological, and even musical history,
the connection between shakuhachi and Zen may indeed seem rather superficial.
Even by the time of Kurosawa Kinko (1710-1771), there probably were few komuso who took the honkyoku tradition seriously,
much less practiced zazen; and it may very well be that Kinko's collecting the honkyoku pieces together,
in itself, represents a sign of the decay of the true oral tradition."
Source: Bob Berlin-Grous & Monty H. Levenson: The Sound of Bamboo:
Blowing Zen & The Spirit of Shakuhachi.
Tai Hei shakuhachi, Willits, CA, USA, 2019.
2021, May: 'Zen' & "Shakuhachi Meditation" acc. to Oliver Aumann, Japanologist & Itchōken-style player:
How the Shakuhachi is actually used for meditation is a topic often overlooked and seldom referred to explicitly.
There are no traditional texts in the Fuke-sect that would systematically explain how to meditate.
The word nowadays used for this kind of meditation is suizen
吹禅, "Blowing Zen".
The term seems to be relatively modern, but
has become a kind of motto for the modern Komusō.
In many cases suizen refers to nothing more than a ceremonial playing within a temple, with certain strict formalities.
2021, May: 'Zen' & "Shakuhachi Meditation" acc. to Oliver Aumann:
Occasionally the Komusō-Shakuhachi is also known as "Zen Shakuhachi", especially outside of Japan.
It seems that a special relationship with Zen Buddhism, which has become so popular in the West, is to be emphasised.
Unfortunately, in the choice of this term, not only ignorance of the facts, but often also commercial interests play a role ("Zen sells").
For the historical Komusō, a substantive relationship with the Zen school is scarcely verifiable,
and for the modern Komusō, the term "Zen-Buddhist" is simply inaccurate.
Historically, the only loosely organised group of Shakuhachi-playing begging monks was formally attributed to the Rinzai school of Zen in 1677. *)
The "Legend of the Kyotaku" played an important role in this formal "conversion" of the Komusō movement into Zen.
The religious theory and practice of the Komusō was, however, by no means purely Zen Buddhist in the narrower sense, but is influenced by many other aspects of Japanese religiosity.
For the modern Komusō-Shakuhachi players it is true that they were in many cases not formally Zen-Buddhists at the time of their foundation or even today.
Many of their most prominent representatives belonged to other Buddhist denominations.
樋口対山 (1856-1914) and Uramoto Setchō
浦本浙潮 (1891-1965) were two significant Shakuhachi players and had a great influence on the reestablishment of the Komusō movement.
But Taizan had originally been a follower of the Jōdo Shin School of Pure Land Buddhism, and converted later to the Lotus Buddhism of the Nichiren School,
and Setchō was an enthusiastic follower of the Jōdo-shin school, that is an Amida-Buddhist.
*) Comment, T.O.: There is nothing in that so called "Enpō Year 5 Memorandum"
that connects the 'Komusō' to the Rinzai Sect, whatsoever.
Read more here, internal website link: https://zen-shakuhachi.dk/tokomusohaoboe.htm
2014: 'Zen' & "Shakuhachi" - and 'Suizen' - acc. to Christian T. Mau:
"As a term, suizen is only used in reference to the shakuhachi and was originally
created with the intention of finding a comparable term to zazen, or 'seated' Zen, probably
the most common form of meditation practiced by most Zen sects.
'Zen' itself simply means 'meditation' or 'contemplation' (cf. Ogasawara 1978:95–96).
Thus, suizen, very fundamentally means blowing (the shakuhachi) meditation.
As an activity and concept, it is
not only inextricably linked to the shakuhachi in general,
but especially to Myōan Temple, as the large stone marker on the grounds bears testimony to.
As surprising as it may sound to those already familiar with the expression, however,
the word's coinage is less than a century old,
thus often rendering its usage somewhat anachronistic when applying it in connection with pre-20th century practice.
Thus it is frequently used indiscriminately — apparently without knowledge of its origins — leading De Ferranti,
as one example, to report that "[b]y the seventeenth century the Fuke sect of Zen had institutionalized the
practice of suizen" (De Ferranti 2000:71; see also Kamisangō 1988:97,125; Lee 1998:149–150).
The problem here is that, while the manner of using the shakuhachi may well have been institutionalised and identified with the Komusō of the Fuke sect,
there certainly does not seem to have been a dedicated term applied to the instrument's usage in this context."
Source: Christian T. Mau Ph.D. thesis, 2014, p. 115.
19th & 20th Century Researchers and Writers
Who Neither Mention(ed)) 'Suizen' Nor "Shakuhachi Meditation":
1861: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by George Smith
1864 & 1874: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Gustav Adolf Spieß
1893: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Francis T. Piggott
1899: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Edmond Papinot
1935 & 1964: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Sir Charles Eliot
1959: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by William P. Malm
1966: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Kishibe Shigeo
1967: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned in the anonymous cover notes
for the Lyrichord LP "Japanese Masterpieces for the Shakuhachi".
1968: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Elliot Weisgarber
1969: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Donald Paul Berger
1969: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Koizumi Fumio
1976: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Daigan Matsunaga & Alicia Matsunaga
1977: 'Suizen' not mentioned by Norman Allen Stanfield
1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by James H. Sanford
1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Tsuge Gen'ichi
1979: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" not mentioned by Ingrid Fritsch
1987: 'Suizen' is only mentioned by Torsten Olafsson in a timeless, neutral poem - see below at entry "1987".
The Numerous ‘Suizen’ Lies: Their Creators and The Misleaders ...
In the section below I am quoting, selectively, more than 50 Western and Japanese shakuhachi players, shakuhachi historians and diverse anonymous websites
for more or less questionable and misleading statements, some highly problematic, some and not few even completely false and bordering on fraud
– statements regarding ‘suizen’ and ‘shakuhachi meditation’, that were published since, first beginning in, the year 1974.
For the references to books and articles, look up the “Literature” webpage.
1974: Kamisangō Yūkō - 1977: James H. Sanford - 1979: Ingrid Fritsch
1983: Andreas Gutzwiller - 1984: Andreas Gutzwiller - 1986: Christopher Blasdel
1990: Takahashi Tōne - 1993: Riley Kelly Lee
1994: Tsukitani Tsuneko, Seyama Tōru & Simura Satosi
2000: Hugh de Ferranti - 2002: Simura Satosi - 2003: Raymond Sosnowski
2004: Jay Keister - 2005: Steve Weiss & Kurahashi Kodō II; Bruno Deschênes; Steven Casano
2007: Max Deeg - 2008: Tsukitani Tsuneko - 2010: Sarah Renata Strothers
2011: Vladislav Matoušek - 2012: Zachary Wallmark; Gunnar Linder
2014: Kiku Day; Dr. Wong Wah-Sang
2015: ‘Suizen’ Facebook group c/o Kiku Day; Christopher Blasdel c/o The European Shakuhachi Society; Alice Harriet Jones
2017: Bruno Deschênes; Eric Grundhauser; Arthur Braverman
2021: Cesar Viana
2021 – Websites visited during the course of 2021:
WikiPedia - WikiWand - DBpedia - HealingCrystalsCo - David J. Duncavage -
The European Shakuhachi Society - David Erath Jr -
Komuso.ch quoting Kamisangō Yūkō
and Christopher Blasdel - Carl Abbott - Hélène Codjo - Fuke-shakuhachi.com -
Hanzaburō Araki Kodō II - Chadō: Der Japanische Teeweg - Meihodo.com -
Alcvin Ramos - Andrey Zhilin - Bruno Deschênes - Gábor Terebess -
WikiPedia (English) -
Myōan-ji Dōshukai - Scott Foster - Thorsten Knaub/Shakuhachi-Atelier.com
1974: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kamisangō Yūkō, Japanese Music Historian:
NB: This is the year, 1974 - if not even some time before? - that proper ascetic shakuhachi history research and appreciation got completely "screwed up" ...
"As an outcome of the establishment of the Fuke Sect
the 'komosō' groups that included beggar monks and lunatics,
be they homeless persons,
(turned into) a religious group of 'rōnin' "wave men",
the membership privilege of whom was limited to persons with samurai rank
who performed 'suizen'
and samurai martial arts, (thus) climbing in status, so to speak ..."
Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson, 2020
Source: Nippon Columbia 'Suizen' triple-LP-set accompanying 64+page booklet, page 17.
1977: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to James H. Sanford, Japanologist:
James H. Sanford did not in his historical Monumenta Nipponica magazine article refer to any Edo Period 'komusō' having ever practiced
any Edo Period tradition of so called 'Suizen'.
But, James H. Sanford titled the article of his "
Shakuhachi Zen. The Fukeshū and Komusō!"
1979: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Ingrid Fritsch, Musicologist/Ethnomusicologist:
Actually, Ingrid Fritsch did not present the term 'Suizen' in her pioneering book.
However, when discussing the role of the Edo Period Kyōto Myōan-ji, Fritsch clarified as follows,
"Hier betrieb man die Praxis des Suichiku-Zen ( Zen des Bambus-Blasens ) mit grösster Intensität,
wobei die Flöte as Hōki, als religiöses Werkzeug zur Meditation fungierte."
Source: Ingrid Fritsch, 1979, page 14.
1983: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Andreas Gutzwiller, Ethnomusicologist, player & teacher:
"Das Spielen der shakuhachi in den Tempeln außerhalb religiöser Zeremonien
wurde ebenfalls als meditative Übung betrieben, sie als suizen (blasende Meditation)
bezeichnet wurde, und die in den verschiedenen Zen-Sekten übliche Form der Meditation,
Source: Andreas Gutzwiller, 1983, page 20.
1984: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Andreas Gutzwiller, Ethnomusicologist, player & teacher:
"What, however, has been appreciated all too little is the original achievement of the komusō,
which consisted in having linked music to the practice of meditation in a unique manner."
The Fuke-Sect regarded the shakuhachi not as an instrument of music but as a hōki, an "instrument of religion,
instrument of instruction".
That meant that playing the shakuhachi was part of the religious practice, which consisted of zazen (meditation)
shakuhachi-playing, and fencing-exercises (Takahashi 1973: 19).
- - -
The playing of the shakuhachi was likewise carried on in the temples quite apart from religious ceremonies: namely as
As such it was called suizen, "breathing- or blowing-meditation", and complemented the form of meditation typical of the various Zen
schools, i.e. zazen.
Source: Andreas Gutzwiller, 1984, pages 55-57.
1987: 'Suizen' acc. to Torsten Olafsson, Musician, Japanologist & Taizan-ha shakuhachi player:
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF 'SUIZEN'?
Those in Japan who know are few
- most of their wordbooks omit it!
'Zen' is to open the mind - to intuit
'Sui' is the flow of the breath - the wind
SUI-ZEN: 'blown meditation'?
No, 'Sui' is to blow the flute, make it ring!
'Zen' is the way of the skeptic ...
yet, knowing that sound of the 'flute without holes'
why would you plead for an answer?"
Source: Torsten Olafsson M.A. thesis,
'Suizen' only mentioned in a poem preceding the table of "Contents".
1986, 2008: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Christopher Blasdel & Kamisangō Yūkō,
Shakuhachi player/translator & Music Historian, respectively:
"Ritual pieces, begging pieces and even the pieces which seemed like entertainment for the monks were all part of the Zen training called suizen.
The word zazen, familiar in the West, refers to Zen meditation while sitting (za).
Sui means to play or to create a sound on a wind instrument.
Therefore it was literally "blowing Zen."
- - -
"Indeed, it is not surprising that the shakuhachi lends itself to the practice of suizen."
- - -
"If the suizen idea was in its infancy during the times of the komosō, it reached refinement and idealization with the establishment of the Fuke Sect.
The pieces the komusō played, called honkyoku, were all born from the Zen spirit, and the musical characteristics of these pieces have their origins
Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1986), page 106.
"Development of the shakuhachi as a tool for for Zen meditation."
- - -
"Historical inconsistencies aside, the lifestyle of the Fuke monks was extraordinary.
Fuke monks - in other words, komusō monks - made it part of their discipline to beg while playing while playing the shakuhachi on pilgrimages.
Shakuhachi playing, however, was just not a way to beg for alms.
The komusō ardently played the shakuhachi as a way toward enlightenment
in what was called suizen or "blowing" Zen meditation.
This took the place of the more traditional zazen, or "sitting" meditation."
Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1988), page 93.
"The change of nomenclature for the wandering monks from the ignominious komosō (straw mat monks)
to Zen-sounding komusō (monks of nothingness) was very important, as it provided an air of mysticism.
The monks began to play the shakuhachi as suizen meditation
and traded their instruments from the light hitoyogiri for the heavy, root-end shakuhachi ... "
Source: Christopher Blasdel, 2008 (1986), page 101.
1990: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Takahashi Tone, Scholar & shakuhachi player:
" - - - This tradition [the Kinko-ryū], established during the Edo Period in Japan, was associated with the 'komusō' (mendicant priests),
who practiced shakuhachi as part of their religious training;
they practiced 'suizen', blowing shakuhachi, instead of 'zazen',
sitting in lotus position (for meditation)."
Source: Takahashi Tone thesis, 1990, pp. 1-2.
1993: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Riley Kelly Lee, Ethnomusicologist, player & teacher:
"Throughout the history of the Fuke sect,
there were bonefide practitioners of suizen who were continuing a tradition
at least as old as 14th century Ikkyū Zenji.
Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 84.
"As stated above (see p.1), for at least the two centuries leading up to the latter 19th century, honkyoku, the oldest and most venerated
of all of the genres of shakuhachi music, were played almost exclusively by mendicant priests, who belonged to the Fuke-shū
(普化宗), a sub-sect of Zen Buddhism.
Even today, though the instrument is largely secularized, many shakuhachi players perform honkyoku
not as an act of making music but as an act of suizen
'blowing Zen'), a practice which has probably existed since well before the sixteenth century
(Blasdel 1984:216; Kamisangō 1974:10-11; Ueno 1984:159-162)."
Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 4.
"The monks residing in the temples followed a routine similar to that found in other Buddhist sects, with
an additional focus on playing the shakuhachi as suizen.
Kamisangō (1974:17) describes a typical day in a Fuke temple ... ":
Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 80.
"The members of the Fuke sect have left us with
very little written material elucidating the philosophy which underlay their playing shakuhachi as suizen, blowing Zen,
the honkyoku presumably speaking for themselves.
Kinko I is said to have
verbalized the concept of suizen
with short pronouncements such as ichi on jōbutsu
'one-sound Buddhahood'), chikuzen ichi'nyo
'bamboo and Zen are one') (Gutzwiller 1984:241)."
Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, 1993, page 82.
"During the Meiji era,
the suizen tradition was kept alive,
particularly in the Kyōto area, by former Fuke sect members whose activities had centered around the third honzan of the Fuke sect, Myōanji."
Source: Riley Kelly Lee Ph.D. thesis, page 93.
1994: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Tsukitani Tsuneko, Seyama Tōru & Simura Satosi,
translated by Riley Kelly Lee - all Ethnomusicologists/Musicologist:
"It was not so easy to become a member of the Fuke sect or a komusō.
This was due to the arrangement of the system of rules as determined by the Tokugawa shogunate.
Accordingly, it can be said that the shakuhachi has been
handed down to us within a limited, chartered organisation.
That organization maintained an ideology centered around Zen Buddhism.
Moreover, Zen in the Fuke sect was nothing but the playing of the shakuhachi.
This ideology and lifestyle was called suizen ('blowing Zen').
Thus, in terms of suizen, the shakuhachi was not a musical instrument, and naturally pieces performed on it were not
considered as being music.
To them, the shakuhachi was a hōki ('religious instrument'), that is to say, a sacred tool for the purpose of spiritual training.
If one were to use the above-mentioned emic viewpoint, within the organisation of the
komusō the shakuhachi was not included in 'music', or rather was not allowed to be included."
Source: Tukitani Tuneko, Seyama Tōru, Simura Satosi and Riley Kelly Lee (1994): "The Shakuhachi:
The instrument and its music, change and diversification." In: Contemporary Music Review, 8:2, p. 111.
2000: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Hugh De Ferranti, Musicologist & composer:
" - - -
[b]y the seventeenth century the Fuke sect of Zen had institutionalized the practice of suizen - - - "
Source: Hugh De Ferranti, 2000, page 71.
Quoted by Christian T. Mau, 2014, p. 115.
2002: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Simura Satosi, Professor, Musicologist, player & teacher:
"The huke syakuhati developed in the Huke subsect of Rinzai-sect Zen during the Edo period (1600-1867).
It was used in Buddhist services for suizen 'blowing Zen', a meditative activity comparable to zazen 'sitting Zen' (Sanford 1977)."
Source: Simura Satosi in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Vol. 7, Routledge, 2002, p. 702,
Comment: No, James H. Sanford did not refer to "sitting Zen" in his 1977 article.
2003, February: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Raymond Sosnowski, book reviewer, The Iaido Journal:
The shakuhachi is associated with the Fuke sect of Buddhism in which suizen ("blowing meditation")
replaced the chanting of sutras in a thirteenth century revival."
Source: Review by Raymond Sosnowski of Ray Brooks' book "Blowing Zen", 2000.
2004: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Jay Keister:
" - - - the shakuhachi is perceived by many players as
an instrument of Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice,
which is connected to its historical background as a spiritual tool by the Fuke sect of Buddhist monks in Japan.
The famed Fuke sect that practiced a form of shakuhachi meditation known as suizen (blowing Zen)
was disbanded by government decree in the beginning of the Meiji period,
at which time the shakuhachi was officially allowed to participate in secular Japanese chamber music alongside koto and shamisen."
Source: Jay Keister, article in
Asian Music, Vol. 35, No. 2, p. 99, 2004:
'The Shakuhachi as Spiritual Tool:
A Japanese Buddhist Instrument in the West.'
2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Steve Weiss and Kurahashi Kōdō II,
Shakuhachi player & Shakuhachi player/teacher, respectively:
Map of 26 "'Suizen' temples" - during the late Tokugawa Period, really?
Compiled by Steve Weiss, 2005, approved by Kurahashi Yoshio.
Comment: There were, of course, no such "'suizen' temples" mentioned anywhere, nor ever,
in Edo Period documents, whatsoever.
2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschênes
in his online article "The Interest of Westerners in Non-Western Music":
In the abstract:
"In Japan, the shakuhachi developed from
an instrument utilized by the Zen Buddhist priests of the Fuke Shuu (Fuke sect) in a form of
meditation known as suizen (blowing Zen)
to an instrument, which is presently used internationally not only for meditation, but also in movie soundtracks, contemporary
compositions by Western-trained composers, and even Jazz."
In the article:
"The following are, according to the questionnaire, some of the
overall reasons why non-Japanese are playing the shakuhachi:
1) tone color, timbre—mystical/exotic elements—embodiment of the "Zen" sound;
2) spiritual/meditative qualities—concept of suizen—historical connection with Zen Buddhism;
3) simplicity—lack of mechanization; 4) portability/personal quality/intimacy."
In the conclusion:
"Possibly the most common Japanese instrument found outside of Japan (with the
possible exception of taiko drums),
the shakuhachi is well known for its history as an instrument of Buddhist meditation.
This spiritual background of the instrument, along with its association with the natural world due to its seemingly "natural" bamboo
structure, makes the instrument highly appealing for Western seekers of spirituality through music."
In an academic discussion at www.academia.edu, Bruno Deschênes,
Ethnomusicologist, declares that he does not read Japanese:
See comment dated ca. May 4, 2021, with Mr. Brandon Stover, on the right:
" - - - But I do not know that text since I do not read Japanese."
2005: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Steven Casano, Prof. piano player & teacher, ethnomusicologist, and shakuhachi player:
"Just as Japan has been economically and technologically influential worldwide, its artistic and cultural forms have also been influential on a global level.
Over the past thirty years, the shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute, has steadily grown in popularity throughout the West.
In Japan, the shakuhachi developed from an instrument utilized by the Zen Buddhist priests of the Fuke Shuu (Fuke sect) in a form of meditation known as suizen (blowing Zen)
to an instrument, which is presently used internationally not only for meditation, but also in movie soundtracks, contemporary compositions by Western-trained composers, and even jazz.
Source: Steven Casano article: "From Fuke Shuu to Uduboo:
The Transnational Flow of the Shakuhachi to the West", 2005.
2007: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Max Deeg, Japanologist, specialist in Buddhism:
" - - - This image of the komusō in Japan is counterbalanced by the Western image of a Shakuhachi-Zen which parallels the more general reception of Zen
as a spiritual practice closely connected with Japan.
This is an image which is both projected and reinforced by Western players of the shakuhachi, as for example in Ray Brooks' autobiography Blowing Zen.
This 'spiritualisation' of an originally historical Zen denomination which had its roots in the late Edo period,
(1603-1868) and early Meiji period,
(1868-1912) can be comprehended with the aid of
two concepts, those of "attaining buddhahood through one sound" (ichion-jōbutsu
and "the Zen of blowing (the flute)" (suizen
Source: Max Deeg article: "Komusō and Shakuhachi-Zen", 2007.
2008: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Tsukitani Tsuneko, deceased professor in Ethnomusicology & shakuhachi history specialist:
"The Fuke sect was named after its putative Tang Chinese founder, Pu-hua (Jap. Fuke).
It has no doctrines or scriptures, parishioners or lay believers;
its equivalent to Zen meditation or sutra recitation is the playing of shakuhachi
- what practitioners call suizen (blowing Zen).
No such use is recorded in China."
Source: Tsukitani Tsuneko, 2008, page 150.
2010: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Sarah Renata Strothers:
"As their numbers grew, the name of the wandering mendicants (komosō) changed to the Zen Buddhist-influenced word komusō
— which means "priests of nothingness" — because of the wandering monks’ association with Zen Buddhism (Lee 1992).
These komosō/komusō decided to gather together as a religious organization called the Fuke-shū —
hence the name of the next shakuhachi noted in historical documents called the Fuke shakuhachi.
As a part of their lifestyle, these monks went on pilgrimages and begged for alms while they played shakuhachi.
The monks saw their playing of the shakuhachi as a form of meditation called suizen,
which means “to blow Zen” (Blasdel and Kamisangō 2008, 93).[Note 9]
For the komusō, the playing of the shakuhachi was not a recreational activity, but seen as tool for practicing Zen Buddhism.
As the monks went on these pilgrimages playing shakuhachi, they were practicing suizen and trying to attain enlightenment
through meditative performance.
These musical meditations that the komusō played are called honkyoku.
Blasdel refers to these pieces as “meditations in sound” (Blasdel and Kamisangō 2008, 93).
Note 9: This is similar to the Zen Buddhist zazen, which means "sitting meditation."
Instead of sitting, these monks tried to attain enlightenment through the playing of their shakuhachi."
Source: Sarah Renata Strothers thesis, 2010, p. 14.
2011: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Vladislav Matoušek, Ethnomusicologist, shakuhachi player & teacher:
"Within the walls of the Fuke Temples the 'monks of nothingness' observed an everyday routine of discipline similar to that in other Buddhist sects,
although there was
greater emphasis on shakuhachi-playing as a means of practising suizen, or 'blowing meditation'."
Source: Vladislav Matoušek, 2011, page 61.
2012: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Zachary Wallmark, Musicologist, commercial music professional and music scholar:
"At the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in the late 1860s, the new, Western-oriented imperial government decided to end such chaos by officially banning the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism.
With this edict came a corresponding, implied musical proscription against using the shakuhachi as a tool for meditation (suizen, "blowing meditation"),
: the flute would be used in secular contexts such as ensemble music (sankyoku) and folk song (minyo), but not tolerated as a solitary implement of Zen self-cultivation, at least not within the Fuke context.
In other words, the Meiji government actively redefined the shakuhachi as a "musical instrument" (gakki) instead of a "spiritual tool" (houki).
The conceptual bifurcation between gakki and houki, music and non-music, is still an ambivalent yet active division today."
Ethnomusicology Review, Volume 17, 2012.
2012: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Gunnar Linder, Musicologist, shakuhachi player/teacher & university teacher:
"This line of spirituality can be seen as a Poietic Process in the notion of sui-zen, often translated as "blowing Zen."
This notion has gained perhaps a greater popularity in the West than in Japan, in line with the 'retransfer' to which Deeg refers, or a reimport.
Kamisangō's text from 1974, reprinted in 1995, carries the original Japanese title
"Shakuhachi-gaku ryakushi – suizen no rikai no tame ni," which means "An Abbreviated
History of the Shakuhachi Music – For the Understanding of suizen."
The origin of the word sui-zen is to be found in a four-character expression displayed at the temple Myōan-ji
in Kyoto, one of the main komusō temples during the Edo period."
Source: Gunnar Linder Ph.D. thesis, 2012, page 225.
2014: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kiku Day, Ethnomusicologist, shakuhachi player & teacher:
"Shakuhachi and meditation undoubtedly overlap due to history.
And shakuhachi playing as meditation is often described as suizen (lit. blowing Zen), often as a counterpart to zazen (lit. sitting Zen or
the meditation practice performed in Zen Buddhism).
However, I have not seen the word suizen in any historical documents, and nor had prof. Tsukitani Tsuneko (1944–2010), who explained to me, that
the first time the word appeared was when the stone, in which the word is engraved, was erected at the Myōanji temple in Kyoto
in the early 20th century (personal conversation 2007).
Thus, meditation continued to be important for (some) shakuhachi players even after the abolishment of the Fuke sect,
although — as noted — the transmission of practice seems to have faded away."
Source: Kiku Day, "Mindful playing, mindful practice.
The shakuhachi as a modern meditation tool." 2014, p. 13.
lit.: Monks of nothingness.
The monks, of the Fuke sect, who played shakuhachi as a meditation tool."
Source: Kiku Day, 2014, p. 26.
lit.: Blowing Zen or meditation playing shakuhachi.
A word that is engraved in a Stone at Myōanji temple, Kyoto, Japan.
According to ethnomusicologist Tsukitani Tsuneko, it is a word that did not appear before early 20th century.
Source: Kiku Day, 2014, p. 26
Comment: In fact, according to the 41st 'Kansu' Kojima Hōan,
the Myōan-ji 'Suizen' stone monument was, actually, first erected in 1966.
'Suizen' stone monument erected at Kyōto Myōan-ji in 1966.
Photo by Torsten Olafsson, early Spring, 1977.
2014: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Dr. Wong Wah-Sang, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Univ. of Hongkong:
a Japanese word which means blowing Zen, is known as a meditative practice of Zen Buddhism
using the shakuhachi bamboo flute to achieve a state of self-realization into the Buddha nature."
- - -
"Playing the instrument was designated as blowing Zen, suizen (
吹禅), which acted as an alternative to zazen (sitting meditation of Zen) and mantra chanting in ordinary Zen meditation.
Music pieces written for
the shakuhachi suizen were usually solo compositions without accompaniment.
These were called honkyoku (
本曲), meaning the original pieces."
- - -
the beginning of the Fuke sect in the thirteenth century, the monks were called komoso with the characters
ko 虛 representing emptiness,
mo 妄 illusion and
so 僧 monk."
Source: Article in International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Vol. 4, No. 8;
June 2014, pp. 64 & 66:
"The Music of Buddha Nature - Blowing Zen on the Shakuhachi."
2015, perhaps even earlier?: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Kiku Day's Facebook group
"Suizen - 吹禅 - Meditation through flute music:
I named this group "Suizen" to honor a Honkyoku tradition I am studying with my teachers.
Suizen is a Japanese word and means "Blowing Zen".
This is an ancient tradition of playing Japanese bamboo flute as a form of meditation.
Just another way of being present in the moment.
This is definitely not an entertainment music.
This is not an easy listening New Age style.
So listen at your own risk :-)
We also welcome other form music and sound meditation:
Native American Flute, Didgeridoo, Ney, Bansuri, Crystal Bowls etc."
Source, link to the Facebook group URL:
2015: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, player & author,
in an ESS Newsletter 2015/2 article of his, pp. 11-18:
"It was the same for the komosō temples, except instead of sitting meditation, the shakuhachi
became the focus of the monks’ attention.
Prayers were replaced by shakuhachi meditative honkyoku pieces, and zazen, which literally means just “sitting Zen,”
was replaced by suizen, which indicates “blowing Zen,” or the attainment of enlightenment through breath and sound.
Again at night, after their daily training finished, the monks played honkyoku to mark the time and occasion."
Quoted from page 13 in the online PDF article.
Sources, links to the ESS Newsletter 2015, Vol. 2:
and to Christopher Yohmei Blasdel's personal website:
2015: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Alice Harriet Jones, Doctor of Musical Arts/Musicologist, flute & shakuhachi player:
"History of Suizen (Blowing Zen)
Suizen originates in applying the practice of zazen (sitting Zen) to playing or making sound on a wind instrument (sui).
The principle of ichi'on jōbutsu ("enlightenment through a single note" or "Buddhahood through a single tone"),
which can be achieved equally through non-musical experiences as through musical ones,
has a long and prominent history in Japanese Buddhism and the shakuhachi habitus."
" - - - komusō – literally "priests of emptiness and nothingness."
They were monks of the Fuke-shū who played the shakuhachi in order to achieve enlightenment (suizen) during the Edo period (1600-1868)."
Source: Alice Harriet Jones Ph.D. thesis, 2015, p. 224.
2017: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschênes, Ethnomusicologist, shakuhachi player & author; does no read Japanese:
Zen du souffle. Nom donné à la pratique ascétique par la secte Fuké.
Ils cherchaient à atteindre l'illumination par le son et le souffle."
"Suizen. The breath of Zen. Name given to the ascetic practice of the Fuke Sect.
They were striving to achieve enlightenment by the sound and the breath."
Source: Bruno Deschênes, 2017, note in vocabulary on page 239.
2017, November 3: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Eric Grundhauser, AtlasObscura:
The basket-masked komusō monks used music to meditate and created a distinctive art form."
- - -
The komusō, also sometimes translated as “monks of emptiness” or something similar,
came to prominence around the 17th century in Japan, and formed a new class of itinerant monks,
of the Fuke sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
They became known for their long bamboo flutes, called shakuhachi.
The komusō, which only allowed in men of the samurai or ronin class,
used the shakuhachi as a religious instrument, in contrast to the quietude or recited mantras that other sects used in meditation.
The Fuke sect monks instead played compositions known as honkyoku to focus their minds toward enlightenment;
they called it suizen, or “blowing zen.” "
2017: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Arthur Braverman
in his book "The Grass Flute Zen Master. Sodo Yokoyama":
There were, of course, the komuso, a sect of Zen Buddhists who
trace their history back to thirteenth-century Japan, who play the bamboo flute.
They flourished during the Edo period (1600–1868).
They wore straw hats that covered their faces and played the
shakuhachi (a bamboo flute) as part of their meditative practice.
"SHAKUHACHI MEDITATION" a.o. WEBSITES
visited as of late May, 2021, and later:
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to WikiPedia, English language version:
"Suizen was traditionally practised by the Komusō ("monks of emptiness"), the Zen Buddhist monks of the Fuke sect of Japan
who flourished during the Edo period (1600 to 1868)."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to WikiWand, English language version:
) ("blowing Zen") is a Zen practice consisting of playing the traditional Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.
Suizen was traditionally practiced by the Komusō ("monks of emptiness"), the Zen Buddhist monks of the Fuke sect of Japan
who flourished during the Edo period (1600 to 1868)."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to DBpedia.org:
("blowing Zen") is a Zen practice consisting of
playing the traditional Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.
Suizen was traditionally practiced by the Komusō ("monks of emptiness"),
the Zen Buddhist monks of the Fuke sect of Japan who flourished during the Edo period (1600 to 1868).
Instrumental music is rare in all Buddhist practice where instruments usually accompany ritual chants if they are used at all.
With suizen, the playing of the shakuhachi as a spiritual exercise is at the core of the religious practice,
making it unique in the world of Buddhism.
The practice of suizen may be understood in the context of both ancient Buddhist and Chinese classics which exerted a profound influence on Japanese music,
which used awareness of sound as a medium of enlightenment.
Breath is also of fundamental significance as the standard practice of sitting Zen meditation (zazen)
and so there is a natural link between zazen and suizen.
The type of breathing technique required varies from school to school within suizen.
The concept of ichi on jo butsu – the attainment of enlightenment through a single note –
became an important aspect of the Fuke sect's 'blowing Zen' as it developed in later periods.
The sound produced by the instrument, which was taught along strict and traditional lines in the suizen schools, is not considered important.
It is the practice of blowing which leads to enlightenment. In 1823 Hisamatsu Fūyō (Hisamatsu Masagoro Suga no Sandaharu
– c. 1790s to c. 1880s) published his short treatise on suizen practice, Hitori Mondō ("self-questioning")."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to www.healingcrystalsco.com:
"Fuke Zen is said to have been popularized during Japan's feudal era, or Edo period (1603-1867).
It was inspired by the teachings of Chinese Zen teacher, Linji Yixuan.
The name "Fuke," however, comes from the sects' co-founders, the eccentric Zen master Puhua.
Puhua, an almost mythical Zen master, was known for his inventiveness, strictness and musical ability.
Though Puhua was not known to play the shakuhachi flute, he was said to have played a bell as he walked through towns on his pilgrimage.
One of his followers, inspired by his master's bell playing, began to play the shakuhachi in a similar manner.
From then on, Fuke monks and priets, known as komuso, began to play the shakuhachi as a form of meditation called suizen."
- - -
"Suizen was practiced during a komuso's pilgrimage.
Komuso monks practiced mendicancy, owned little to no property and survived on alms.
These alms were collected on their constant pilgrimages, when they traveled Japan, preaching and practicing Buddhism."
- - -
"With the shakuhachi, the komuso practiced suizen. Suizen is meditation through playing the shakuhachi."
2021:'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to David J. Duncavage:
The komusō played the shakuhachi in conjunction with the practice of zazen (sitting zen) and called this suizen (blowing zen).
Playing the shakuhachi was a form of sutra chanting in the Fuke Temples.
As such, the shakuhachi was not considered a musical instrument but a religious tool.
What resulted from this practice was a large body of music called honkyoku (original music).
In the purest honkyoku, primary attention is given to each breath-sound rather than to various musical elements like melodic progression.
The komusō centered their practice of shakuhachi on developing what they called their kisoku (spiritual breath)
to such a degree that they would enter the state of tettei on (absolute sound) with the bamboo and everything else.
Their aim was to experience enlightenment through the shakuhachi.
This goal is perhaps best expressed in a komusō saying, Ichion Jobutsu: Become a Buddha in one sound."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to The European Shakuhachi Society,
– Lit: Blowing Zen. The act of playing the shakuhachi as an act of meditation.
Although widely used, this word is, according to Tsukitani Tsuneko (conversation, 2007), a post-Edo period creation.
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to David Erath Jr., :
"Shakuhachi and suizen can apparently be done as a practice, but in reality there is "only this",
seemingly appearing as blowing a shakuhachi. There is nothing that needs to be done, can be done, or is being done. Only this.
Perhaps some of the Komusō (
- illusory nothing monks),
the monks who created the shakuhachi, honkyoku, and the suizen practice, attempted to allude to this in their name."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Christopher Yohmei Blasdel
& Kamisangō Yūkō - quoted/retold c/o the www.komuso.ch website:
Fuke Sect's Suizen – Lifestyle and Music of the Komusō Monks."
- - -
"Ritual pieces, and even the pieces which seemed like entertainment for the monks were part of
Zen training called suizen."
- - -
suizen of the komusō didn't remain all that aloof from the world of secular music."
- - -
the suizen idea was in its infancy during the times of the komosō, it reached refinement and idealization with the establishment of the Fuke sect."
- - -
"The pieces which the komusō played, called honkyoku, were
all born from this Zen spirit, and the musical characteristics of these pieces
have their origins in suizen.
- - -
"The lofty aspects of the shakuhachi –
its suizen tradition – have been marred by political rivalry and
the power plays of the Fuke sect, and rising popularity of the instrument has been countered by edicts banning its use.
Despite its variegated history, the shakuhachi requires concentration, stillness, and sensitivity for both those who play and those who listen.
the essence of suizen, and it remains the same even for today's most successful shakuhachi musicians."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Carl Abbott, Shakuhachi player,
teacher & author:
"The Shakuhachi is an ancient flute that captivates many who cross its path.
Hidden in its simplicity is profound possibility.
The windy, resonant sound of the Shakuhachi brings deep serenity to sympathetic ears.
For the devoted player, it is also a spiritual tool for training the mind and breath.
Zen monks have been using the Shakuhachi for Sui Zen for centuries.
Sui Zen, which means blowing Zen, is meditation using Buddhist music composed for the Shakuhachi."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Hélène Codjo, Shakuhachi player & teacher:
"A Honkyoku is a traditional old shakuhachi piece which was
played by the Komuso Monks to practice Suizen, the breathing meditation.
There are no honkyoku for beginners. They are all difficult. But so beautiful.
At least, some of them are short and can be played by beginners."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to fuke-shakuhachi.com:
"A sound to attain Enlightenment
Shakuhachi, a Japanese wind instrument made from a simple piece of bamboo and constituted of 5 holes,
was a long time considered by Zen Buddhist monks of the sect Fuke (
普化宗尺八) as an instrument of meditation.
They did not use it as a musical instrument but as an instrument of the law enabling to reach Enlightenment.
吹禅) represents the blowing Zen, the meditation through the interpretation of the traditional Zen pieces."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Hanzaburō Araki Kodō II, Shakuhachi player:
"THE ARAKI LEGACY
The shakuhachi is an end-blown Japanese bamboo flute
associated with the Fuke sect of Zen buddhism in the practice of sui zen.
The Araki Family has been playing and passing down the skills and traditions of Kinko-Ryu shakuhachi since the 19th century."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to the website Chadō - Der Japanische Teeweg:
"Für die Fuke-Wandermönchen war die Shakuhachi nicht mehr als Musikinstrument (gak-ki) im Gebrauch,
sondern wurde zu einem religiösen Werkzeug (hō-ki) und bildete den Mittelpunkt von Meditationsübungen.
Das Spiel der Shakuhachi wurde zu einem Zenweg des Erwachens."
- - -
"Für die Komusō ist die Shakuhachi ein Instrument für ihre religiöse Praxis, die als "Atemmeditation"
(sui-zen) oder "Atemmeditation mit Bambus" (
suichiku-zen) bezeichnet wird, und ein "Gefäß für den dharma" (
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to the 'Kyotaku' website Meihodo.com:
The study of "Zen" using an elongated bamboo flute, or "Kyotaku."
During the Kamakura period, (1185-1333) a Buddhist emissary to China, also known as Hōtōenmei, Hōtō-Kokushi of Kokokuji Temple in Wakayama Prefecture was given a shakuhachi as a part of his Zen practice in China, and accompanied the fourth master of the shakuhachi on his return to Japan.
the shakuhachi became linked to Zen and eventually developed more systematically into "SUIZEN"."
- - -
"In Tang Dynasty (9th century) China, a monk by the name of Puhuà (Fuke in Japanese) used a shakuhachi flute as a meditation tool,
the act of 'blowing Zen' (suizen) as it was known."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Alcvin Ryūzen Ramos, Shakuhachi player & teacher:
blowing zen, or blowing meditation) is the practice of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.
The monks of old Japan who practiced suizen were called Komuso, or Monks of Nothingness and Emptiness
emptiness, mu: kanji:
nothingness, so: kanji:
monk or priest).
These monks belonged to a Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect called Fuke-shu, named after the legendary Tang Dynasty Chinese monk (Ch. P'u Hua) who first inspired the use of a bamboo flute as a meditation tool.
These solo pieces on which suizen are based are called hon-kyoku kanji:
本曲, or original pieces.
In the beginning, this term was not used.
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Andrey Zhilin, Shakuhachi player:
"Shakuhachi is known all over the world for its uniquely rich timbre, which can change from crystal clear to windy and muddy as the performer wishes.
In the Middle Ages, it was played by the wandering komuso monks (
虚無 僧, "monks of the void")
who belonged to the Zen Buddhist Fuke sect.
The komusos hid their faces with a reed tengai hat, roamed all over Japan, played the shakuhachi, and begged for alms.
For them, playing the shakuhachi was a way of meditation, this practice was called "suizen".
Actually, in the hands of the komuso, the shakuhachi was not so much a musical instrument as a spiritual one - it was believed that through playing it one could achieve enlightenment."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Bruno Deschênes, Ethnomusicologist, shakuhachi player & author; does no read Japanese:
"The shakuhachi, an end-blown flute, came from China with Gagaku music. At that time it had 6 holes.
In the 9th century, it was removed from the orchestra.
Around the same time, a monk tried to introduce a 5-hole version which did not attract the attention of musicians.
It was around the 10th century that four Chinese monks were invited to teach the xiao, the ancestor of the shakuhachi, to Japanese monks, and slowly attract their interest.
But it was not until the 13th century that monks of the Fuke sect thought of using it as a way to replace Buddhist sutra chanting.
This new way of chanting the sutras was then called suizen or 'blowing zen'.
Source, undated web article: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/japan.htm#shakuhachi
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Daniel Paul Schnee, Ethnomusicologist, Shakuhachi player, multi musician & multi artist:
" - - - the art of suizen.
The ancient art of suizen is a great tool for musical meditation, as well as a great way to train oneself to become more sensitive/intuitive as a musician, especially in improvisation: jazz, rock, blues, free jazz, or any other forms that require sensitivity to collective spontaneity.
In Tang Dynasty (9th century) China, the monk Puhuà (Japan: Fuke) used
a shakuhachi flute as a meditation tool, the act of 'blowing Zen' (suizen) as it was known.
The Fuke branch of Zen Buddhism is purported to derive from the teachings of the Chinese Zen teacher Linji Yixuan (Japan: Rinzai Gigen c. 800–866 CE).
However, the Fuke school counts founder Puhuà, one of Linji's contemporaries, as its shihan (founder).
Fuke-style Zen was eventually brought to Japan by Shinchi Kakushin (1207–1298 CE), also known as Muhon Kakushin
or Hotto Kokushi (posthumously), who had travelled to China for six years and studied with the famous Chan master Wumen of the Linji lineage.
Kakushin became a disciple of Chōsan, a 17th generation teacher of the Fuke sect of China.
It was Fuke's goal to reach enlightenment through meditation on sound,
and his particular sect (of Rinzai) Fuke-shu, produced mendicant priests and lay persons known as komuso,
literally 'monks of empty nothingness.'"
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Terebess Online by Gábor Terebess:
尺八 a Japanese end-blown flute. It is traditionally made of bamboo.
It was used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of suizen (
吹禅, blowing meditation)."
- - -
吹禅 a Zen practice consisting of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.
The monks from the Fuke sect of Zen who practiced suizen were called komusō (
虚無僧; literally "emptiness monks")."
Japanese-English Glossary of Zen Terms
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to WikiPedia, English:
Another example of Zen arts can be seen in
the short lived Fuke sect of Japanese Zen, which practiced a unique form of "blowing zen" (suizen) by playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute."
2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Myōan-ji Dōshu-kai, Kyōto:
"Hotto established suizen of "Blowing Zen meditation" after realizing that blowing shakuhachi is an excellent means of meditation.
Later on, the Zen Shakuhachi style was called Myoan Shakuhachi.
In this way, Myoan Shakuhachi occupies a completely different dimension from other musical environments."
2021, April 4: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Scott Foster in Asia Times (online):
"Komuso became prominent in the early Tokugawa period (the 17th century), when priests of the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism played meditative compositions
called honkyoku for alms.
They chose "blowing Zen" over sitting zazen."
- - -
"In an era when the movement of people was severely restricted, the shogun’s central government allowed
the komuso to make pilgrimages around the country.
In addition to blowing Zen, they served as spies who observed and reported on conditions in the feudal domains."
- - -
"Ikkyu, who was also mendicant bamboo flute player, inspired the Fuke sect and the komuso.
He is believed to have composed one of the honkyoku pieces still played today."
Visited in mid-October, 2021: 'Suizen' & "Shakuhachi meditation" acc. to Shakuhachi-Atelier.com c/o Thorsten Knaub
During the Edo period of Japanese history (1603 to 1868), shakuhachi playing monks formed the Fukeshū or Fuke sect,
a subsect of the Rinzai Zen sect.
These komusō or 'priests of nothingness' saw the shakuhachi as a spiritual tool and used it as part of their spiritual training
(suizen or blowing zen) and for religious begging for food.
The wandering monks moved around from temple to temple associated with the Fuke sect, and in turn learning
and exchanging the local repertoire of pieces found at each of the various temples spread out all over Japan during this time.
An approximately 77 Fuke temples did exist during this period.
The honkyoku (
; original sound or music) repertoire evolved through this exchange and there are about 150 pieces now associated with this period.
EPILOGUE by ELLIOT KANSHIN KALLEN
2021 President of The International Shakuhachi Society, USA
"Honkyoku as meditation
Many documents mention the use of the shakuhachi for religious purposes,
but none actually outline how this was done.
We can assume any number of scenarios revolving around the concentration needed to accomplish the difficult manual techniques
of playing the honkyoku repertoire and, especially, the control of breathing required, (much like seated Zen meditation),
but the fact remains - we can never really know with any certainty how
the komusō's meditative practice called Suizen (Blowing Zen) was done.
This, in spite of sayings passed down to us like, "Enlightenment in one sound", or, "Blowing and Zen are one".
It must be noted that, at least to this author, the mastery of a honkyoku and playing it for oneself is,
unquestionably, a mind-and-consciousness-altering act.
Perhaps we should simply let the honkyoku speak for themselves."
かきおくも - 書き送くも
夢のうちなる - 夢の内為る
しるしかな - 印かな
さめてはさらに - 覚めては更に
とふ人もなし - 問う人も無し
"The deep questions we write out
Are but marks in a dream.
When we awake, even the questioner is gone.
Fourth month, 8th day of 1457
Written at Daitoku-ji in Japan by Sōjun called Ikkyū, 7th
in the line of Hsü-t'ang."
Trsl. by James H. Sanford, 1981
PRONOUNCIATION & ALTERNATIVE TRANSLATION::
'Kaki oku mo,
yume no uchi naru,
shirushi ka na.
Samete wa sara ni,
tou hito mo nashi.'
"Though it's written down,
inside as in a dream -
is it but a mark?
When awakened, after all,
even he who asked,
is non-existant now ...
Trsl. by Torsten Olafsson
Read more about Ikkyū Sōjun here:
Chronology: JAPAN 2 • 1233-1477