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#1644 - Thursday, December 11, 2003 - Editor: Jerry
NATURE IN SHORT / Tiny shrub enjoys divine protection
Kevin Short / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
www. yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20031209wo73.htm - link no longer active
My naturalist field work often involves long hours of walking. When I get tired and look for a spot to rest, I try to choose places that are somehow special, particularly those that are thought of as sacred by the local people.
Although sacred spaces are delineated primarily in a spiritual dimension, they can often be physically distinguished from the surrounding landscape by their distinctive vegetation. Sacred groves surrounding shrines and temples, for example, can usually be identified at even a distance by their immense live oaks and other broadleaved evergreen trees. In many cases, a sacred spot even harbors distinctive fauna, such as insects and birds.
Mystics believe that animals and even plants recognize the special spiritual qualities of a sacred place, and thus feel more at home there. Ecologists, ever the skeptical scientists, counter that when local people consider a spot sacred, they treat it differently, and it is these differences in land management practices that produce the special flora and fauna.
Mystics counter again that in ancient times people felt the primal energy emanating from the sacred spot, and thus began to treat it differently than other parts of the landscape. As a mystic ecologist, I like to straddle both sides of this logical fence. In most cases, the distinctive fauna and flora of a sacred spot can be ecologically related to special management practices. On the other hand, these ecological relationships do not at all explain when or why a spot became sacred in the first place. To me it seems as if arguing causal priority here is no more productive than rehashing the old chicken versus egg controversy.
Whatever the forces of cause and effect, there is no doubt that sacred places are somehow different. As a mystic, I can feel this difference but have a hard time explaining it in words. As an ecologist, of course, I can pinpoint the difference with great precision.
Take, for example, a tiny spot I recently discovered out in the north Chiba Prefecture countryside, where I spend much of my free time romping and roaming. This spot is located at a rural crossroads, surrounded by dense secondary woodlands. In this area, these woodlands were traditionally managed as coppices. The oak trees were cut off at the base while still young, to be used for making charcoal. New shoots would then quickly grow directly from the stump. In addition, the oak leaves were collected in autumn to be used as compost, and the forest undergrowth was regularly cut back. The result was an open, airy forest habitat that many low-growing, shade-loving shrubs and wildflowers found just to their liking.
Over the last half century, however, charcoal and organic compost have been replaced by fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers, so the woodlands are no longer managed. In the absence of human intervention, the forests have reverted to their natural pattern of succession. This in itself is not an ecological problem, but unfortunately, as the coppices were abandoned they were invaded by highly aggressive bamboo grasses of the genus Pleioblastus. Dense, almost impenetrable stands of this tall bamboo grass soon completely dominated the forest floor. As a result, many of the smaller plants that once lived among the trees have totally disappeared.
Walking along the edge of this woodland, I noticed right away that there was one small spot where the bamboo grass did not grow. As I approached, I could see that the small clearing contained several stones with local deities carved on their faces. The area around the stones had been stripped of bamboo grass and planted instead with low-growing turf lilies. At the side of the clearing stood a sizable live oak, its branches reaching out to shade and protect the little sanctuary.
Seeking a rest, I thought to sit down among the turf lilies. As I did so, however, I realized that the ground around the lilies was covered with tiny plants bearing beautiful beadlike red berries. This plant, the Japanese marlberry or Japanese ardisia (Ardisia japonica, or yabu-koji in Japanese), is one of the world's tiniest shrubs, growing to a height of only 20 to 25 centimeters. The ardisia does not like direct sunlight, preferring instead to grow in the shade on the floor of open forests. In this shaded environment, being a tiny plant with low energy needs is a natural advantage.
The artisia has only four or five shiny, spear-shaped leaves, but when spread out horizontally these provide enough energy to nurture a couple of berries. However. this minuscule tree is totally outclassed by the tall, aggressive bamboo grass, and as a result, it has almost totally disappeared in many areas.
Contributed by Mary Bianco to NDS News
Luangpor Teean Jittasubho (1911-1988), or Pann Intapew, was born on September 5, 1911, at Buhom, Amphur Chiengkhan in the Province of Loei. He was the son of Jeen and Som Intapew. His father died when he was young. Since there was no school in the small village of Buhom, he did not have formal education in his childhood. The boy, like the rest of them in the village, had to help his mother in running their farm.
At the age of eleven, he was ordained as a novice at the village monastery, and stayed there with his uncle who was a resident monk. During a year and six months in the monastery, he studied Laotian scripts and ancient local scripts. He also started practicing various meditation methods, such as the Budh-dho and Breath Counting methods. After disrobing, he returned to his home.
Following tradition, he was ordained as a monk at the age of twenty. Again he studied and practiced meditation with his uncle for six months. After returning to lay life, he was married at twenty-two and had three sons. In his village, he was always a leader in Buddhist activities and was highly respected and chosen to be the head of the village on three different occasions. Despite of heavy responsibilities, he continued his meditation practice regularly.
Later he moved to Chiengkhan, a larger community, where his sons could attend school. Being a merchant, he sailed his steamboat along the Maekhong River between Chiengkhan-Nongkai-Vientiane, or even as far as Luangprabang. He had opportunities to meet several meditation masters and his enthusiasm in pursuing Dharma (the Truth) continued to strengthen. Furthermore, he began to realize that many years of being good, making merit, and practicing various methods of meditation had not liberated him from his anger. Finally, he determined to start searching for the way out.
In 1957, when he was nearly forty-six, he left his home with firm determination not to return unless he found the Truth. He went to Wat Rangsimukdaram, Tambol Pannprao, Amphur Tabon in Nongkai Province and practiced a simple form of bodily movements except that he did not follow the formal rituals and recitation of the words like others did. What he did was only being aware of the movements of the body and mind. Within a couple of days, on the early morning of the eleventh day of the waxing moon, the eighth month of 1957, his mind reached the End of Suffering completely without traditional rituals or teachers.
Later he returned home. He taught his wife and relatives what he had found for two years and eight months, as a lay teacher. He then decided to re-enter monkhood in order to be in a better position to teach the people. The ordination was made on February 3, 1960.
His teachings were spreading across the country as well as outside. He devoted his life to the teaching of Dharma despite his poor health. He was diagnosed to have stomach cancer (malignant lymphoma) in 1982. In spite of his illness he continued his work actively and incisively until the end of his life.
On September 13, 1988 at 6:15 PM., he passed away calmly at the age of seventy-seven in a hut on Koh Buddhadhamma, Tabb Ming Kwan, Tambol Gudpong in Loei Province.
For insights into the world of Awareness through the comments
of an Enlightened master in an easy to follow question and answer
format please visit the following link:
Jonathan Hayward / The
Native elder Elmer Courchene performs a sweet-grass cleansing ceremony on Liberal Leader Paul Martin before he is sworn in as Canada's 21st prime minister in Ottawa on Friday, December 12.
Charlie Charlie "YardBird" Parker
This Page is a tribute to the greatest alto saxophonist of all time, Charlie "YardBird" Parker
Hear Jack Kerouac read the following poem (only a portion) at http://www.kilbot.net/writing/charlieparker.php
"Musically important as Beethoven." --Kerouac
Contributed by Ben Hassine
so much in love
..........she hardly needs
to see him
North Haven, CT, USA
From the new issue of World Haiku Review: http://www.worldhaikureview.org.
Contributed by Gabriel Rosenstock.
I'm Scott. I'm 18, and have been subscribed to the NDS for a while now; over a year for sure. I just created a forum in the past 24 hours, and would like it to get some visitors. I want to stimulate some discussion on the ideas that are concurrent with the Salon's newsletters. Thanks for your time Jerry!
The Zen of Housework
I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner dishes.
My hands lift a wine glass,
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake.
Full of the grey wine
of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
above the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches,
is setting in Western America.
I can see thousands of droplets
of steam -- each a tiny spectrum -- rising
from my goblet of grey wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly -- like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.
Ah, grey sacrament of the mundane!
~ Al Zolynas ~
(from The New Physics)
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