Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

Singing Image of Fire, a poem by Kukai, with thoughts on language, translation, and creation

January 2, 2012

We read in Genesis that creation came into being with the first utterance: “Let there be light.” So sound came first, then light, followed by forms. Interestingly, the seemingly nonsensical phrase, abracadabra, a magician says when performing a trick, derives its meaning from the ancient biblical language, Aramaic: abraq ad habra, which means, “I will create as I speak.” I discovered that on page 170 of Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words, a delightful book on finding and writing poetry in many creative simple ways, by Susan Wooldridge, writer, poet and teacher.

This poem by Kukai says a lot about language, creation, consciousness, and our integral relationship to things.

Singing Image of Fire

A hand moves, and the fire’s whirling takes different shapes,
Triangles, squares: all things change when we do.
The first word, “Ah,” blossomed into all others.
Each of them is true.

This poem on language, translation, and creation, the pictorial/written representation of vocal sounds and meanings, was written by Kūkai (空海), also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi (弘法大師 The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching), 774–835, a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, artist, and founder of the Shingon or “True Word” school of Buddhism. He allegedly developed the system using Chinese characters to write Japanese words. The word “Shingon” is the Japanese reading of the Kanji for the Chinese word Zhēnyán (真言), literally meaning “True Words”, which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word mantra (मन्त्र). The concern was to be as true as possible when translating texts, to have and use the right word when describing something. The Sanskrit language had this perfect one-to-one correspondence between name and form.

The poem was mentioned in Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperCollins, 1997) by Jane Hirshfield, a classic collection of essays about the mysterious ways poetry comes to us. In her chapter, The World is Large and Full of Noises: Thoughts on Translation, she highlights this theme with What Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator.

When I read that line in Kukai’s poem, about the first word, “Ah,” blossoming into all others, and each of them being true, it reminded me of what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says about the first sound of creation, “A”, how it represents infinity collapsing to a point, “K”, and through its own sequential self-interacting dynamics, creates the whole alphabet, words, verses of Rk Veda, the whole Vedic literature, and their subsequent forms, the universe. This is part of Maharishi’s Apaurusheya Bahashya, the unwritten commentary of the Veda, unfolding itself and commenting on itself to itself. Apaurusheya Bhashya: Rk Veda is said to be nitya, eternal, and apaurusheya, uncreated. Maharishi explains that the sequential unfoldment of Rk Veda is its own uncreated, or unmanifest, commentary on itself, rather than that of an individual making an ‘external’ commentary on Rk Veda. See Maharishi’s Apaurusheya Bhashya.

In his Introduction to Maharishi Vedic University, Maharishi gives us a comprehensive cosmic perspective on the role Sanskrit, the language of Nature, plays in the process of creation. Through the self-interacting dynamics of pure consciousness, the Self, or Atma, reverberates within itself and creates the eternal uncreated sounds of the Veda, its own language, which in turn express themselves into forms—the individual body, Sharir, and the cosmic body, Vishwa. The eternal Silence and its own inherent Dynamism, evolve all parts of itself constantly referring them back to their source. He says it’s a start-stop process of Infinity collapsing to a point, referring it back to Itself, and evolving the next sound, and subsequent form. Full realization, or enlightenment, comes when one comprehends all of creation: Atma, Veda, Sharir, Vishwa, Brahman, or Totality, as the full potential of one’s own consciousness. Aham Brahmasmi. I am totality.

On Page 65 Maharishi writes, “The basic process of change, this basic process of transformation, continuously maintains the momentum of evolution of different levels of expression, creating different levels of manifestation upholding the process of evolution.

“It is this that promotes the eternally self-referral dynamics of Samhita into the sequential evolution of sound, speech, forms of speech in alphabets, words, phrases, verses etc., with corresponding material forms. This process continues eternally, resulting in the ever-expanding universe.” (Samhita is the togetherness of Rishi, Devata, Chhandas; knower, process of knowing, and known.)

I’ve written a poem about this process in Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe, (into haiku forms).

To learn more about the source of words, creation, both literal and literary, and their connection to consciousness, read: The Flow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language.

Also see: Before He Makes Each One by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Nine years later I posted: Japanese culture: poetic aesthetics, artistry, and martial arts, inspired me to write haiku and tanka.

Author Veteran Jerry Yellin To Sign Four Books Proceeds To Benefit Operation Warrior Wellness

October 14, 2011

Jerry Yellin will be doing a book signing on Saturday evening, November 5, from 7:30-8:30 at the Fairfield Library meeting room. Receipts from the sale of his four books will benefit Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation. Here is an article promoting this event written by Jerry’s son, Steven Yellin. Jerry’s books are listed at the end of this article.

A WWII P-51 Pilot Talks About Healing His Soul Through Meditation

On March 7, 1945, Jerry Yellin, a current resident of Fairfield, Iowa landed on a small strip of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For the next six months he saw sights that would haunt him for the next 35 years.

The strip of land was Iwo Jima.

28,000 soldiers died on Iwo Jima. Had the American commanders known in advance how many casualties there were going to be in taking that island, they never would have invaded. Jerry was a P-51 fighter pilot who strafed the island for the Marines, and then flew 19 missions over Japan.

When Jerry returned to the States, he took those memories and images of what he saw on Iwo Jima with him. Everyday and many horror-filled dreaded nights, he relived the images of war. Time passed, the memories did not.

Though he didn’t die on Iwo, the memories of Iwo were slowly killing him. Then in 1975 Jerry learned the Transcendental Meditation program. Slowly, the memories of war started to fade from his mind. For the first time, he started to reconnect with himself on a deep level and experience the joys of life that were absent for so long. Though he had married a wonderful woman and had four great sons, he couldn’t really feel the flow of life until he learned to meditate. Years later, he said unequivocally that TM saved his life.

Last year, a friend of his called and said that her son was having a difficult time adjusting from the many military tours of duty he had done. Jerry met with him and as a former soldier that had seen combat, tried to console him. It didn’t work. Two weeks later that young man committed suicide. A little known fact is that more soldiers commit suicide each month than die in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jerry was devastated because he knew exactly what this young soldier experienced. He felt that something had to be done to prevent these kinds of suicides and the ruined lives of soldiers caused by Post-Traumatic Stress. So he contacted the David Lynch Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been teaching Transcendental Meditation to at-risk youth around the world since 2006. They immediately said they were interested and Operation Warrior Wellness was launched.

Since then Jerry has talked about OWW to military groups all over the country. The response has always been the same—this is an organization that needs to be successful because the problem is so acute. “We send our young men and woman to fight,” says Jerry, “and then, when they return, we can’t really help them integrate into society successfully, because what they saw and heard are so devastating to their souls.”

The four books Jerry Yellin will be signing are:

The Resilient Warrior, Healing the Hidden Wounds of War: stories of veterans of war who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress and how Transcendental Meditation helps cure them.

Of War and Weddings, A Legacy of Two Fathers: an autobiographical story of one American and one Japanese soldier who hated each other in their youth and came to be family by the marriage of their two youngest children in 1988.

The Blackened Canteen: a true story of 23 Americans who were killed on June 20, 1945, and the Japanese man who buried their remains in a common grave next to the 2000 Japanese citizens their bombs helped to kill.

The Letter: literary fiction about a powerful American Senator who goes through life hating people of different religions only to find out that his birth mother and father were everything he hated.


The David Lynch Foundation teamed up with Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation on June 7, 2011, to garner support for their shared goal: to help veterans who are suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress reclaim their lives. In this video, former WWII captain and fighter pilot Jerry Yellin speaks out about the horrors of returning to civilian life after experiencing the trauma of combat—and how he overcame the hidden wounds of war through the practice of Transcendental Meditation. More articles on Jerry Yellin are posted here on this blog.

Click here to download a beautifully-designed poster announcing the book-signing event.

Upcoming Event: David Lynch Foundation launches Veteran’s Day national meditation initiative

See Huffington Post: What Meditation Did for Me: A War Vet’s Story | Wall Street Journal: A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress by David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal | Medication or Meditation for Veterans with PTSD?

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