Sunday 3 May 2015

Mountain-Monk Enku - In Heaven's River

A small parcel arrived the other day.  Inside was a book, pleasingly square, entitled

In Heaven's River: Poems and Carvings of Mountain-Monk Enku

It's a tribute to the life and art of the 17th century Japanese 'Mountain Monk' Enku. Not heard of him? Me neither.  

Enku's life didn't start out too well - he was orphaned at seven when his mother was swept away in a flood. 

'For my mother's life
This monk's robe substitutes.
May the Dharma form
Ten thousand generations.

He become an itinerant monk but he was also a sculptor and a poet, carving countless Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Shinto Deities and folk gods.  Some were whittled with just a few strokes from small shivers of wood; others were hewn from tree trunks and carved with precision.  
At some point, Enku retreated to a cave, an open-faced cave in a mountain forest.  Before it, a stream. Here he meditated and continued his vow to carve 120,000 Buddhas.  

Was he a lover as well as a monk and an artist?  He was undoubtedly a romantic.  Some of his faces seem stern and foreboding but the majority have a peaceful, gentle mien - they smile.  
This is a lovely book, one to dip in and out of, letting the eye gently curve, the mouth softly wink, the mind beat and the heart rest.  

Buy it from Zenways if you can.  There's also a selection of T-shirts and cards - see here.
Or, if you are wedded to Amazon, click on the pic.

Some examples?  Of course...
Let me turn to a page at random...

Round moon
Shining moon, once again
I bow to you.'


'On this journey
In peoples' minds.
Life so short
And no time to talk.'

And finally...

'Endurance - 
The lotus flower in the mud;
Eight or nine petals, despite all
Blooming - 
The divine altar.'
Oh, and all profits go to Aid for Japan - caring for children orphaned by the 2011 tsunami.


Sessha Batto said...

Wonderful! Shared

Exmoorjane said...

Ah, now it doesn't surprise me that you liked this, Sessha. Thought of you while writing. :) xx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Totally love the wooden sculptures.

Unknown said...

Beautiful... and also sharing :)