“Something Beautiful for the World: a shakuhachi sadhana” by Tarchin Hearn
Reviewed by Jacqui Dodds
This week’s book to consider is both a work of poetry and a deep spiritual teaching, using the process of constructing and learning to play the bamboo flute as a metaphor for learning how to recognise, shape and play ourselves as we master our inner flute.
n “Something Beautiful for the World: a shakuhachi sadhana,” Tarchin Hearn presents a moving and evocative guide to mindfulness of all our senses. Just reading his poetic words stimulates the imagination to “make real,” right now, the experiences he describes. As you read you can feel the earth supporting you; the sensual detail of the lush bamboo grove around you: “the subtle play of colour and light; greens shading into yellows and yellows shading to siennas, umbers and myriad tones of grey.” As he instructs: “Let the shapes and colours sculpt and dye your whole being, your bones and flesh resonating with bamboo… Observing, breathing, and relaxing into a vast open stillness, see if you can hear with every cell of your body. Around the grove the breeze is softly whooshing and whistling through the stems. Listen”. And on he goes, evoking all the senses, one by one, bringing to life the bamboo grove from which he invites you to cut the piece that will be transformed into a flute.
he whole book is like one long mindfulness meditation as he effortlessly moves us from contemplation of the processes of constructing and playing a bamboo flute through to the work of fine tuning ourselves, as human flute. He skillfully integrates instructions on helpful meditative posture with descriptions of “the entire body of experience,” filling one with a sense of awe and wonder at what is there to be experienced. It is as if he unlocks the code of being fully present to body. Just one such description is encapsulated in this verse below:
a fluidity of head and throat and chest and abdomen,
a co-operative weaving of organs and muscles
and skeleton and rivers of blood,
a synergy of cells and metabolic processes.
nd then the instruction on posture and attention: “As if you were a living flute, sit quite upright. Your spine or central channel is the core of your fluteness. Feel the richness of your breathing, reverberating in the auditorium of your knowing flesh. Go for texture, for an interior, subtle, almost tactile quality of experience. This stage of the work requires an exquisite degree of attentiveness.”
his book is more experiential than educational in the academic sense. Undoubtedly experiential learning is great and essential learning but it is different to intellectual learning. In my understanding, to develop wisdom it is necessary to blend experiential learning with intellectual study and reflection. As my experience of this book was an embodied, meditative experience, I feel that the best way of recommending it to you is to give you examples of Tarchin’s writing style.
ccordingly, I would like to share with you an example of how he unfolds the wonder of our sense of smell. As he says: “Explore how smells play music in the world of your knowing. Smells exciting memory along with cascades of sensation and emotion. Smell can be extraordinarily evocative. A note of perfume brings forth vivid feelings and understandings of times long past. Study the weavings of scent, this deep chemical symphony of smell”.
Whiff of health or sickness
Odour of depression or the aroma of possibility
Stench of lust or aversion
Tang of life or death
omething Beautiful for the World: a shakuhachi sadhana,is also beautifully illustrated with simple Japanese-style black watercolor brushstroke pictures. These tasteful illustrations complement the poetic prose and attractive layout and design of the whole book, making it an excellent gift for others. Or, indeed, a gift to oneself!
hope you enjoy this book as much as I have. At this time Something Beautiful for the World: a shakuhachi sadhana is not yet available at Fishpond or Amazon, so you will need to go to the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre website @ http://www.wangapeka.org/treasury/wangapekabooks.html#sb to order it. It costs NZ$27, plus postage and packaging. You will probably notice, when you look at the site, that Tarchin has written many other excellent books that are available as hard copies or in eBook form. I do recommend you check out the site.