Unity, Paradox and Art – A report on the 131st London Eza

Today’s well attended first Eza meeting of 2017 was warmly chaired by Mr Andy B. The service to the Buddha specially incorporated a memorial ceremony commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Prof. Taitetsu Unno, a long time friend of the Three Wheels who made a considerable contribution to the transmission of Shin Buddhism to the West, most notably through his books on Shin Buddhism.

Today’s guest speaker was Prof. John White who shared with us a talk he first gave at Shogyoji Temple earlier this month entitled Unity, Paradox and Art. His talk, richly illustrated with examples of paintings and sculptures relevant to its underlying themes, brought together insights from Prof. White’s long academic career as an art historian with his deep study and understanding of the core fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy encapsulated under the five categories of: The Unity of all that is and is not, Emptiness, Illusion, Impermanence and Interdependent origination.

It was a wonderful experience to see important works of art through Prof White’s eyes and notice all the important details which are so easy to overlook, like the small boat in Hokusai’s famous print the Great Wave which is seen at the very moment that it plunges into the body of the moving wave; a representation embodying the fourth dimension of time within a medium in which actual movement is impossible.

Afterwards we had a fascinating period of discussion on some of the notable points in Prof. White’s talk which really captured our imaginations particularly on the relationship between art and Buddhism and also how they are both relevant to the way we see the world around us. Expressing his gratitude to Prof White for his talk, Rev. Sato pointed out that this was the first time Prof. White had given a talk about art in the 25 years since their first encounter at Shogyoji Temple. During that time Prof. White had read many Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries and within them found the five basic Buddhist principles he covered in this talk. Today was the first time Prof. White had looked back at the works of art he was deeply familiar and showed how we can all appreciate art through these core Buddhist teachings. There is indeed, Rev. Sato concluded, something eternal within Prof. White’s talk.

In preparation for Spring School, an annual spiritual training event for young students from Japan, Three Wheels was pleased to welcome Rev. Junsho Takada and Rev. Shinjun Ebikai who are here to attend to all the many preparations for very this important event. Introducing himself, Rev. Takada explained that he had recently graduated after 4 years of study at Otani University in Kyoto and will now commence his spiritual training at Shogyoji to become a priest. I am very much looking forward to both listening to and speaking to Dharma-friends in London, Rev. Takada said, and through all of this to come to know myself. Before coming to London, Rev. Ebikai recounted, he was awakened to the fact that he had not discovered what should be his true goal in life. Rev. Ebikai expressed his wish that through encountering Dharma-friends at Three Wheels he could realise his true vocation in life as a Buddhist priest.

At the conclusion of the Eza the warm feeling of fellowship continued as we shared a delicious bring and share meal together.

Andrew W.