Interview with Takuin ~ Part 2 of ?

This is part two of an ongoing interview with Takuin. You can read part one here. This particular interview goes into creativity, art and artistry, and part of my struggles as a young human trying to be expressive. The questions in this particular post, were asked by Liz.

Liz: First, let me follow up with a question or two from where Jake left off.

As far as having the support of your friends or family in your writing, do you think your posts might have turned out differently had there been that support?

Takuin: Well, there is an art to expressive writing, no matter the subject. And having support, especially from specific people, can make a big difference in the life of an artist. That difference is not necessarily directly translated into 'good' work, but there is a charge, or energy, for lack of a better word, that is present during the creation of the thing that can give the overall end result a sense of some kind of otherness; a touch of something special, which is not quite explainable.

Having that support can make a huge difference in the relationship between the artist and the medium, but it is not something you can easily quantify in a finished piece of work. And it is not something you necessarily carry with you consciously.

"It is not as if you are saying during the act of creation, "So and so loves me and supports what I do, so this is going to be great!" It is not like that at all."

It is like a residual scent of the love given from without. It is like perfume that can lightly intermingle with the work while it is being completed.

Liz: This sounds waaaay beyond my own life and work, haha. Even a bit 'mystical'?

Takuin: Well, I don't know about 'mystical', because the influence of one loving human being upon another is not mystical at all. It is just that the results of that love, speaking in terms of the creation of some kind of art, cannot be predicted. We cannot say it produces a specific kind of result. That is all.

But even so, I am convinced that something can take place between the artist and the work which is the result of one's encounters with others.

L: Do you think that a hateful person can also have a similar effect on the work?

TM: Oh, absolutely. But in both cases, I think either influence can be wonderful for the work in the end, whether it is pain or pleasure.

It is not easy to explain, but even if it were easy to explain, I am not sure knowing it would be very helpful to an artist. Oh, but I never answered your question!

L: HEY! That is right!

TM: I did not really have direct, active support in any of my writing, so it is difficult to say. Would the work be different had the circumstances been changed? Who knows? There is the possibility, but I don't want to make this confusing, because what I am talking about has no direct effect on the work. It is not about sentence structure, choosing the better word, or ruthlessly editing and killing your darlings. It is none of that.

L: If it is an 'act of creation' kind of thing, then this influence must also be present in other forms of art, correct?

TM: It is something the artist, the human being, carries with him/her, so any creative endeavor could potentially carry that influence. So yes.

L: Was it at all discouraging to be without the kind of support we're talking about here?

TM: Currently? No. But as a child, absolutely. I can clearly see the decisions I made growing up - the various forks in the road - and how those decisions were influenced by that lack of support. It was not a lack of love or anything. But I think it is difficult for some people to understand the mind of a young artist, or expressive human being.

"It is far easier to beat that mind down so it will conform to the norm, as opposed to opening up and trying to really understand something truly different and potentially remarkable."

But that is so common in our world. Those that are different are beaten back in order to keep the status quo chugging right along. It takes great strength to resist that, especially when it comes from those you love. It is a hurdle many young people may never be able to clear.

L: And how did you resist that as a young man?

TM: I didn't, haha. I was beaten back sufficiently. But I always had secrets up my sleeve. I had my own underground railroad of escape routes, which I kept separate from my 'regular' life. Eventually I became the person hiding in those dank tunnels, and it became a part of my regular life, but I had to keep the truth of the thing from everyone, or at least, most people. I just didn't want to hear the bullshit about how I was wasting my time...

Even though I allowed creativity to surface, I only let it go so far; out of fear, I suppose. It was far easier to keep it all to myself. At least in that way, no one would ever give me any shit or tell me how odd my ideas or creations were. But unfortunately, timidity became my nature, and all because I could not feel the strength to say the hell with it and just do what I wanted to do.

L: And what is it you wanted to do? What were those interests or those creations?

TM: More than anything else, I was born a musician. The first time I sat behind a set of drums, I could play. The first time someone set a musical score in front of me, I could read. I have a nearly perfect memory for sounds I have heard a handful of times. It takes no effort for me, and it is really beyond my control.

"I still need to practice, and if I don't read for a long time the ability diminishes, just like with anyone else. But music has always been easy for me, and with those major difficulties out of the way, I could focus on deeper things."

L: Like what?

TM: Well, there are technical elements of music that any musician must master to some degree. What they play and how they play it determines exactly how deeply they need to go into those things, of course.

Kurt Cobain had a completely different set of technical considerations from say, Jaco Pastorius. But both of them were able to deeply explore beyond what came easy to them. Certain aspects were easy for Kurt, just as certain aspects were easy for Jaco, but the importance of what they created went beyond those things, as they were able to deeply explore the other side.

Speaking of myself, I could safely ignore certain aspects of music to some degree, because it took very little effort for me to get a handle on them. With those considerations out of the way, I could focus on trying to find interesting means of expression.

If you never have to study or practice ear training, or if you have to put very little time into learning scales and so on, it frees up a hell of a lot of time, haha. I still practice those things from time to time ... well, NEVER ear training ... I'd rather shoot myself in the ass. But luckily, ear training is something I have never had to worry about. ;-)

I tested out of those things when I first got to Berklee anyway ...

L: What was it like to attend Berklee?

TM: It wasn't an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. But I think that had more to do with the person I was in those days. The best part of going to Berklee was the exposure to musicians from all over the world. I learned far more from them than I ever did from the curriculum. Also, If I had not gone to Berklee, I probably would not be in Japan right now. So it all worked out just fine in the end, haha.

L: Were you a good student?

TM: Hell no! I don't think I have ever been a good institutionalized learner.

I assumed, before I got there, that Berklee would solve all of my problems as a musician. I mean, hey, it IS Berklee after all. But unfortunately, I had to take ME with me, haha. If I could have gone, and left me at home, it would have been far better for everyone.

L: Why is that?

TM: Although I had a good exterior, I had no real confidence in myself. Regardless of my abilities.

"I think I always felt like a fraud, as if someone might suss me out at any moment, and point at me screaming like Donald Sutherland at the end of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'."

Somewhere in my mind, I never thought I was good enough to be at Berklee. I could not see it then, but I can see that clearly now. I was always good at hiding those feelings, though.

I was very weak when it came to believing in what I could accomplish. And that feeling stayed with me in so many areas of my life, for a very long time. I just couldn't seem to get away from it.

L: And that had to do with that lack of support we spoke of earlier ...

TM: Amongst other things, yes.

L: OK.

How then, did you become a writer?

TM: By accident. I think I was always interested in writing something, but I was never quite sure what I wanted that something to be.

For awhile I assumed if one wanted to express themselves with the written word, one would choose fiction. After that I thought non-fiction was the way to go. Then screenplays. Then poetry. I could never pin down what it was I wanted to write.

After the accident of December 2006, it all took care of itself, I suppose. I was compelled to write, with no real worries of literary merit, haha.

I don't know if I effectively expressed myself in words, or if I was even understood most of the time. But something did come of it, and my focus nowadays, as far as writing is concerned, is to express something different than before, while never discarding the tools I developed in writing at Takuin.com for the last six years.

L: I could always 'feel' something through your writing, and sometimes it WAS difficult to understand. But I think there was always a directness in your words, no matter how many of them you used. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with next!

TM: So am I, haha!

L: Let's change the subject.

The kind of work you've done at Takuin.com ... do you think that is something you can just easily walk away from?

TM: I don't look at it in that way. I don't think of it as 'walking away'.

As human beings, we evolve, take on new shapes, forge new paths and leap in new directions. And while it may be a definite change in direction as far as content is concerned, it is still an extension of what I am. It is just a turning of the cheek, or seeing the face for the first time in deep shadow as opposed to bright light.

During my skype calls, emails, or face to face meetings, I was always fond of saying something to the effect of, "If someone is a teacher, spiritual or otherwise, they should be more interested in LOSING followers as opposed to acquiring them."

"To keep followers, to acquire them, put them in the fridge and hope they don't expire too soon, is to live without evolution; just another form of security, both for the teacher and the student."

If a teacher cannot give you the tools to discover and explore on your own, within a year - perhaps two - then what the hell are they doing? I'll tell you ... wasting your time! And this is, of course, also the responsibility of the student.

For the teacher to remain there is to be stuck ... to wilt on the vine. And the same goes for the student. To hope for freedom from their favorite source, is to be stuck. To live without curiosity and care. Gentleness. Suppleness. Whatever you might want to say.

Had I kept writing in the same way as I always had, it would not have been right. I would have been just another jackass (and perhaps I am anyway), clutching desperately to what has become comfortable.

Just. Isn't. Right.

It is the nature of human beings to grow and evolve. And most of us spend our days fighting this natural impulse.

L: Would you do anything differently if you could go back and do it over again?

TM: No. No way.

That is an impossibility, really. In exploration, there is no going back. It is all encompassing. And while things may arise differently on a different day, the nature of exploration makes it silly to regret anything one has seen or not seen.

And besides, doing things differently implies also there is a 'good' result, or a finish line. And if a seeker, during some part of their journey, feels like they keep running their head into a wall, that is usually the reason.

L: You mean, because of a desired result?

TM: Yes.

L: Well, what can they do about it?

TM: Smell the flowers. Find someone they love, and spend time with them. Embrace a friend that truly needs them. Teach a child that the stupidity of the adults surrounding them is not their fault. Eat dessert while looking out into the ocean...

L: That won't sound very spiritual to a seeker, haha!

TM: And that is why they will fail.

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This interview series will continue in future posts.

Interview with Takuin ~ Part 1 of ?

Two long time readers at Takuin.com approached me at the beginning of the year and asked if they could interview me for my own website. Sounded interesting to me, so I said yes. The three of us have spent the last few weeks emailing back and forth, and these posts are the result of those emails. In reading over this interview, I seem to be more personal than I expected, if that is the right way to say it. And I hope anything I say is not misinterpreted. But if any of you need clarity, please post in the comments below and I'll do my best to clear it up.

The questions in this particular post, were asked by Jake.

Jake: Tell us about your path to becoming a spiritual teacher.

Takuin: There was no path, and as I see it, I was never a spiritual teacher. I understand that some people might say otherwise, and that is fine. But at no time have I ever thought of myself as a spiritual teacher.

My only real concern was to learn how to speak...so to speak. Not the physical means of speaking, but rather, the way I might make sense of an event that seemed to make no sense at all.

J: And what was that event?

TM: Some have called it awakening, liberation, or enlightenment, amongst other things. It took place on December 1st, 2006. I place no real importance on the event itself...

J: I have heard you say that before, but first I want to ask what about that event made no sense?

TM: Well, any kind of awakening, or whatever we call it, is a leap beyond logic. It is beyond what we know, in any meaningful way. It has been called many things but as it is a leap beyond, it can never be captured.

A major problem of the spiritual seeker is the desperate need to understand the realization; to understand something essentially beyond the powers of understanding. The only thing the seeker can do is make the awakening into something understandable, and therefore, allow themselves the potential opportunity to chase it down. But unfortunately, they can never actually chase awakening; they can only chase their ideas of awakening.

J: So the seeker is not actually seeking enlightenment, but their idea of what enlightenment is?

TM: That is it, right there.

J: After that 'accident' happened to you, you must have been curious, right? Did you seek out anyone for answers, or at least try to find some explanation of what happened to you?

TM: I did, but that probably lasted about a week. Even though I had no idea what this thing was that happened, I could clearly see the workings of this mind. And when I heard the explanations from others, telling me 'your experience was this, your experience was that', it was all meaningless.

"What was I to do? When they told me it was this or that, whether I accepted it, rejected it, or did nothing, I was still the same creature. It did not touch the life that was there."

I suspected that if there were discoveries of any kind, they would be made alone, beyond the muddy paw prints of others.

That turned out to be fairly true.

J: Do you think it is a trap impossible to break out of? I mean, the wheel within wheel way the search seems to go on?

TM: Clearly it is not impossible to leave behind, but the cost is great. The seeker IS the search, and you cannot separate the two. If one hopes to escape the search (which is itself a search), one has to die to what they have known, and that effectively kills the need for enlightenment in the first place.

But ending the search can be a trick, too. For most people it is like holding a live hand grenade behind their backs and thinking, "As long as I don't see it, it is ok to keep holding on to it."

J: And when it blows up, they grab another grenade with their remaining good hand!

TM: Haha...yes...

Just drop it, already. ;-)

J: You mentioned earlier that you place no real importance on your 'accident'. Why do you think that is?

TM: What about it is important? We can look at it, and analyze it from a distance...

We can say, life changed, and you lived differently than you would have. Possibly yes, possibly no. We can say, you would have never written all of those words without that accident. Sure, I can see that. We can say, you would have never met the people you have met over the past 5 years. Probably true. And so on. But why is that so important? The specifics, I mean.

A million other things could have happened on that same day, and each one could have led to an interesting life. That doesn't invalidate any of life's particular circumstances, but life and living are not the analysis of life and living.

That kind of analysis is just another way for us to solidify a vague aspect into something solid so we might be able to deal with it better.

It is an act of war.

J: Why do you say that?

TM: Once a target becomes solid, you can build turrets and defences. You can also learn how to manipulate the thing for your own personal gain.

If we are speaking about enlightenment, it is necessary to make it into something in order to take it. And that is why so much time is spent with words, trying to understand it. You cannot take what you cannot understand.

"People want to know what it looks like, what are the symptoms, what are the smells, the sensations, the lightness or the heaviness, or whatever it is. Why do they so desperately want to know these things?"

J: Maybe because if they have those sign posts, they'll know when they are getting close to the destination?

TM: Yes!

And what does that mean? What are they actually getting close to?

J: An idea?

TM: An idea handed to them. I have heard it called second-hand living, and that is not far from the truth.

J: So could we also say, they are looking for something, searching for something they have already created? They create the idea of what enlightenment should be, then look for the idea they just came up with? Is that right?

TM: That's it.

J: That is fucking cruel! Haha...

TM: It is.

But I don't want to be cruel about it myself, because the spiritual seeker already has enough to deal with. It is the ultimate abusive relationship, with the ultimate asshole spouse. ;-)

The reality of it is cruel enough, so I don't care to make it worse.

J: We've talked a number of times on Skype, and I've never found you to be cruel. Have you heard that you're cruel from other people?

TM: Not really, no.

It is always difficult with the written word, you know...it is sometimes hard to hear the tone of the words. It is easy to misinterpret.

I have been told that I am unsympathetic, which I don't entirely disagree with. I can understand that one. But I am largely supportive of the people I speak with. For me, even if spiritual seeking is an impossibility, I love hearing stories and love listening to others talk about their own searching and where it has taken them. And I really don't think people come to me for answers, anyway. Sometimes they have, but that is an attitude I do not tolerate easily.

J: That has always been a problem for teachers I think (even though you say you don't think of yourself as one); those students that want a pointer, versus the ones that want to have their hands held and be told how to do it.

TM: I don't know how difficult it is for teachers. Many seem to be in the business of accumulation, anyway; to get more and more students to spread their light across the world or whatever it is.

It seems to me, if one is a spiritual teacher, their goal should be to lose their students, and not keep them.

J: How so?

TM: If I am a teacher, and the same people keep coming to me year after year, asking the same questions, then what the hell am I doing? Certainly some of that responsibility is on the student, but that would also be my failure as a teacher. If I can't give a student the tools they need to learn on their own, to explore on their own, within a single year, that is my fault.

If that were the case, I should just give up and go fishing or something.

J: Haha! Nice!

You started Takuin.com in December of 2006, a few weeks after your accident. And by my calculations, you've written over 320 articles. But recently you've talked about stepping away from all of that. Why did you decide to give it up?

TM: It is not a matter of giving up anything, necessarily. The site for me was a vehicle of exploration, and it still is.

Originally, the whole point of making Takuin.com was to find a way to speak, or to make sense of the senseless, as I said earlier. But that quickly changed when I realized that could never happen.

"So somewhere along the line, it changed into an exploration of many things, but the underlying subject was always one of enlightenment, more or less."

Looking back into older posts, I cannot really see a progression, or a change of any kind. But I do see how my writing has changed from chunky to sparse. And that seems to be the direction I am moving in now.

J: What direction is that?

TM: I am learning that verbosity is not necessary. At all. Fewer and fewer words are needed to fully express living, and that is where all of this is headed. I don't know exactly what this means, and I don't know exactly how this will express itself at Takuin.com, but it will happen soon.

Besides, I have never really been the kind of writer that plans what he is going to say, so I will not know where this is headed until it comes out. I'll be just as surprised as you will, Jake.

J: Are you worried about losing the readers you've gained over the last 5 years?

TM: Not at all. If they stay, read, comment, and involve themselves in what I am doing, I'll love them. And if they leave for greener pastures, I'll still love them. I do suspect that many will leave, however.

Just from my own observation, I seem to have primarily two kinds of readers; those interested in exploration, and those wanting to be told what to do. I have no interest in doling out objectives and praising them as rules of living. It is horrifying and unfair, as it stifles and kills one's ability to explore and truly live for themselves. I will no longer take part in any of that.

J: Have you done that?

TM: Not to that extent. At least I hope not! I have always avoided telling anyone how to do something...how to get this or that, and so on. I have always attempted to turn it back onto them, because everything they hope to see is there already.

J: Was there a specific moment that led to this decision? Or was it something that slowly happened over time?

TM: I think it was a gradual thing. But there may have been a final straw. I am still undecided about whether or not what I observed was the defining moment, but it certainly didn't help, haha.

J: What was it?

TM: As you can probably imagine, Japan is a popular place for foreigners to visit for spiritual reasons. Perhaps not as popular as India, but still, there is a lot of that activity going on here. So it is not terribly difficult to find spiritual seminars and retreats and that sort of thing, if you know where to look.

I sometimes like to go to those places to watch people. I won't pay to get in to a seminar, but I like to find a place out of view and just watch the people in attendance.

"I like to see that activity; the movement, the action, all taking place in a rather concentrated space."

Early last year, I was sitting at just such an event. I saw a group of about 10 to 15 people sitting in some kind of meditation. One of them had a small child, maybe 5 or 6 years old. And children, being children, are not always so keen on sitting still and saying OM, or whatever. The father of the child kept trying to get the boy to sit still, and there was a bit of a struggle there.

Finally, the boy asked, "What are you doing?"

The father replied, "Trying to meditate."

The boy asked, "Why?"

The father, a bit frustrated answered, "Because I want to be happy."

Then the father said something that stunned me...

"And if you want to be happy, you'll have to do the same thing."

I. Was. Horrified.

I have told this story to a few people, and most of them don't think of it as such a big deal. But to me this was horrific. I was nearly in tears.

How dare he. How dare he set up his child in a fruitless search, teaching him to believe that, on his own, he is inadequate. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"Is that what we want for our children? For them to conform to a system? Do we want to teach them in order to be good, to be happy, they must perform actions in the same manner as everyone else? If the child fails to do this, what will they think of themselves?"

I sat with that event for some time. I am not saying it was the sole reason for my decision, but it did cause me to stop for a bit and explore.

And to be fair, there is no way to know if the child even heard what his father said. It could have been in one ear, and out the other...

...but I really doubt that.

J: At first glance I would've been tempted to say, "Big deal," but I see where you are coming from.

As far as changing direction, did your family and friends support this change? Or is this even something you would have talked to them about?

TM: I mentioned this to one or two people, but it wasn't anything I felt the need to really talk about with anyone. And to be honest, I do not think anyone in my family has ever read anything I have written. We have certainly never really talked about it, but not for any particular reason.

J: They've never read anything? Are you serious?

TM: I can't know for sure, because as I said, we have not talked about it. But I am fairly certain of that.

I don't feel bad about it at all. They don't ask me for spiritual advice, and they don't think I am any more strange than I always have been, so it is fine.

I think I prefer it this way. My friends and my family really know nothing of what I have written, and that is just fine. And if they ever ask what I have been doing, I just say I have been writing and growing my beard, and that is good enough for them. ;-)

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This interview continues in the next post.

The Announcement Revealed

Note: This was written before the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011. New information related to this announcement is at the end of the article.

*******

OK, this is what is happening...

After speaking with a few young filmmakers, a series of short films featuring Takuin will be shot throughout Japan sometime in May. The films will cover a wide variety of topics, but will not be 'about' Takuin.

The main reason I have refused this sort of thing in the past is because, usually, they want the subject to be Takuin. A film 'about' me would be completely unnecessary, and the idea just does not sit well. I cannot understand the interest in the subject.

If there is any significance to Takuin, it is in the moment by moment living of the thing, and not as an historical narrative or method building exercise trying to replicate whatever might have happened to him. There is enough of that sort of chicanery, the 'If you do THIS, you'll get THIS,' kind of nonsense.

Up the Mountain

Anyway, the filmmakers and I went back and forth a bit, and eventually came to an end we could both settle on.

None of the films will be pre-planned or scripted, apart from whatever shots they feel the need to get, but that is none of my business anyway. And as far as I know, filming will take place in Tokyo, Toyama, and a few other places in Japan. As to the subject matter, they've left that up to me.

And also, in the interest of full disclosure, I will not be making any money off of these films, and neither will the filmmakers. They will all be freely available through various video sharing websites.

I am not sure how any of this will turn out in the end, but I have no real concerns. I am actually looking forward to the process, as it will definitely be exciting and interesting. If there are any other updates or items if interest, I will be sure to let you all know here first.

*******

After the events of last week, I've been thinking of ways that I might help others here in Japan. Here are a few I have decided upon:

  • Making DVD's of the upcoming films for sale, with all proceeds going to disaster relief. This is something I know very little about, but I imagine it wouldn't take very much effort to make this happen.
  • Writing a new book - a PDF - for sale on this site, with all proceeds going to disaster relief.
  • I have been working with a film composer here in Toyko for the last 3 months for an upcoming project later this year. We may refocus our energies on writing music and holding performances in and around Tokyo with all proceeds going to disaster relief.

That is the list I've come up with so far, and two of them can be acted upon immediately.

What would you add to this list? How else would you help (or are helping) those that need it the most?

I'll be sure to keep you all informed about these things as time goes on.

To keep up with what is happening with me in Japan, please follow me on twitter.

Interview with Takuin for Buddha at the Gas Pump

Last week, Takuin was interviewed by Rick Archer for the site Buddha at the Gas Pump. It is rather long, close to two hours in length. Rick is a great interviewer and it is clear he has a great love for meeting with new people.

You can leave comments here of course, but feel free to speak your minds on the post page of the interview itself: 035. Takuin Minamoto.

You can also visit the Facebook page for Buddha at the Gas Pump here: Buddha at the Gas Pump

Thanks, Rick! I look forward to our next meeting...

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NOTE: There is now a page in the navigation menu above specifically for interviews. If you happen to miss any of the related posts here, you can always stay up to date by checking that page.

Interviews

Interview with Takuin at EGO PLANET

Last week, Takuin was interviewed by Tammy Taylor for the site Ego Planet. It is now live. The interview is short, at around 22 minutes, so it is easy to eat up in one sitting. I wish we could have gone on much longer, but such things are not up to Takuin. ;)

You can leave comments here of course, but feel free to speak your minds on the post page of the interview itself: The End of Soul Searching Sounds like Takuin.

You can also visit the Facebook page for Planet Ego here: Planet Ego

Thanks, Tammy. It was fun!