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August 2004

Friday, August 27, 2004

This just in:

You can now search all of The Temple Guy sites (including this blog) at Search The Temple Guy!

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/27/2004 0 comments 

Thursday, August 26, 2004
The Temple Gate: August 27, 2004 

[Someday, when I've absolutely nothing to do, I may re-install the links that were originally part of this post.  Until then go to the various article indices, starting here, to find the materials referred to.  Or Search The Temple Guy.]

A Letter from James: What I've been up to

A week even less exciting than the last one? Impossible! And yet...(more)

Of "This" and "That": The Crux of religion

We continue the series on Four Titans of Perennialism, Part 2 with the second part of the discussion on Aldous Huxley and the Perennial Philosophy.

Life in a Special Zone: The "Shenzhen Special Economic Zone" is special in other ways, too

This week we have two entries (on the same page):

You and Your Uncle, information for U.S. citizens living abroad, and

Spectrum: A great column on life in Hong Kong, "South of the Border"--and even a small plug for "The Temple Guy"!

The Hot Seat: The Temple Guy answers your questions--sort of

Nothing new this week; see previous article.

Picture of the Week: Worth a thousand words

The first in what I hope will be a weekly series of pictures from my travels. This week: "Rub Me Jizo."

Linkin' Log: Sites seen in my virtual wanderings

In wandering around on the 'Net, I find a lot of stuff related to religion. Here--in no particular order--is what I found this week. Stuff on the rough transition of Tibetan Buddhism to America, some China-related material, The Female Pope, and some things that are sure to offend someone--or everyone?

That's it for this week!

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/26/2004 2 comments 

Prince Roy said...

'American Buddhism'? I dunno. Do we really want to go there? Here's what 'American Buddhism' means to me. Yeah, I know I'm being a wise-ass, but seriously, it seems to me the New Agers are defining the terms. Maybe you have something else in mind? It seems to me that for most Americans, Buddhism is either the Gibbs' brand of pop psychology psychobabble bullshit, or hippy style corruption of the already bizarre-to-begin-with Tibetan tantra. Either way, it's all whacked, and the only thing that frightens me more is having to do another presentation teamed with auto mechanic-cum Buddhist monk Dixon!  8/27/2004  

The Temple Guy said...

I think they spelled it wrong; shouldn't it be "specious" mind? And I love that expression: "Sourced within but not limited to..." Way cool. Reminds me of those other Gibbses, the singing ones.

But seriously: tho many of us are attracted by the concepts, there's a round-peg-square-hole problem with accessing "traditional" Buddhism in America. We don't all speak Chinese! Many HL Temple visitors talked of how high the cultural bar was to get in. So how do you make an authentic dharma accessible to those of a completely different way of thinking?

I think sometimes of what it must have been like when Buddhism first arrived in China, the changes it must have gone through to accommodate itself to the "foreign" mind. I wish there were still some authentic Indian Mahayana around; seems that would be a smaller step to the modern Western mind than from the Chinese way of thinking, sort of Aryan to Aryan!  8/27/2004


Friday, August 20, 2004
Welcome to The Temple Gate 

[Someday, when I've absolutely nothing to do, I may re-install the links that were originally part of this post.  Until then go to the various article indices, starting here, to find the materials referred to.  Or Search The Temple Guy.]

Brothers and Sisters, here it is: my new blog.

There's a lot I've been wanting to do, and this will allow me to do it. This blog is now the Gateway to a whole bunch of other stuff.

You could think of the new content as falling into two categories, sort of like in a magazine. The first category is Features. They are:

The second section is the Departments. They are:

Really, I don't expect to do everything every week. But it's a worthy goal.

This week, for example, I have only done the "Features." (I hope the Departments" will be set up by next week.)

So here, at last, is The Temple Gate for August 20, 2004

A Letter from James: What I've been up to

This week, I tell about my return from Tokyo; some books I bought at the airport; a surprise at the ATM; and laying low the rest of the week. (more)

Of "This" and "That": The Crux of Religion

In the first of a five-part series, I examine Four Titans of Perennialism and how they shaped my thinking about "This world" and "That." This week: The Introduction, and the first part of some ideas from Aldous Huxley. (more)

Life in a Special Zone: The "Shenzhen Special Economic Zone" is special in other ways, too

This Sunday marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Deng Xiaoping, the undisputed Father of Shenzhen. Read about the local press's glowing tributes. (more)

The Hot Seat: The Temple Guy answers your questions--sort of

Is there really a difference between "This world" and "That"? Consider the question using the Buddhist idea of "The Two Truths." (more)

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/20/2004 5 comments 


Prince Roy said...

I have a big problem with anything Kristof and his wife Wudunn have to say about Chinese politics. They consistently display a misformed Westerner's na´vetÚ about who Deng really was and what he was about.

This led to the many China-watchers in the West having unrealistic expectations about Deng when he launched reforms; expectations dashed in the 1989 crackdown. Deng, in fact, never deviated from his lifelong script. He had always been about a mix of absolute state political power with some economic liberalism thrown in.

It was he who orchestrated the anti-Rightist purges of 1956-57, and it was he who championed semi-free market economics in the rural sector as early as 1962 in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward famine.

So why is it such a surprise that he crushed Democracy Wall and Wei Jingsheng after the movement outlived its usefulness (after it turned its sights from their common foes the Gang of Four and other leftist Maoists, to the right of the Party to maintain a monopoly on power)?

Understood in this way, Tiananmen was a foregone conclusion, and most Chinese knew it. They were pissed, sure, but it didn't surprise them in the slightest. Only Westerners with overly romantic views of Deng (Kristof and Wudunn among them), responded with disbelief.

Anyway, I've had my disagreements with Kristof before. he's well-meaning, but hopelessly blinded by his own humanistic ideologies.

Like what you've put up here so far, about the metaphysical Realms...  8/21/2004

The Temple Guy said...

I had hoped that my editorializing ("After all, how can the life of one retarded man be compared to 1.3 billion warm puppies?") would have made it clear that I, too, felt Kristof and Wudunn let Deng off lightly.

I'm surely not the China watcher you are, O Prince, but I hope my common sense will allow me to contribute SOMEthing to dialogues that are other than "metaphysical" (though Emperor worship is a spiritual thing, too); I find the tendency to forgive Deng's political excesses because of his economic reforms to be totally repugnant. Hitler, too, put his country on its feet economically between the wars, but history has managed to keep HIM in perspective.

Living as I do in "The House that Deng Built" exposes me to a lot of these flights of fancy; it seems that a country so proud of its ancient history has forgotten what has happened more recently.  8/21/2004

Anonymous said...

Hey, you don't know me. I'm a DeanDemocrat from WV, and I lived in China from 1979-1983. (Heh, you think it's bad, now. . . ?).

Anyway, I remember how hard it was to vote while I was there, so am just passing this along. Lots of us feel this is a super important election, and since I never met any Republicans while I was in China, figure this is fairly safe, grin.


Check it out.

And thanks for the use of your blog space,

Julie Li  8/22/2004

The Temple Guy said...

Thanks, Julie. You're right--no Republicans here!

I may bump your comment up to a blog post sometime next week, making it more visible. I am writing this as the PDFs download from the website.

Thanks again. (Chinese-Americans in West-by-God-Virginia?!)  8/22/2004

Prince Roy said...

re voting: this is something I am semi-qualified to address. The embassy and each of the consulates in China (Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang), have an American Citizen Services section, staffed with a foreign service officer who will know all about the steps needed to register. They will also have absentee ballot applications and access to other state-specific information. Alternatively, you could visit this site:

http://www.fvap.gov/  8/22/2004

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Home again 

I arrived back on the Asian continent yesterday, and am now settled in to my apartment in Shenzhen. Funny how a place so far from where I lived most of my life, a place so "alien," can feel like home.

I want to thank some people for making my stay in Japan possible. First and foremost are "Bishop" Simeon and his other half Yumi (and their brood); they are remarkable hosts, and put up with me--er, put me up--for over two weeks. If you're going to Tokyo, give me a call and I'll give you their numbers; I'm sure you'll love staying with them, too. (Kidding, Sim, kidding. Sort of.)

Then, not necessarily in order of importance:

  • Stuart Bowie, barmeister of The Maple Leaf, Shibuya, who with his long-suffering partner Steve hosted a number of get-togethers for my friends (and Stuart also took me out for a couple of wild Tequila nights); 
  • Shie, for bringing together the amazing Saitama crew, and for paying for more than her fair share of food and drink;
  • Reiko, for assembling the old Aeon Shibuya gang, for also paying for comestibles, and for doing a museum with me as we did in the old days;
  • Mr. K. and my old Houjimbu buddies, for a nostalgic lunch on the Silk Road;
  • Landon, for his self;
  • Kei and Kaoru, for making me realize that cheap round-trips from Hong Kong to Tokyo were possible;
  • Kirsten and Paul, for being together;
  • Armando, for a free lunch at my old hangout, Posada Del Sol in Shimo-Takaido;
  • Brother Travis, for accepting my not-so-gentle nudging;
  • for all my friends who made the effort to come out and meet me (including some real surprises);
  • and for all the strangers who made my pilgrimage successful.

To my friends I didn't see: next time?

As for those pilgrimages: I completed six inside the city of Tokyo (though I never got to Kamakura as planned). Over the next few weeks you will be seeing a lot about those temples, as well as reading about some of the party highlights.

Starting next weekend (around August 21) The Temple Guy: A Blog will finally be shaped into the format I intended for it when I created it last month. It will become a weekly guide to my experiences here, as well as to my writings and projects. You can check in each weekend (it will almost always be up in time for lazy Sunday browsing) and find out what I did in the previous week in A Letter from James; then, reading on, find out what's new on other parts of The Temple Guy home page, all categorized for your convenience.

I hope you'll check it out.

It was great to see Japan and her temples, as well as my good friends; but it's also great to be home.

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/17/2004 0 comments 

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Trudging On 

I'm still here in Tokyo, and still walking temples (as well as meeting a lot of good friends). In visiting temples, there are moments of disappointment, like today when, after having trouble finding a place, I finally got there and it was closed and unattended. But there are moments so sublime words cannot express them, as when there is a ceremony in progress, or when the architecture of a place is so precious that I know my camera won't be able to capture the essence.

In other words, pilgrimage is a lot like life.

There will be so much to write about when I get home, but for now I wanted everyone to know that all is well, and that a full report will be coming next week.

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/10/2004 1 comments 

Anonymous said...

James, looking forward to your return and tales. SZ hasn't been the same in your absence. - Justin  8/11/2004


Tuesday, August 03, 2004
On the Pilgrim Trail 

I set out to see about eight temples yesterday--and saw four.

But that's OK. I enjoyed them thoroughly, and got that old "contact" feeling from them almost immediately.

However, if you're coming to Japan with renminbi in you pocket, might I suggest that you change your money before you arrive? After visiting the post office and four banks, I discovered that there is only one bank in Tokyo (HSBC in Otemachi) that will change Chinese money. But when I got there they had closed for the day.

It was embarrassing, because I was to meet people for dinner that night, and had no cash. Fortunately, my friend owns the restaurant/bar where we met, so I thought, "Oh, I'll just ask for credit." And then when I got there his partner said he wouldn't be in that night! So, five minutes after meeting the partner for the very first time, I found myself asking for credit! But he's a nice guy, and said "No problem."

I'll go change my money today at HSBC.

Yesterday's temples were a real "mixed bag." Senso-ji in Asakusa is a big, tourist-oriented temple that I considered my "home" for several years. It's where I went to festivals, prayed regularly, etc. The other three temples I saw were one-hall, postage-stamp-sized places with little to recommend them. If they weren't "on the list" I would never have seen them.

But each had its attractions: One had a magnificent altar, another a pleasing roof-line, the third some fine statuary in small shrines outside. They'll all be featured on The Temple Guy after my return to Shenzhen.

It's good to be back in the land where it all started for me. 

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/3/2004 2 comments 

Prince Roy said...

I like where you're headed with this site. As a temple buff myself, though a rank amateur in comparison, I find one of the biggest disappointments of India is that most Hindu temples will not allow a non-Hindu into the inner sanctum. It's enough to send me into a 'temple-tantrum'...

Bad pun aside, I have to confess, I haven't had much time for temple trips since arrival. Hopefully that will happen once the busy season dies down a bit...  8/3/2004

Anonymous said...

*sigh* i'm so jealous that you're able to visit all those temples. frankly speaking, i am quite tired of "this" temple. need to get out. :( happy to see that you're posting regularly.

pey  8/10/2004


Sunday, August 01, 2004
From the Land of the Rising Sun 

I mainly came to Japan this time for two reasons: To see my friends, and to visit temples. I am dividing my time appropriately: evenings and weekends for friends, weekdays for temples. So tomorrow morning, the campaign begins. I have been back in Tokyo, my "second home," for about 48 hours now, and have yet to formally visit a temple. (By "formally" I mean lighting incense and practicing the proper etiquette.) But I have seen some of my best friends, and had one wild all-nighter with some members of my old TPC (Tequila Philosopher's Club) in Shibuya, my old stomping grounds. I got home at 7:15 this morning, and woke up around 1. I have (for obvious reasons) laid low the rest of the day, kicking around ideas with Simeon (who, with Yumi, has graciously agreed to put up with me--uhh, put me up--for my entire two-and-a-half week visit) and planning my first campaign to temples tomorrow.

I'd like to tell you a little more about my fascination with Japanese temples. It is, in fact, here that the seeds of "The Temple Guy" were planted. (This material will later be worked into a longer essay on The Temple Guy website.)

All my life, I have been fascinated by things of the spirit. And very early--by the time I was ten or twelve--I had a marked interest in old buildings, which in my small world were mainly the California missions, and the occasional ruin from Native American culture, such as the Casa Grande in Arizona.

More recently, I have come to think of spiritual things, on the one hand, and "the things we see" on the other, as "that" and "this." The Japanese use the terms anoyo ("that world") and konoyo ("this world"); I find these terms useful for many reasons, including that they resonate with Joseph Campbell's ideas about the Universal Hero leaving "this world" and ascending/descending to "that" to fulfill a quest.

In thinking about "this" and "that" while formulating the Temple Guy website's philosophy, I hit upon an interesting idea: my fascination with religious sites--from missions to temples--may be because I see them as a meeting point between "this" and "that." When an old woman kneels to tell her beads in a cathedral; when a young mother lights incense in a Buddhist temple for the welfare of her child; when a Muslim responds to the call to prayer and enters a Mosque: we come to see that each is standing on the threshold between this world and that, looking over the fence as it were from the seen to the unseen, and we start to understand the role of the temple (of whatever faith) as the door between two worlds.

The Temple Guy is a jolly guy; I will always try to show the human, humorous side of things on this site. But I hope never to lose site of the vital importance of temples to our spiritual lives. The Absolute is absolutely everywhere; the world burns with numinosity; but we sometimes need a reminder of this in the form of a sacred place, a special environment designed to make the crossing easier.

Temples do that.

At age 41 (the tale is often told) I left North America for the first time and moved to Japan, where I stayed for nearly five years. In my early days I certainly visited temples, but it wasn't until my third year that I caught the "pilgrim's disease" and began serious trekking. What it did for me was incalculable, and other pages (in the temples section) of the site will chronicle that process. This is the place where my love of Buddhist temples started, and my current life in China is a direct result of that experience. So in some ways I (and you) owe the very existence of this site to the people and places of Japan. Now I'm here again for just a short time, looking at things through slightly-better-trained eyes. I am very excited to see what I can see.

posted by The Temple Guy at 8/1/2004 2 comments

Anonymous said...

Is it possible for "that" world and "this" world to become one in the same world....all spiritually recognized...With the separation, there will always be confusion. With a oneness, there will be peace that's profound.  8/5/2004

The Temple Guy said...

Dear Anon: Great comment/question! When I get back to China, I'll be starting a Q&A page, where I'll give deeper consideration to the issue.

But for now let me say: Exactly. Most religions recognize two perspectives, one from "this world" and one from "that." When we look at the question from "this" world, we see two; from "that" perspective we know that what seems to be two is actually one. The Buddhists say, "Samsara is Nirvana." More on this in a couple of weeks!  8/7/2004



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