This photo is of him playing a beautiful suizen piece, Shika No Tone (The Distant Cry of Deer: A depiction of the late fall mountain) with Aoki Reibo.
I studied with Mr. Yamaguchi in Japan, learning as much suizen (Blowing Zen) as I could in a few short years. He taught me well, but I must say it took decades for the ‘heart of it’ to sink in… and it is still sinking in. The funny thing with perfection is that it knows no end.
The reason I was going to name this post something like “The Real Lesson” was that the most important ‘lesson’ I learned while studying with him had nothing to do with playing the shakuhachi. It is one of numerous times that I have found the greatest opportunity where I least expected it. Just what was so special about this to make it a lesson to end all lessons?
One day I happened to really notice how he replaced the cap on his shakuhachi flute. It was such perfection in action, patient, deliberate… Do without doing (为无为). More over, it was a perfect, spontaneous example of the Not of words teaching, Without action advantage (不言之教，无为之益).
The interesting thing for me is that I also realized I had no idea if his action was actually as perfectly wéi wú wéi as I had seen. How could I know either way? Not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, so also is the ‘lesson seen and learned’. Our ‘teachers’ of life are everywhere, in every thing, at every moment of our existence. The moments we see past our current ‘blind spot‘ are perhaps the only moments we have the opportunity to learn the “not of words teaching”.
(If you like the sound of bamboo, here is another interesting seizen piece Yamaguchi Goro: Sokaku Reibo)