Monday, November 27, 2006

The Buddha of the North

"The Buddha of the North" is the title of a short book by D. T. Suzuki about the Swedish multi-genius, Emanuel Swedenborg.

I acquired this interesting volume while trying to find another book by Suzuki -- I have the 1st and 3rd volumes of his "Essays in Zen Buddhism" and, new to the Internet, was trying to find the 2nd volume. Instead, I ran across this book and purchased it over Amazon because of the interesting title.

The introduction to the book tells that "Buddha of the North", first published before the 1st World War, is one of Suzuki's very first public writings. Furthermore, it claimed that Swedenborg was a strong influence on Suzuki.

Well, well, well! I knew of course, that William Blake had been strongly influenced by Swedenborg --
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour. --
"Auguries of Innocence", W. Blake
But Blake was almost contemporary with Emanuel and lived in England, which Swedenborg often visited, due in part that is was only here and in Holland, because of censorship, that he could publish his books. But that his influence reached across a century and half way around the world to influence the young fellow who would become the mighty D. T. Suzuki surprised me, to say the least!

Frankly, Swedenborg can be quite tedious to read -- I have only one volume of his, a copy of "Heaven and Hell" I picked up in Poosah City. Like Blake, with him you have to wade through a lot of verbal fluidium to find the gems.

In the forward to my copy of "Heaven and Hell", there is also an introduction I found quite interesting and an anecdote I will recount here which reveals how the man, although he spent half his life talking with and writing about angels, he was a down to earth and kindly old geezer.

The story goes like this: a young niece of his, about 12-14 years old had heard that Emanuel conversed with angels. So, with the innocence of youth she asked her uncle if he could "show her an angel"

Uncle Emanuel thought for a moment and replied, yes, if she would meet him out in the garden next morning at the summer pavilion there, he would "show her an angel".

The next morning, Emanuel was waiting when she came, he led her into the pavilion and stood her in front of an object covered with a sheet. He asked her to cover her eyes, she heard a rustle of cloth. He said she could open her eyes now and found herself standing in directly in front of a full length mirror.

Now wasn't that a sweet thing for him to do!

The above was an introduction to this song composed on an experience when my then three year old daughter, Sandra Rose, was standing outside the window picking her nose.
There's angel outside my window, she hands me a bright-red rose!
She smiled at me so sweetly, then she began to teach me a song:

She taught me a song, an unending song, a song that goes on and on...
It's kind of confusing, but the words and the music,
the words and the rhythm are one...
As soon as you listen, something that's hidden, shines forth like the bright morning sun!!!

There is a song we all sing -- you know!
The melody's in everything -- that grows!

There's angel outside my window, she hands me a bright-red rose!
She smiles at me so sweetly, then she started to fiddle with my heart:

Open your heart, it won't tear you apart, although at the start it may scare you...
Under the tree a deep mystery may suddenly be revealed you!
Take that first step then follow your breath, there's one thing left I can tell you:

Life is the song we all sing -- that's true!
The melody's in everything -- we do!

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