Several years ago, I read “Journey to the West,” the Chinese epic about the monkey Sun Wukong and Tripitaka, the Buddhist monk. It is in four volumes. Now I am reading “Xuan Zang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road” by Sally Hovey Wiggins. Xuan Zang was the Buddhist monk who traveled to India in the 7th century CE to gather scriptures. It was a long journey through mountains, deserts, many kingdoms and tribes. He met kings, robbers, nomads, monks, spirits. I was reminded of the book “Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment” by Richard Bernstein. The book is still available at the Buddhism and religion section in the basement of Strand Books on 12th and Broadway in NYC. I wrote a review of it a decade ago that was never published anywhere. I am printing it here for the first time. There are a few photos from Xian that accompany the piece.
There are also a few more photos from Angkor Wat that I haven’t included before.
There’s a poem “Return” that is published here for the first time. It is from a collection of China poems. I wrote it in London.
I am traveling to the Philippines again on February 14. I won’t be back until March 7. It is mainly for a medical mission to Palawan, one of the islands in southern Philippines. But I am also teaching a seminar on Zhan Zhuang and Tai chi chuan DaoRen to be sponsored by INAM-ATRC, an NGO that has organized many of my seminars since 1998. The seminar scheduled for March 5 and 6 is a fund-raising for their indigent project. Look at my website for further announcements.
In my first medical mission in the island of Romblon, organized for western physicians 5 years ago, I did a few acupuncture treatments and taught the 6 Healing Sounds. The organizers did not really know what to do with me because they had not had any experience with acupuncture before. One treatment I did involved a man who could hardly walk without being supported by somebody. I did a Kiiko Matsumoto treatment on his leg and qigong on his spine. The medical mission involved surgeries under rather spartan conditions. A funny thing was that after a boy was circumcised, it looked like he told everybody else on the island and the very next day more than 100 boys showed up. The doctors did not know how to handle the situation partly because there were so many kids waiting but also because there were more important cases on the list. The doctors met for an urgent conference. One problem they talked about was what kind of circumcision was to be done? I told them that the prevailing technique in the Philippines was the dorsal cut, a very easy, quick procedure done with a razor blade by the local traditional native healer that won’t take too much time.
When I was in the Philippines December 25 to January 16 I attended the wedding of my youngest brother. The wedding was held at the local church. The mass solemnized by our uncle, Archbishop Tirona, was held in the backyard of their new home surrounded by 500 ylang-ylang trees that were just beginning to bloom. During my visit, my brother Roland and his wife Victoria took me and 4 other wedding guests — 3 from Miami, Florida, and 1 from Vietnam — on day trips to different places on Luzon, the main island of my country. One place we visited was Taal Volcano, a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano, south of Manila. Another one was Hundred Islands (there were actually 123 of them) up north. I have a few photos from that sojourn that I would like to share with you.
Every person I met talked about it. Every TV channel I saw, every newspaper I read, featured the Super Bowl. I remembered what I read from Joseph Campbell: when the ancient men were not hunting or making war, they invented games to see who was the top man. He mentioned the research of Jane Goodall about the alpha male. I also remembered what Rene Wormser said in his book “The History of Law,” a text in law school back in the early 60s: the supreme high mass of western civilization was the criminal trial. Imagine the power and resources of the state against the accused. It came from the British tradition: her or his majesty against one person on the premise that the crime is a breach of the peace in the realm even if the accused injured or killed only one person. It’s possibly just me, but looking at the Super Bowl, I realized that nowadays it is arguably the Super Bowl that is the supreme high mass of the west. With all the fanfare and hoopla, the celebrities, the expense and the festivities surrounding it, there is really nothing that compares to it anywhere, I don’t think. It is like a high sacred ritual, except that instead of the wine and bread, they have beer and chicken wings, instead of the chanting and recitatives, they have Alicia Keys, Beyonce and her dancers. Instead of the judge or the priest presiding, there is the referee. Of course, there are still the remnants of the ancient game – the contest is to determine who is the alpha male, the top man on the totem pole. I must confess that I saw the start of the game, parts of the half-time show, and then fell asleep.
All the best in the New Year,