Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gary Snyder's campfire and Bodhidharma


I recently met Bodhidharma. I'm sure we've crossed paths before, but I was too busy rapping with Buddha and Du Fu and Li Po to catch Bodhi. Turns out, he has a lot to say, albeit with few words.

Bodhidharma is the cat credited for turning the Shaolin Temple upside down and for bringing Zen to China. He was upset at what crappy shape the Shaolin monks were in. So he taught them techniques to get in and stay in shape as well as teaching meditation. Physical and mental prowess and awareness.

Daniele Bolelli introduced me to Bodhidharma. Reading Bolelli's "On the Warrior's Path," he relates the story of the Shaolin ass kicking. Bolelli is on a modern day mission akin to Bodhidharma. DB says:

"It is time for an athletic philosophy: a philosophy forged through muscles and heart; a philosophy born out of the union of body and mind, of pragmatism and utopia, of sweet sensibility and a warrior's determination."

I've been a warrior since high school (Easton High School Warriors). But I've also always felt in step with the warrior ethos. I began to think of it that way after finding Chogyam Trungpa's "The Sacred Path of the Warrior" at a pivotal time in my life.

This concept of warrior though isn't what we currently envision when we hear the word. It has an Eastern bent, something that Trungpa and Bodhidharma and Bolelli bring to it. It is that one-two punch of spiritual and physical, bringing out a deeper experience. As Bolelli puts it, "An individual who is truly alive should not settle for anything less than the totality of experience."

I like writers in whom the East meets West in everywhere. I've always been lit up by thinkers and teachers who marry the spiritual, mental and physical pursuits, realizing they are all connected. And the ones who can do that with originality and humor get my vote and my full attention. Bolelli roped me in when he connected Tom Robbins (another favorite) to the martial arts. And then he called on Gary Snyder.

"We have chosen to follow Kant along the road of "progress" and science rather than sitting around the campfire with Gary Snyder.... Big mistake."

"On the Warrior's Path" is a wild ride. The first chapter, "The Body as a Temple," should be taught in schools, as early as possible. It should be practiced and preached. Maybe around the campfire that Snyder stoked.