May 8 2016 – a month of flower and buddha photos – day 8
Maurine Stuart Roshi (1922-1990)
Someone told me he was very embarrassed when complimented about his artwork; he became quite self-conscious, and didn’t know what to say. I told him, “When somebody says to me, ‘You play the piano beautifully,’ I say, ‘Yes, I do, thank you. I really do play beautifully, but I don’t play. Something plays me.’ ” The more we come to the condition of emptied-out, cleared-up, warmed-up mind, the more easily we can let go of the self-consciousness that makes us denigrate ourselves, or worry about seeming conceited. We can be glad we can make something beautiful or play beautifully; we can be glad to share it with others, and glad they like it. It is not conceited to say, “Yes, I play the piano beautifully.” If I did not, after all the training, all the work, all the effort, it would be sad. And so it is with you. Each of you is the artist of your own life. Play your life beautifully. Hold your head up and be glad that you can offer whatever it is you have to offer, freely.
A little bell hanging in the emptiness sings. Each one of us is hanging in the emptiness, singing. Sometimes lover, sometimes wife, sometimes husband, sometimes artist, sometimes friend, always with open, compassionate wisdom minds.
— Maurine Stuart Roshi (1922-1990), Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart. Edited by Roko Sherry Chayat. 1996.
Maurine Stuart roshi was a friend. A friend and a beloved, inspiring elder sister/fellow student (we shared Sōen Nakagawa Roshi as a teacher). A lovely woman, insightful Zen teacher, accomplished musical artist. Brilliant, funny mind, loving heart. Re-reading some of her fine words today, looking again at some of her lovely photo portraits, I miss Ms Mo Roshi, — her warmth, her humorous, brilliant company, her physical presence. Like many strikingly handsome individuals, Maurine was physically more beautiful than any of her photos do justice to, and she had a distinctive, powerful personal magnetism (‘PM’, or ‘AM’ – animal magnetism). The mother of three, and the “spiritual mother” to many students who called her “Ma Roshi”; I called her Mo, Mo Roshi, or sometimes Myo or Myo Roshi (Her Buddhist name was Myo-on — Subtle Sound). Born in Canada, residing & teaching in the US; when she knew she was fatally ill, Mo made a pilgrimage to Varanasi (Benares) India to meditate on the banks of Ma Ganga, Mother Ganges, where Shakyamuni Buddha, Adi Shankara, and so many other Indian sages had spend so much time; but she returned to die among her family and students in the States.
Maurine was one of four or five very talented musical friends I’ve known (including Pir Vilayat Khan, among others) who had studied music in Paris with the famous Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979). In the Zen family, Maurine & I shared four or five particular mutual friends with whom we both studied together under Sōen Nakagawa Roshi (1907-1984), who recognized Myo as a roshi, and thus his most significant western successor. The magisterial Ms Mo Myo-on Stuart Roshi. One of a kind.
red lotus: Detail of a scroll painting (print). China. The scroll includes a photo-printed image of an original painting, reproduced on threaded paper slats. Purchased in Chinatown, Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada, 1960s. Photo taken at home, May 2016.
crusty wooden Buddha: China. Photo taken at local discount store May 2016.
Maureen Stuart Roshi: photo artist & date unknown.
Painting detail: from one of my Himalayan travel sketchbooks. Watercolor/graphite/ink on paper. The Kali Gandaki River, a tributary of the Ganges, runs through this gorge.
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