OR CARRYING OUT SUISEKI
Edited by Associazione per la Conoscenza delle Arti Buddhiste (A.C.A.B.)
The practice of the Path, either of the Zenof or an artistic- like Path such as thecha no yu, has as its object “the purification of the heart/mind” through a static practice (the Zazen) or a dynamic practice (the preparation of the beverage).The transformation of the Kokoro, which we might call the inner attitude including both the heart and the mind, the sentimental and psychological spheres, is the object of the Path: that is its liberation from all the constraints which are the causes of suffering and uneasiness. The Kokoro pacified, free, dispassioned, no longer a prey to passions, can be found in the constant and devoted practice of the renouncement of one’s self, of one’s selfishness, in the practice of letting everything fall.This practice can be the shikantaza in which, simply sitting down, forsaken all thoughts and affections, is the concrete realization of the renunciation of the self. Or it can be the practice of a dynamic Path such as the ceremony of the tea, during which perfection is reached when the performer acts with that natural directness which only makes it possible “ not to perceive the presence of a contaminated self”.
(The culture of Tea in Japan and the search for perfection, Aldo Tollini, Einaudi Publishing House,2014,pag.67)
The soul is like a spark fallen in this body,
Therefore it longs for the sky and can be found in everything.
(The fire aims at the sky, couplet 93 of the first century. Daniel Czepko, Mystic Wisdom, Morcelliana 2005)
Pursuant to a Gnostic myth there’sa small, divine spark hidden inside every human being. And it’sexactly this spark or soul,more than intellect, the responsible of all the artistic expressions of human creativity. This spark-soul (also known as Atman, I, Higher Self) moves perpetually each individual consciousness toward its reunification with Absolute, aiming at the reintegration of that individual fragment of Light in the Infinite Numinous from which it comes from. There arevariousmethods to reach this goal: religious practices, meditation techniques, artificially induced expansionof ordinary consciousness, sensorial deprivation etc. Indeed, there’s an oriental saying that sounds something like: “The possible paths of inner evolution are as manyas the peopleborn to follow them". In this occasion, kindly offered by A.C.A.B. to whom go our heartfelt thanks,we are going to compare and focus on two paths in particular: Alchemy and Suiseki -Do.
The western Art of Alchemy – there are, indeed, with identical operational purposes, also an Indian and a Chinese one, originated as part of Taoism – comes from Arabic Sanaa AL- Kimya’, which literally means "art of the Philosopher's Stone". It is an art (yes, we can use the present, because there are followers of this particular discipline, also called Hermetic or Royal Path, even nowadays), but also a science and an inner discipline and it was born in the Hellenistic atmosphere that characterized Egypt in the first century AD. It has two principal goals: an exoteric and an esoteric one. The first aims at the creation of a particular substance, at the "search of a stone" able to transform"vile" metals into "noble" ones, and besides the transmutation of lead into goldyearn forthe creation of a remedy capable to prolong life. The second, and this is the real goal of true alchemists, points at the transmutation of the human constitution (both mental and physical), and want to promote an inner understanding, a prelude to a true spiritual mindfulness. The Middle Ages were the heyday of alchemy research, which lasted until the seventeenth century. His followers were the founders of modern chemistry, but true alchemists scornfully appealed these pioneers and founders of the science of chemistry "glass blowers" and considered – and still consider – them misguided and unable to understand the real nature of the Royal Art. We can say the same of many modern estimators of the Hermetic Path –among these, for example, the great psychologist C.G Jung –, who have not been able to see anything in the Alchemy’s doctrinaire "Corpus" but a kaleidoscopic jumble of primitive concepts and phantasmagoric suggestions overshadowing the unconscious and the most varied issues concerning the human psyche.
Henry Corbin writes (see History of Islamic Philosophy, Adelphi Publishing house, 1991, p. 140) in the paragraph dedicated to the analysis of the Balance Theory , formulated by Jâbir ibn Hayyân , father of the Arabic alchemy : «Therefore it can be said that it is the transmutation of the Soul which comes back to itself the factor which will influence the transmutation of the bodies; the Soul itself is the place of this transmutation. The alchemic operation is therefore a typical pshyco-spiritual operation, certainly not in the sense that alchemic tests are an “allegory of the Soul”, but in the sense that the phases of the operation actually fulfilled on a real matter, symbolize the phases of the return of the Soul to itself.» And in another paragraph Corbin maintains that: «The complex measures, the sometimes huge figures established in great detail by Jâbir, have no meaning for a modern laboratory. As the ultimate aim of the Balance science is to measure the desire of the world’s soul incorporated in any substance, it is risky to see in it an anticipation of the modern quantitative science; rather it might be considered an anticipation of that “energetic of the soul” which, nowadays, stimulates a long series of studies. The Balance of Jâbir was, at that time, the only “algebra”  able to estimate the degree of “spiritual energy” of the Soul incorporated in Natures which, afterwards, could release it by means of the alchemist who, setting Natures free, set free his own soul too.» (Quoted work, p. 141).
Linger over should not be appropriate, but we must make a brief mention of the three phases in which alchemical work is traditionally divided. These are: the Nigredo, the black phase of substance, which corresponds to the Earth. The Albedo, connected with white and with Water. The Rubedo, which corresponds to red, Fire, and gold or to the Philosopher's Stone. The connection with the three elements is technically essential: the transition from Earth (solid state) to Water (liquid) and then to Fire (the divine light) marks the successive transformations and the sublimation of substance that progressively dematerializes and is energized to reach the thin and shiny texture of the Philosopher's Stone, that is Lightning and Realization. The Nigredo is the darkest phase, the lower part of the evolution of human consciousness. It works on feelings and passions, fears and desires, but also on personal history –karmic history much more then biographic one – and genetic inheritance. Albedo is the intermediate stage, in which operate rationality and volitional forces that push us to action and allow us to rise. In this phase we can see the rising of subtlebut very powerful energies, always existing in us and also unknown to us; cosmic and transfiguring forces. The Rubedo is the product of the very difficult passage from the first stage and of the balance of the second with the third. It is the passage that fix the results obtained during the ascent/growth, allowing the transmutation of one's being "in the royal son of the Sun and the Moon, joint, chastely and forever, with the Queen-Mother".
At this point it’s useful to recall a story that metaphorically expresses the condition in which many – while motivated by good intentions and rich in talents and skills – may find themselves when they wrongly interpret the language of art, any art they practice, allowing dangerous misrepresentations that avert from the real objectives and lead to deceptive destinations. The story tells of a "fool" who, unaware of the true nature of the alchemical work, spent his life in the frantic search for the Philosopher's Stone. Every morning, when he woke up he wore a special belt adorned with a big lead buckle. Against his buckle he rubbed the thousands of stones that, for one reason or another, attracted his attention during his ongoing journey that had lasted for many years, country by country, and from morning to night. Testing stones had become for him an obsessive and automatic action, enormously frustrating, because it never led him to discover the right stone, the one that lengthens life, the only one able to transform base metals into gold and silver. One morning, when he was about to start another day of research, it happened that, wearing his belt, he saw endless rays shining from the old buckle, miraculously transmuted into pure gold. His eyes fulfilled with infinite sadness and disappointment overwhelmed him. What was the stone that had worked the miracle? When had he collected it? And, above all, where had he thrown it? All these questions will have no answer. Suddenly he felt the overwhelming severity of his mistake, the pain for that stupid waste of years and bitterness for the great occasion he had not been able to grasp.
Like alchemists are always looking for the "Philosopher's Stone", the most precious, the only one able to operate wonderful portents, so suisekists "are constantly looking for their Stone of Destiny, the extraordinary, the best one, the one with a unique beauty, perfectly formed and, therefore, able to impress anyone and to conquer all, the only capable to reward with fame and prestige".
The work of suisekists, like the one of alchemist, is divided into three phases: the discovery, which is realized by means of the feet; the realization of the best aesthetic effect, by means of the hands; and the last phase, under the aegis of the heart, which is related to various modes of use of the values, not only of art, of which suiseki is rich.
Who loves the stones worked by water and by the passage of time, whenever he has the opportunity, comply with the desire to overlook any daily activity to travel to open and untouched places, far from residential areas: beaches and mountains, streams and rivers, hills and countryside, everything is suitable if it helps to immerse ourselves in nature. Usually, that’s something to do on our own – it’s hard that family and friends would like to participate to such excursions – except in the circumstances in which we are forced to be in company: for security reasons; because we are involved in demonstrations or other educational initiatives, and similar cases. We find ourselves, therefore, in the sole company of our own thoughts. It’s a good occasion, accomplices the "spirits" of nature, to transform a walk in a moment for introspection and understanding of ourselves. It may happen, in fact, that collecting stones becomes something that go beyond playful dimension, or simple entertainment, something closer to our inner dimension. While the collection proceeds we find our mind empty. No more questions, sometimes banal, others important: who are we? What do we really want? What is our place in this world? Contact with nature is truly healing! And the burden of existential suffering that we all bearrelives while, even without realizing it, the "search" takes on cathartic values and balancing and harmonizing effects occur. Consider, for example, the healing effects given by the colors (color therapy) existing in nature, which reach, thanks to the eye, our psyche and act on the body. Or the effects of sunlight (helioterapia), the reason why holistic doctors appealed the sun "the great healer". It thus becomes possible to dwell on the less pleasant parts of our nature, on the aspects of our being that we love less, on everything that don’t satisfy us in our lives.We’re talking about something thatis obviously affected by our level of awareness, by the maturity we have acquired through our personal life experience. Thus it can occur, sometimes, that our tiredness vanishes and we find ourselves totally absorbed in aesthetic contemplation of the landscape, the sky, the light, the movements produced by the wind, the sounds of rain. We find ourselves absorbed and lost in Panic admiration of thousand details: a flower, the protruding roots of a tree, the twisted branches of a bush, a sand dune, a jagged rock, the flight of an insect, the singing of birds, the sound of the beating of our own hearts… and the stones! Generous stones that offer themselves at first sight, or, on the contrary, stones that are masters in the art of camouflage and concealment: in the mud, in dark recesses, under layers of dust or leaves. Get a glimpse of them, bring them to sunlight, catch their beauty by intuition even before than through the eyes is a great joy. But we must be careful that we don’t fall into emotional eagerness. We must learn to limit our own drives by exercising, even in these circumstances, in the difficult art of self-control. This will also teach us to accept with serenity the disappointing outcome of a fruitless day and, most important, the sorrows of everyday life. We should always strive to remember that the only real purpose is to search for the quiet of our minds. That’s the only thing that can reconnect us to those positive energies that vibrate around usdetaching us, at the same time, from the tumult outside, and allowing us to empathize with those forces, divinely vital, that pulsate within us. There’s a key aspect on which now we can’t linger but which deserve a few words: it is what we might call “the phase of practical ritualization”. In fact operational instruction can be acknowledged only when we have developed a certain inner attitude. Here’s a brief examplethat would like to be at the same time a suggestion: at the end of our tour and after the selection of the stones that actually worth to be brought home, it’s important to respect and appreciate also the discarded ones. Their "vibrational energy level" – even if very low, being the stones inert matter – deserves respect, according to the lesson of animistic practices, in particular Shinto ones. We must acknowledge our debt to the spiritus loci of the site we visited, returning what we are not in need of. Following a pantheistic attitude – the only authentically ecologist, and that we should always cultivate – do not scatter discarded stones. Let’s make a pile pyramid and, after many years, coming back to the same places, we may find ourselves amazed and marveled seeing that others – hunters, fishermen, shepherds, mushroom pickers, hikers – helped, listening to an unconscious impulse, to the creation of what the Tibetans call "mounds of prayer".
Usually this is considered the ending moment and the more important one of the suiseki creative path, but this is not totally true. For sure this is a very important phase that, starting from stone cleaning, goes on with the daiza creation or with the choice of a suiban or a doban, ending with the choice of little shitakusa or precious tempai done to stay close with our art stone in the public show.
This is the most important phase, crucial for a successful aesthetic work.. In this moment talents and acquired skills have to be shown: taste, sensitivity, creativity, culture, knowledge of the subject, technical mastery and much more.
After the first phase: the one of our fusion with Nature, the one called “By Feet”, we must be able to reach the sublimation of our deepest Soul. This is the moment of aware and detached listening and channeling of creative forces. In this moment the maker works on the material word with vivifying spirit letting out the Beauty archetype and making it free. It’s a work that has to be done gently as quite water passing on stone. Now we have to feel ourselves as individuals done of the same substance of Whole. So we are back to Gnostic Myth from which we started.
The aspiration is to be able to: see ourselves, fell ourselves, consider ourselves a part/whole, and not a part of whole. The Orientals call this condition SAMADHI. It 'a Sanskrit term that indicates a non-dualistic mental being in which there is not the illusory perception of a separation between object and subject – in this case between artist and artwork, suisekista and suiseki. When we manage in such a difficult work we change our everlasting egocentricity of our usual ordinary state of consciousness. Once again a tale can help us in better understanding the right inner attitude, beside the mental one, to which must aspire each true lover of the “Achieving Arts” both Oriental then Occidental. The tale (it’s about a moment of the life of Sen no Rikyū, founder of the Urasenke school, the most important of teachers that made the Tea Ceremony a Road to Illumination) it’s from Zen and Tea Ceremony of Kakuzo Okakura. “In the sixteenth century the morning glory was still a rare plant in our gardens. Rikyu, had a whole garden full of morning glories, which tended assiduously. Their fame reached the ears of the taiko, who expressed the desire to see them. Rikyu, then invited him for a morning tea. On the appointed day the taiko crossed the garden, but there was no sign of morning glories. The ground had been smoothed and strewn with pebbles and sand. Full of rage, the tyrant went into the tearoom, but what he saw there restored his peace of mind. In the tokonoma, in a precious Sung vase of bronze, there was a single morning glory, the king of the whole garden!" Here, in these few lines are beautifully expressed concepts we have tried to explain. In the ''action” of the master Rikyu (expression of a no acting “space-time" where anything can happen) is clearly visible the fade of the duality between the artist and the artwork. So the author's life, his artistic path and the creative act become one. The aesthetic creation becomes a performing art, which includes everything: both the historical viewer, that in this case is the taiko Hideyoshi and the many indirect beneficiaries – including ourselves today – that hundreds years later keep on being part of the event by reading it. Rikyu creative world and his deep artistic vision are the point from which the artist spread inner boundaries assuming “cosmic” characteristics, where – dealing with our tale – the sacrifice of all the morning glory plants takes a ritual value and finds its symbolic meaning in the repetition of the eternal laws of nature and its never ending ritual.
This happen even when the bonsai maker submit the plant to shaping constrictions that are a reproduction of natural extreme conditions of life: weather; exceptional or periodical traumatic events, such as lightning or herbivores pasture.
Sen no Rikyū tale can be read in different ways finding many examples of transmutation of the human condition such as his no economical consideration of the morning glory plants, his overcoming of any form of emotional attachment, his lack of expectations for the consequences of his act. All attitudes that give beauty to the supreme and eternal aesthetic gesture of a true spiritual master, champion of the great Japanese arts.
High but impossible ideals? Unattainable goals? Maybe, but it is also to be noted that these ideals where strongly felt during generations ingrate nations culture.
For us are important now the first steps of the “Path” that everybody who is looking for the “Road” can try to follow: ikebana, bonsai, tea ceremony, Suiseki Do. For Suiseki lovers tray to have an attitude centred on the practice spirit more than on its material details.
To better understand what we just wrote you can read the following ending part.
This is, indeed, the most difficult phase for people who want to have a traditional approach to Suiseki-Do. This is because a similar approach requires a constant and methodical effort with which they must comply all life long, in all circumstances. Instead, many believe that reaching a high level of technical expertise, which allows them to participate in exhibitions and festivals, it’s enough to prove their status of expert of suiseki-Do. From our point of view this is not true, as demonstrated by the history of Japanese traditional arts: from martial arts to Shodo, from painting to Suiseki Zen-Do and related arts (keto-bonkei, Bonseki, hako- niwa) all want to realize creations and / or artistic performances that are expression of an "inner evolution."Reality, however, is often different, as we can sometimes verify while we participate to exhibitions of this field. In such circumstances, in fact, it may happen to witness to unpleasant examples of human weakness: recriminations and protests for the presence of a few grains of dust that could affect the photographic rendering of a shot, or for a few degrees of temperature that could put at risk the well-being of a bonsai or a kusamono, or even long discussions to grab the best exhibition space. It would be so useful , instead, to focus on the magnificent opportunity to dialogue with visitors that these important public events offer! They could be occasions to inform neophytes and visitors interested in a better understanding of the spirit of Suiseki-Do. By the way, it may be useful to report an incident occurred during a recent event. In that circumstance, someone complained with one of the staff about the impossibility to buy the two texts written on Suiseki-Do that can be read in Italian (L’ARTE DEL SUISEKI – Collezionare pietre: raccolta, esposizione e uso con i bonsai, written by Vincent T. Covello e Yuji Yoshimura, Ed. SNEV and SUISEKI – Pietre d’arte, written by Antonio Ricchiari, Ed. PROGETTO BONSAI). This is what he has been answered: «I don’t know how to sell texts that are not mine. Should I buy a few copies at my expense? And what if they remain unsold? It’s 15 years that I attend exhibitions and believe me when I tell you that you're the first person [sic] who asked me if I had any texts for sale. In general, we’re always at disposal to those curious who want to ask some questions. Unfortunately nowadays books, which for me are unrivaled, are replaced by by web contents, always updated and easily reached».
What above suggests at least the opportunity to meditate on the real nature of the interest shown by some suisekists for art stones and on their relation with Suiseki-Do. To this end we’d like to recall the words of a contemporary Italian bonsai master, Massimo Bandera: «True freedom is a process of liberation from the ego throughout a patient and humble research of the knowledge of a great culture. Artworks reflect how their authors, although with different interpretations, take care of nature and so their spiritual path becomes therapy. Bonsai is made for love!» For Bandera Love is, in its highest meaning, the center of his art and Love is pushing him to convey the power and beauty of his creations to others: specifically the suffering and the sick*. It in fact allows the rise of that potential "cure" which inhabits the Way of bonsai and all the other traditional Japanese arts. He says, again: «... the naturalness of creation can not be expressed with words, but with the noise of beauty.» Wise words, alluding to an inner and outer beauty, "dumb" and yet extraordinarily lively, potentially forming a higher sensitivity that can never be matched by any "telematic marvel", as it’s exciting and immediately usable in its many special effects.
Also the Ikebana teacher Keiko Ando Mei has decided to follow a similar approach, even if in another sector and with other means. She has oriented her art towards the development of a method (Ikebana – Therapy) that aims to “care of the Self". That is, a practice – based on the Path of Flower and Zen meditation – aimed «to help each person to develop his own quality and creative potential, rediscovering his original value and the joy of Being». Happiness that is not merely narcissistic gratification but cultural, ethical, spiritual elevation that could potentially lead to the perfection of Being. Succeeding in this means to contribute, too, to improvement and "elevation" of others, bringing to the light the purity, harmony and beauty inherent in both the macro and the micro cosmos.The two proposals presented here, that of Bonsai and Ikebana-Therapy, intended to draw attention to and reflect on the beneficial potential of traditional Japanese arts, including Suiseki-Do. They can all become "skillful means" for the inner development of human beings. Patience, perseverance, humility are the necessary conditions for the beginning of a process of change, so long that it extends beyond a single life. This change averts as from Maya’s illusory attachments, and leads us towards the attainment of the true Good. That’s for sure! But, however, we must strive with all our energysince, as it is written in the Lotus Sūtra, only throughout hard efforts we may become able to receive the Goodness inside us.
 Balance is called in Arabic mīzān pl. mawāzīn [ ميزان ] [ موازين ] and it comes from the root wzn that has the meaning of ‘weight’ or ‘to weigh’. Balance has a very important role in Islamic philosophy because it is the source of the soul’s measuring in particular in its passage in the Afterlife. Balance is also crucial in Arabic grammar as a means of correct assignment of meaning to words that are considered in Arabic like root provided with morphemes that are distributed according to the balance within the word.
 Jābir ibn Ḥayyān [ جابر بن حيان ] has often been called in Latin literature with the name of Geber, sometimes reported as Geberus. He is considered as the greatest exponent of Arab alchemy despite being born in Persia and is therefore more properly Muslim alchemist or Persian alchemist. His work takes place in the Abbasid era and the corpus produced is of such massive amount that scholars doubt the real authorship of all his works. It is possible, however, to assume that he is the real author of the so-called Geber corpus.
His alchemical research is considered the basis, or the first step, toward modern chemistry.
 The word Alchemy comes from the Arabic al-kīmiyya [ الكيمياء ] and entered into the western culture or in the indo-european languages as one word, nevertheless it is composed by the Arabic article al- and the term kīmiyya that is well translated as ‘chemical’. Nowadays in Arabic the modern chemistry is still defined by the term kīmiyya that, when provided with article, continues today to be al-kīmiyya. Many of the studies on Alchemy in Muslim culture drew part of their sources from Greek philosophy, it therefore seems that the Arabic term kīmiyya in its turn can be derived from the Greek khymeia with the sense of ‘to melt’, a term pertaining well with the first alchemical practices .
 The word algebra comes from the Arabic al-ğabr [ الجبر ] the root of which can be translated as ‘connection’ or ‘union’ with the sense of bringing together the parties that are disconnected and fix them in some way. Even this term as ‘alchemy’ came into the indo-european languages agglutinating the Arabic article, therefore, the actual term is just the part after the article al-gebra. The first to use this term was al-Khwārizmī in his Al-Kitāb al-ğabr wa-l-muqābala or ‘Book on the completion and balancing’.
*THE BONSAI THERAPY
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“The above mentioned concepts constitute the introductory part of the first didactic module addressed to the people attending the training course for Italian style suisekilovers. Owning to possible doctrinal approximations and conceptual simplifications which might be present in this report, we apologize in advance to the informed readers of ELLE EMME.
Collettivo Associazione per la Conoscenza delle Arti Buddiste (A.C.A.B.) See the update/menu section, the poster for the imminent publication of the book PIETRE DA EXPOSIZIONE & S.I.S. Suiseki Italian Style.
Mani Stones (Google images)
Garden Zen (Google images)
Specifications and technical report of Suiseki Dhyana Mudra
Dhyana Mudra: Mudra of Meditation
Dhyana Mudra is strictly connected to the idea of the Samadhi, that is the complete reabsorption of the thought into the object of concentration. The right hand which stands for the enlightment, rises above the left one which stands for illusions; as a consequence the Mudra symbolizes the supremacy of the enlightment over the “appearances” world. Dhyana Mudra is the Mudra of meditation, of the spiritual enlightment and it can be performed by meansof one or two hands. When it is performed with one hand only, this hand must be the left one placed open on one’s lap with the palm stretched upwards standing for the womanly principle of wisdom; while the right hand, which carries out most movements generates manly energy, the left one, more manageable and obedient, generates womanly energy. Frequently the left hand holds up a book or a bowl for alms. Otherwise, when this Mudra is performed with both hands, the right hand will be placed on the left one with the palms stretched upwards.
Composition and first exibition for ELLE EMME winter 2018
Graphics, on the background of the image accompanying the Italian article on WIKIPEDIA
A.C.A.B. thanks to:
Dr. Antonietta Ferrari, President of the CENTRO DI CULTURA GIAPPONESE in Milan;
Mr. Nobushige Akiyama of the ISTITUTO GIAPPONESE DI CULTURA-JAPAN FOUNDATION in Rome;
the publishing house EDIZIONI CASADEI LIBRI, for the wonderful books "bravely" published;
the friendly staff of Doozo ART BOOK &SUSCHI of Rome.
If you are are interested to know more about this subjectyou can contact the organizing secretary of the association: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Registered trademark property of La Stanza Segreta dell'Uomo
Name: Dhyana Mudra (Mudra of meditation)
Dimensions: cm 30 x 15
Origin:Lunigiana Category: meditationstone
Style: Suiseki Italian Style (S.I.S)®*
Daiza: olive wood
Essence: Asparagus Sparingei