Recently, I began reading 'Fukudenkai: Sewing the Buddha's Robe in Contemporary Japanese Buddhist Practice' by Diane E. Riggs. Leslie Sudock from Ready To Hand sent it to me as recommended reading as soon as she returned from a brilliant work-study-collecting trip with Saori founders-makers-weavers in Japan. I've been connecting fukudenkai to many experiences of late. Not least of my considerations is observing Wu Zhimi's Dongba apprenticeship, which has taken on a really interesting transverse quality. She's challenging certain politics by studying and practicing Dongba ritual. She's assembling a Dongba wardrobe with ritual instruments. She's...becoming Dongba in her own way. It's not unlike the iteration of 'sewing your own robe to earn spiritual merit'. In Wu Zhimi's case, it's also not about a strict hierarchical passage. It's finding integrative and rhizomatic ways of being (sorry! they're just such special words and people keep using them in my presence).
When we were in Tacheng, we stayed at He Xiudong's family home.
He Xiudong's grandfather was a legendary chief Dongba. A handful of people talk about his powers...that he could make water run uphill, unlock a door with the wind of his breath...I got the sense that he had some degree of spiritual realization. Maybe more on those conversations in another post...
In the photo below, you'll see the hearth/living space, which is traditional construction for a Dongba residence. It was an unusually quiet moment for that week. Wu Zhimi and I had escaped the wedding festivities to have some food and decompress. The revelry was through the roof and I get cantankerous in crowds, but there was some real peace in the mountains:
Naxi communities, especially rural ones, seem to be very fire-centric. Fire gives hot tea and food. Fire gives bodily warmth. Fire heals. Fire is a place to talk, to perform. Fire drives away bad spirits...and who doesn't want to dance around it?
Keep the light. I'm wrapping up this post early...leaving you with a vid of a moment in the He household: