Order The Japanese Way of the Artist

Order The Japanese Way of the Artist
Click on the image above to order The Japanese Way of the Artist. Including extensive illustrations and an all-new introduction by the author, The Japanese Way of the Artist (Stone Bridge Press, September 2007) anthologizes three complete, out-of-print works by the Director of the Sennin Foundation Center for Japanese Cultural Arts. With penetrating insight into the universe of Japanese spiritual, artistic, and martial traditions, H. E. Davey explores everything from karate to calligraphy, ikebana to tea, demonstrating how all traditional Japanese arts share the same spiritual goals: serenity, mind/body harmony, awareness, and a sense of connection to the universe.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Asian Reporter Review

From The Asian Reporter, V14, #2 (January 6, 2004), page 11.

Practical pearls from Japanese "Ways"

Living the Japanese Arts & Ways: 45 Paths to Meditation and Beauty
By H.E. Davey
Stone Bridge Press, 2003
Paperback, 212 pages, $18.95

By Oscar Johnson
Special to The Asian Reporter

At first glance, this glossy paperback may appear to have all the trappings of a wispy New Age treatise penned by the stereotypical Western "master" of eastern something-or-other. But if ever there’s a need to suspend judgment until beyond the cover, it’s with this book. Living the Japanese Arts & Ways: 45 Paths to Meditation and Beauty may not be exempt from such trappings. But it is far more than the sum of its words.

"Certain philosophical and aesthetic standards are shared by all Japanese arts," writes author H.E. Davey. "From the martial arts, to Japanese dance, to flower arrangement, distinctive artistic codes are held in common. These aesthetic codes have had a profound effect on the unfolding of the Ways."

The book conveys a depth of understanding in simple language that is as practical as it is profound. Dō (pronounced doe) or "Way," akin to its Chinese predecessor, Tao, is imbued throughout a myriad of traditional Japanese arts and crafts. It’s implied in the ubiquitous suffix of such words as Budo (way of martial arts), Chado (way of tea ceremony), Kado (way of flower arranging), and Shodo, (way of calligraphy). Traditional practice of these and other arts aims beyond hobby and expertise toward inner refinement: "Many paths, one Way." Both get ample play. But Living the Japanese Arts & Ways is not a dissertation on either.

While offering tidbits of the "paths" and the "Way," it points to some fundamental principles by which just about anything worth doing can be done better. That will — as the old song says, ironically and philosophically — "bring us back to" Dō ….

Davey, director of a San-Francisco-based Japanese cultural arts center, respected calligrapher, teacher, and author of books on shodo, kado, and Japanese yoga, sidesteps the esoteric. He uses plain language to unlock some essentials in Japan’s traditional cultural and spiritual aesthetics. In doing so, he draws from a well of not just knowledge, but experience, to offer readers a revealing glimpse of them. The emphasis is more on the why than the "how to."

The book, however, gives insights into subtle and often hard-to-grasp concepts that pierce the veil of tradition for observer and practitioner alike: an appreciation of Shizenteki or naturalness; Mono no Aware, the ability to eye beauty’s impermanence, freeing the artistic mind from what it saw or thinks it should see; balancing Wabi, a subtle sense of austere simplicity, with Sabi, a sort of melancholic solitary timelessness. The ethereal is also melded with the concrete.

Ample attention is given to the physical. Principles of posture, timing, rhythm, kata — basic forms for repetitious practice — also are spelled out in the context of mindfully pursuing an art, craft, or "Way": The postured precision in the ceremonial whisking of tea, the rhythmic timing of an austere dance poise or martial-art move that slams an assailant to the floor. The paradoxically mindful yet whimsical strokes of a calligrapher’s brush all emanate from a single point, according to Davey’s interpretation of this aesthetic tradition.

Complete with a series of exercises and experiments, peppered with factoids, and topped off with cultural guidelines for the would-be student of traditional Japanese arts, the book has appeal for those ranging from mildly curious to serious "Way" wondering.

Spirit of Change Review

Living the Japanese Arts & Ways was reviewed in Spirit of Change magazine. You can find the review below, and you can visit Spirit of Change at http://www.spiritofchange.org/index.php.

Spirit of Change Review

As Westerners, we are all familiar with the calm beauty of flower arranging, tea ceremonies, calligraphy and Aikido. Yet another path to our awareness of the present moment is presented in Living the Japanese Arts & Ways which helps us “find the beauty in every fragile facet of life, even in the fading of a flower or the aging of a friend.” We learn that the ultimate nature of the Japanese arts involves underlying principles that are discovered “in the doing” through these moving meditations in the course of daily life. In his attempt to communicate the essence of these arts, H.E. Davey provides us with generous access to their historical, philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings. Living introduces the various cultural influences of Taoism, Zen, Confucianism and Shinto, and their contribution to the transformation of Japanese arts and activities into a spiritual path. Davey offers us a deeper look at the artistic expression of “Do,” including concepts somewhat foreign to our Western sensibilities: elegance with a feeling of austerity (wabi), a detached connection with nature (furyu), a beginner’s mind that allows us to see timeless permanence in constant change (shoshin), and the inclusion of the imperfect beauty found in naturalness (funi). Peppered throughout the midsection of the book are experiments to be performed with a partner which enables readers to actually experience the dynamic balance of mind and body in the correct and natural use of ki (“the elementary essence of existence.”) In the final section of the book, we are reminded that the ways “don’t involve philosophical speculation, but actually doing something.... offering us the chance to explore unification of body and mind in the instant.” Davey concludes with the hope that the study of the Japanese arts and ways enables us to realize not only a unity of East and West, but also the “the union of humanity with the way of the Universe.”

Renga Roads Review

Living the Japanese Arts & Ways was reviewed at Renga Roads by Japanese poetry expert Jim Wilson. The review can be found below, and to visit Renga Roads go to http://rengaroads.blogspot.com/2008/05/living-japanese-arts-ways-review.html.

Living the Japanese Arts & Ways:45 Paths to Meditation & Beauty

by H. E. Davey

A Review

Those of us who take an interest in Japanese arts are often attracted by the philosophical view surrounding these arts. By arts I mean traditions such as Tea Ceremony, Kado or Flower Arranging (also known as Ikebana), Kyudo (or ceremonial archery), and, of course, such poetic forms as Renga. It is not easy for non-Japanese to grasp the esthetic categories through which Japanese arts and ways are formulated. There are some differences between western and Japanese approaches and these manifest in both big and small ways. For example, in the west flower arranging is considered a merely decorative pastime, while in Japan flower arranging evolved into a high art. Why is this so?

The best presentation of the basic ideas underlying Japanese approaches to the arts I have found is H. E. Davey’s “Living the Japanese Arts & Ways.” Davey is the Director of the Sennin Foundation for Japanese Cultural Arts in the East Bay. He is an accomplished practitioner of several of these arts, including Japanese Yoga and Calligraphy. He has been certified by traditional Japanese schools.

The book is divided into 45 sections, grouped into four chapters: 1. The Essence of the Japanese Arts & Ways, 2. Spiritual Aesthetics in the Japanese Arts & Ways, 3. Mind & Body Unification in the Japanese Arts and Ways, and 4. Traditions & Personal Relationships in the Japanese Arts & Ways. Each of the 45 Sections is headed by a Japanese term, such as “Yugen”, “Mono no Aware”, "Wabi", and "Furyu". These terms are then explained and illustrated. As the book unfolds, and as new terms are introduced, the new terms are related to the previously introduced terms so that a fabric of relationships among the terms is gradually woven.

In addition the book begins with a broad overview of East Asian philosophy that is at once insightful and accessible to the ordinary reader. I was particularly impressed by the author’s emphasis on Confucian influences on the arts and ways; a point which, I think, many western writers on this topic have missed. There is also a section on the influence of Shinto, which is equally insightful. Davey really has a broad grasp of Japanese cultural foundations.

Davey sees the arts and ways of Japan as sharing an underlying view which he states as seeing the universal in the particular. That is one reason why Flower Arranging could become a high art in Japan, because the idea is that, when framed correctly, one can apprehend that which is universal in the particularity of the impermanent flower arrangement, and thus a flower arrangement can function as a gate to this universality.

Davey does not talk directly about Renga in his book, but his book touches on many of the esthetic ideals that are foundational for Renga and which all Renga poets shared. The idea of a flow of images is rooted in this understanding that the universal resides in the particular and for this reason Renga, like Flower Arranging, became a Way, or Path, in Japan during its heyday. I think Renga can still function in that way. I have read this book several times and found each reading to be helpful. I highly recommend Davey’s book for all those interested in the Japanese approach to the arts and particularly for those interested in Renga.

Note: “Living the Japanese Arts and Ways” was originally published as a separate book, but I believe it has gone out of print. It has, however, been reprinted in its entirety in “The Japanese Way of the Artist”, by the same author which contains, in addition to the “Arts and Ways”, his book on calligraphy, “Brush Meditation”, and his book on flower arranging, “The Japanese Way of the Flowers”.