Two Selves, a Wealth of Splendour, and Yin-Yang Harmony

Welcome to our newsletter, dear reader.

• Our first new library addition this month is an insightful brief essay by Roger Lipsey, “The Two Selves: Coomaraswamy as Man and Metaphysician”, introducing the life and works of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy from a unique perspective.

Coomaraswamy’s sense of the drama of inner life—not so much the ups and downs, peripeties and dénouements of falling in and out of love or in and out of good fortune, which he knew perfectly well from his younger days, but the drama of the search for God, a movement towards some things, away from others. In his later years, Coomaraswamy was trying to free himself from his biography.

• Next, from a dissertation on danzo, sandalwood carvings used in Japan for ritual purposes, we have a study on the key Japanese concept of shogon, where metaphysics, spirituality and aesthetics meet.

The term shogon is used in the sense that Buddhist deities adorn themselves with their own virtues and good deeds. This is based on the idea that the Buddha body (busshin) and the Buddha Land (butsudo) are interrelated to the human body and the physical world and can be “adorned” with virtues through religious practice such as ascetic discipline, meditation, wisdom and compassion in the same way as the physical body can be adorned with jewelry and ornaments.

danzo Heian
Box-shaped Portable Shrine, Heian period, second quarter of 12th century. Courtesy of Shitenno-ji and Nara National Museum. Photo: Morimura Kinji.

• And finally we present a selection of one of the most popular and valued Taoist alchemical treatises, the Dragon-Tiger Classic (Long hu jing), written in highly symbolic language to convey the subtleties of cultivating nature in harmony with Nature.

The enlightened ones were in harmony with changes in the sky and the earth. They built the furnace and set up the cauldron to make the sacred medicine. When old people take this medicine, generative energy will be collected, the spirit will be gathered, and they will return to the vitality of youth. When young people take this medicine, they will attain immortality. The sage Chen-i likened the cultivation of the sacred elixir to the creation of sky and earth.