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Rev. Kris Ladusau:  I grew up in the Methodist church where music played a major part in each worship service. I had a good experience in Christianity but when I entered university, I began to learn Japanese traditional arts. It was during that time I also began to study and practice Zen meditation. I was introduced to Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhism in 1984 and it has been my primary spiritual path since then.

I noticed in RK Buddhist ritual, the major sources of music could be considered as: the chanting, ringing the bell, and striking the wooden block, and drum. These are all wonderful but because music was such an important part of my life (I majored in violin performance in college) I thought about the possibility of broadening the spectrum a bit. I didn’t feel the need to duplicate musical styles I found in Christian music but as an expression of gratitude for the many gifts I have received through study and practices of Rissho Kosei-kai, I wanted to donate some music specifically created for Ekayana Buddhism (One Vehicle). When I think of music within the context of the Lotus Sutra, this quote from Chapter 16 always comes to mind: “…Tranquil and calm is this land of mine – filled with human and heavenly beings, gardens and groves, halls and pavilions with every kind of gem adorned, jeweled trees full of blossoms and fruits. Here all living beings take their pleasure, and heavenly beings strike heavenly drums – always making many kinds of music…”

Zoom back to the early 70’s, when I went to university with the two Morton sisters… Deb was the older one and we played on the OCU tennis team together (and I think there was basketball playing in there, too). The younger sister Teresa and I played music together since we had both chosen that as our major. We definitely have great memories of our time together.

Sadly, in 2015, Deb passed away from a heart attack. When I attended the funeral, I re-connected with Teresa. We later had dinner and conversation, catching up on the last 35 years. She had continued in music through performance, composing, conducting, arranging and choir directing. She had also experienced international exposure as a composer and conductor in Israel.

I shared my interest in creating some Buddhist related music and asked if she would be able and interested in joining me on the project. Luckily she agreed and we began to develop a plan for some new music. I chose Buddhist concepts and text from the Lotus Sutra (scripture) chant book. Interestingly, these choices gave birth to expression in a variety of musical styles. These styles included:  chanting with etheric music, a children’s song, songs for young adults, an (SATB) choir song, and since we live in Oklahoma, a song that reflected our respect for Native Americans by blending Indian influenced music with a key Rissho Kosei-kai concept (Many in body, One in spirit).

Once the songs were finished, we found ourselves with a bit of a problem. We had written a choir piece but we didn’t have a choir to sing it. We were so happy when my friend, Beverly Evans, suggested we talk to her small church choir to see if they might be interested. We were very happy when they agreed to help us.

This CD exists because of the love and friendship shared by Deb, Teresa and myself. I believe it was Deb’s final gift to reunite Teresa and myself. This is why we would like to dedicate the CD to her.

Now, we would like to give more back-story to each of the songs on the CD:

The Three Treasures – When you first begin to learn Buddhism, you hear about the Three Treasures. They are: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. (the teacher, the teachings, and the group of practitioners) By taking refuge in, or trusting in the Three Treasures you are acknowledging your commitment to following the Buddha Way. I have always felt a strong connection to the Three Treasures. They were automatically present in my thoughts the night before my father died and I also said them as part of my vow when I became a Reverend for RK.

Years ago while I was working on the computer at the Dharma Center, a simple melody came into my head and I began to chant the Three Treasures with it.( I am not a singer but I chose to be the vocal on this song because to me it is more about chanting). I sent Terri a sound file with me chanting them so she could develop an accompaniment. Next, we wrote the “bridge” of the song together. I shared my idea of having a “wind and water” feeling for the etheric background sounds and she developed exactly what we needed. Sound equipment was brought to the Dharma Center so we could use our bell for the recording.

I had always dreamed of creating a recording of the Three Treasures in different languages. While in Tokyo for meetings that year, I asked representatives from many countries to give me sound samples and I emailed them back to her in Oklahoma so she could lay them on individual vocal tracks. Her arrangements of the “chord pads” underneath the chanting were perfect.  We use this as the meditation music during our “Taking Refuge” ceremony in Oklahoma. I am full of joy and appreciation when I hear this musical expression of Oneness.

Encounter – There is a phrase in Rissho Kosei-kai that I have heard attributed to Rev. Nikkyo Niwano: “Enlightenment is in the Encounter.” It is the realization that every interaction we have with others has the potential for creating our Enlightenment. One of Rev. Niwano’s many abilities was to take key concepts from Buddhism and apply them into daily situations. The purpose of the song is to increase awareness of this. Life is made up of moments and when we have awareness of those moments as they happen, we can make the best choices possible for ourselves and others. A new perspective gained from our interactions can free us from delusion and attachments. “Ichi go, Ichi e” (one encounter/one opportunity) is a Japanese concept that addresses the sacred opportunities we have when we live fully in mindfulness. I was fascinated with the possible rhythm of this phrase, so we had some fun putting it in as part of the percussion to the piece, in addition to message in the lyrics. The other Japanese words used in the song are: “koko” (here), and “ima” (now). I wrote the lyrics for this one.

RK has had a theme for each 20 yr period since its beginning. The new theme starting in 2018 will include deepening our encounters with others. I did not know this new theme two years ago when we began the project we named  “Encounter”. Interesting timing…

Regarder of Sounds – Chapter 25 of our Kyoten is about Kannon-sama (Kwan Yin), also known as Regarder of Sounds.  This Bodhisattva has the ability to appear in whatever form required to appropriately help others. In our interpretation, Kannon is represented in female form. “Regarder of the Sounds of the World” is a very important figure in Buddhism. In China, some temples are dedicated to her. Chapter 25 has always been one of my favorites.

I wanted to do a choir piece because of the beauty of blending voices together. Terri agreed. We had the text from Ch 25 in our Kyoten to use as lyrics for the song but we weren’t sure where to start with the music. I just sat down one day and sang the lyrics to to melody that came into my head. I got about 2/3 the way through, when I suddenly ran out of melody. At this point, I sent what I had to Terri and she took it from there, creating not only a beautiful accompaniment to  the melody I sent but also creating the remainder of the song and an awesome tapestry of sounds and colors to display the intricate beauty of the Bodhisattva Regarder of Sounds.

When we finished, we realized that we needed a choir. We were very grateful when we found a wonderful group of people who volunteered to help us bring this song to life. Blessings to all who participated, thereby making it possible to include this song on the CD. The recording of the piece was done in a small church late one evening. Since it was a live recording, it may sound different than the other songs that were done in the studio.

Dojokan – This song begins with the chanting (in Italian) of the “Place of the Way” from our Kyoten. The text says that Enlightenment is found in all places. This means it is not only found in bodhisattva practice at a Dharma Center but it can also occur when we carry our practice out into the world – in a park or in a coffee shop, etc. To give this message expression in sound, I created a simple melody for each line of the text. These lines are sung later as a “round” which represents their inter-relation. Terri and I had fun finding samples for all the background sounds representing the experiences in our daily lives, ranging from the mundane to the sacred. At the end of the song, the final sound is that of a heartbeat, which is reminds us that Enlightenment comes from within.

Many in Body, One in Spirit – This is an important concept that we teach in RK. Although our physical bodies are many, our spiritual essence is the same. Terri and I thought this concept blended well with Native American spirituality so the music is influenced by Native instrumentation and feeling. Living in Oklahoma, we have respect for Native traditions. In Rissho Kosei-kai we have an annual memorial service dedicated to Native American ancestors. We know there is much healing needed in relation to past injustices.

I wrote the lyrics for this one. Terri wrote the music and Michael joined in with her on the vocals.

Children’s Meditation – Several years ago I wrote an interpretation of the Kyoten for children. I wanted to create something that would make the wisdom of the sutra accessible to a child’s level of understanding. The final reading in the kyoten is about “Universal Virtue”. My interpretation serves as the text for the children’s song on the CD. Terri wrote perfect music to reflect the simplicity and purity of a child’s perspective and I feel that it is a great match to the message found in the lyrics. I also really like that it ends in our mantra, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo”. Thanks to all those who provided singing and spoken parts.

 

[Teresa Morton’s comments] Pending

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