HORAI – Shin Buddhist Chants
by John Paraskevopoulos (author of “Call of the Infinte”)
This album represents an outstanding example of a contemporary adaptation of traditional sacred chants from a little-known Buddhist tradition known as J?do Shinsh?. While it is the largest school of Buddhism in Japan, it has been slow to spread in the West although this situation is now gradually beginning to change.
The pieces in this recording provide a beautiful and fascinating introduction to the heart of this tradition through the liturgical chants that have been the cornerstone of its devotions for centuries. Massimo Claus, who has previously offered us a number of musical gems along similar lines (A Heart Lost in Japan, Staring at the Full Moon and Diamonds of Sutra) has refined the art of doing justice to the traditional forms of these pieces while subtlely enhancing their effect for contemporary audiences through modern musical techniques. This creates a powerful impact and enables the spiritual force of these chants to resonante in us even if the meaning of the words is not always understood. There is something in these compositions that transcends the doctrines themselves while, at the same time, drawing us into their ineffable numinous source.
This work is highly recommended to all those who have an appreciation of Japanese aesthetic forms and who are open to the rich possibilities that can arise when these are crafted into a modern musical context such as is offered here by the creative and talented Massimo Claus. This is an offering that is both contemplative and passionate, reflecting the composer’s relationship to his spiritual home of Japan and his cultural roots in Italy. As such, it constitutes a compelling sythesis of cultural worlds that has the ability to transform and inspire the listener.
John Paraskevopoulos is an executive officer with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. He studied philosophy at the University of Melbourne before receiving ordination in the Pure Land tradition of Mahayana Buddhism in Kyoto in 1994. He is the author of several articles on Shin Buddhism and a contributor to Sacred Web. His article, “The Absolute in the Mahayana and the Pure Land Way” appears in Light from the East: Eastern Wisdom for the Modern West .
‘Conceptions of the Absolute in Mahayana Buddhism and the Pure Land Way’, in Light From The East: Modern Western Encounters with Eastern Traditions (Bloomington: WorId Wisdom Books 2007).
‘Non-Duality in Pure Land Buddhism’, Temenos Academy Review (Issue NO.9,2006).
‘Amida’s Dharma in the Modern WorId’, The Pure Land: Journal of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (New Series, No. 20, December 2003).
‘The Nembutsu as Great Practice: Recitation of the Divine Name during the Decadent Age of the Dharma’, Sacred Web 7 (2001).
‘The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana and its Signincance for Shin Buddhism’, The Pure Land: Journal of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (New Series, Nos. 13-14, December 1997).
‘A Primer of Shin Buddhism’ (with George Gatenby), (Sydney: Hongwanji Buddhist Mission of Australia, 1995).