Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Library Day

Today was library day for me, it seems. Beyond running some errands (like framing some watercolors from Japan), I spent most of my afternoon around the University of California, Berkeley (aka “Cal”). There was a book at the GTU Library that I had failed to find the last time I was there and I wanted to go look for it again.

In addition to this, I had been told before that by having my GTU student card, I could go to the library over at Cal and get a library card there. Having borrowing privileges at Cal is a pretty big deal as they do not even allow unaffiliated browsers into their main stacks (unlike my former school, the University of Washington, where anyone could browse but they could not check books out). Cal has a massive collection of books and there are quite a few $100+ texts that I have wanted to read but could not really afford to buy (or justify them as necessary).

All of this is kind of amazing in a way because I wound up taking my class at the Institute of Buddhist Studies by happenstance. My professor there (who is also the dean) is well known in certain circles for his work on Shingon ritual. I found out that he was teaching a class in Esoteric Buddhism that didn’t require day to day classroom visits and wound up signing up for it. This made me a “special” student at IBS which, in turn, allowed me to get a GTU ID and to borrow in their library. This gives me access to the library at Cal. All in all, a nice little chain of events.

I headed over to GTU, retrieved the book that I had been searching for there, and then went the entire half mile to Cal. I wandered around campus a bit (which is rather hilly compared to the one’s I’m used to) and took a number of photos. I’m a fan of buildings and architecture and I noticed that they have quite a bit of rather Classical looking architecture, such as the life sciences building:

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The main library doors have a rather nice metal image of Athena (going out on a limb here but it is a library…) too:

Athena on Lintel of Library

It turns out that the main stacks are in a massive underground area connecting the main library to another (with cut holes in concrete walls and odd tunnels to connect them in places). It was pretty impressive, as far as libraries go.

I tracked down a copy of Ennin’s diary of his travels to China during the ninth century. Ennin, who is also known as Jikaku Daishi, was a Tendai priest who went to China from Japan to further learn Buddhism. He brought back quite a bit of material, especially of an esoteric nature, and became the head of the Tendai sect. I also went over to the East Asia library, which has a rather odd exterior but which is beautiful on the inside, and examined a few Shingon documents there. I noticed while handling a ritual manual that no one had checked it out since 1954 (which was clearly marked in the back) so these don’t seem to circulate much. Of course, it was all in Japanese as well. I did wind up bringing back a couple of texts on Bodhicitta in Shingon and on the concept of Hongaku, original enlightenment, in Tendai thought.

While looking through some works at the GTU Library, I stumbled across Edward Conze’s self-published two-volume autobiography. Conze is well known as one of the early Western translators of Perfection of Wisdom sutras into English. He produced a phenomenal body of work and influenced a lot of people. What most people, those that know of him, don’t realize is that he originally was connected with Theosophy in Europe and had a lifelong practice as an Astrologer, thus bridging both the Western and Eastern esoteric worlds. This makes him especially interesting to me. I had come across his biography before but it is long out of print and not commonly found so it was a neat find to randomly see it in the library.

Now I have too many books to read but, fortunately, both libraries check books out for three months at a time, barring recall from someone, so I will have them for a while.