Archive for July 2010 | Monthly archive page


As we prepare for the major undertaking of relocating the House of Bamboo, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the fact — sometimes hard to swallow — that everything is always in a state of flux. Or as the ancient Greeks were wont to say, “Panta Rhei,” that is, everything flows. And as other philosophers have pointed out, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The Tao, like a steady stream, is in constant motion, permanent transition.

Consider the following story, about a boy, the son of a hardworking peanut farmer in the inner Shandong province.


“The Boy and his Horse”  |  A Zen Parable from Bambu Batu

One autumn, at the annual harvest festival, the young lad is awarded a handsome young horse for having grown the largest peanut in all the province, some eight inches in length.

The boy gallops back to his village at top speed and shares the great news with his family and friends. Hearing the story and admiring the healthy steed, the boy’s father proclaims, “This is truly marvelous! What good fortune you’ve brought on our family.”

Overhearing this brief exchange, the local Zen master nods his head and surmises, “We’ll see.”

Over the course of weeks, the boy and his horse become inseparable companions. Productivity on the farm increases; the family is in high spirits. But one night, in a fierce storm, the horse gets spooked by thunder, breaks loose and disappears. The boy is devastated and grief stricken. “Oh, what a disaster,” his father declares.

Looking on, the Zen master scratches his chin and mutters, “We’ll see.”

Another week goes by, and one morning the horse is seen coming over the hillside, returning to the farm with a new mare at his side. The boy and his family are ecstatic. “What wonderful news, son!” “Yes, daddy, everything is awesome now!”

The Zen master, hearing the commotion, raises his eyebrows. “We’ll see.”

The boy now spends all his spare time — getting up early and staying out late — working in the stables to break in his new mare. She’s a healthy mount, but stubborn too. One evening after supper, the boy takes her on a run across the field. In the dim twilight she grazes an irrigation ditch and throws the boy from his saddle. A small crowd has gathered when the village doctor arrives. He makes a splint for the boy’s leg which has been broken. “He’ll walk again, but I’m afraid he’ll always have a limp.”

“Oh, what rotten luck,” says the father. And the Zen master sighs, “We’ll see.”

Another year passes, and kingdom is now in turmoil. Mongol hordes are raiding many of the provincial villages, and the emperor is recruiting soldiers from the countryside. When they come to the farm of the boy, now a young man, he is exempted from military service on account of his limp. “Oh, thank heavens!” his mother declares.

The Zen master, observing from a distance, just shrugs his shoulders and mumbles, “We’ll see.”



For more enchanted Zen Parables to tickle your mind and soothe your soul, be sure to check out Heaven and HellThe Magician and the Prince, and Mind is the Forerunner of All Things.


Riddle: What goes on your hands, face, armpits, and important parts, sometimes all within five minutes, and comes out clean?

Answer: hopefully nothing toxic.

Soap. We use it EVERY DAY. And for all too many people, this household miracle of hygiene can contain scary, harmful chemicals and additives that can cause anything from rashes to respiratory complications (not to mention, they can be difficult to pronounce).

It hasn’t always been this way. The earliest recipe for soap, found on a Babylonian tablet dating back to 2200 BC, contained only three ingredients: Ashes, Cypress Oil, and Sesame Oil. While this may have been a prototype, the modern obsession with a germ free culture has gotten us so far away from this origin, that the average household bar used to clean Billy’s mouth out, can contain six times that many ingredients, without being even vaguely related to a natural product.

There are three very common (and scary) ingredients that you want to watch out for when making your sudsy selection:

1. Tirclosan- this compound is found in almost all things labeled “anti-bacterial.” The antibacterial myth is, well, just that. This chemical does very little to prevent illness and disease, as most common colds and flus are viral, not bacterial. Additionally, the long term results from using products made with triclosan can include anything from a Lowered immune system, to dry skin, to the presence of triclosan in a mother’s breast milk. (I’m sure if Gerber® found out, we’d see it in baby food) The antibacterial rage has been so widespread that the stuff can be found in rivers and streams, in a quantity dangerously high for the survival of plant life. Thus contributing in one more way the decay of our planet, without protecting us really, from those nasty germs.

2. Sodium Laurel Sulfate- While you may find this in EVERYTHING related to hygiene in your house, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. At all. You’ll catch this substance moonlighting in floor cleaners and engine degreasers. I mean, I guess you could wash your face off with that? And now Johnny, the list of problems SIS can afflict: Hair Loss, Susceptibility to bacteria; possible brain, heart, spleen and liver harm; eye, skin and mouth irritations; potential harm to cell function. Awesome.

3. Fragrance- sneaky, isn’t it? I mean, you see the word fragrance, you think of flowers and oils and incense, right? NOPE. this vague and misleadingly named aspect to your soap is petroleum based 95 percent of the time. It is rarely tested for safety (and if it is, it’s most likely on some cute bunny.) In the words of the EPA, “Products that contain petroleum distillates should be used carefully. Wear gloves to avoid skin contact and avoid breathing vapors of volatile compounds.” Yup, on your soap, on your private bits. Yup.

By now, you must be scared witless and tossing half of your household cleaners you once thought were benign. But wait! before you throw the baby out with the bathwater and swear off soap altogether, there IS a solution.

Today, there are many all natural soap products available, anywhere from your mom and pop shop (Like Bambu Batu, for example) to your major super market. We recommend Herbaria Soaps. Each variety contains only a handful of ingredients, all of them completely natural and organic. Every kind has a different function, including aromatherapy for epilepsy… and, of course, they. smell. amazing. For more information visit or come see us at Bambu Batu 1127 Broad Street. Until then, keep it clean San Luis Obispo.

It is a fundamental tenet of far eastern philosophy that the mind is the forerunner of all things. The idea echoes in the words of the Buddha, above. Shakespeare, too, in all his Elizabethan wisdom, was well versed in this universal truth. “It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” From the tradition of Zen Buddhism comes a parable, much older if not as well-known as Hamlet, which illustrates this point with profound clarity.

“Mind is the Forerunner of All Things”

This is the story of another young prince, traversing the countryside in search of glory, romance and adventure. Having crossed rivers, climbed mountains, and made his way through deserts and forests, the young man finds himself nearly exhausted, as he treks over the sun-baked prairies of a high plateau. In need of shade and relief, he comes to a lone elm tree under which he takes his much needed respite.

After a short nap, he wakes up feeling rested, recharged and most contented. Then he thinks to himself, “After all this hiking, I could sure use something cold to drink.” And looking over his shoulder, he sees on the rock beside him, a great pitcher of ice-cold jasmine tea.

“Oh, how wonderful,” he says, and draws a long draft from the pitcher. For a good half hour or so, he enjoys himself in the cool shade, sipping from his tea and listening to the rustle of elm trees.

“This is truly idyllic,” he reflects, “but I could really use a bite to eat.” And just as he looks down, he notices a picnic blanket all laid out with a full spread of spring rolls, noodles, sauces, tempura and rice. “Fantastic!” he marvels, and quickly dives in. “This is just what I needed. Now I’m completely satisfied.”

After a good hour of feasting away on all manner of delicacies and quenching his thirst with refreshing jasmine tea, it occurs to him that he’d be much happier if he had some company here to share in these pleasures. And just as he thinks this, a lovely young maiden strolls across the prairie and joins him under the shade of the great elm tree. He offers her a cup of tea and bowl of sustenance. Soon they are laughing and smiling, and before long they are making passionate love in the rolling grass.

By now the young man is feeling perfectly contented. His belly is full, and he wears a wide smile on his face. He and his partner rise and see that the sun is getting low. Wondering what they’ll do as it gets dark, he thinks how nice it would be to have a small cabin with some furniture and a bed and blankets. No sooner does this thought enter his mind than a small cabin appears before them. So the two walk inside and make themselves at home.

Sitting by the window watching the sun set, the young man turns to his tender companion. “There’s something very strange about all of this. Ever since I arrived under this elm, each of my thoughts has been effortlessly fulfilled. I’m beginning to worry that this tree may be cursed.”

And just as he utters these words, the majestic elm transforms into a giant goblin and swallows them both.


For more enchanted Zen Parables to tickle your mind and soothe your soul, be sure to check out Heaven and HellThe Magician and the Prince, and Everything Flows. You might also be interested in our article on Bamboo Symbolism and Mythology.

Bambu Batu, The House of Bamboo, currently at 1127 Broad will be moving to 1023 Broad St. on September 1, without the aid of fossil fuels or the emission of greenhouse gasses. We are moving into the building shared by Old World Rugs and the Antique Boutique, across from Creekside Brewing and the SLO Museum of Art. Bambu Batu has been in business for five years, three years in its current location.

We are very excited about moving one block closer to the Mission, into a larger space with plentiful windows, streams of natural light, sweeping creekside vistas, and enhanced Zen access. The move has nothing to do with earthquake retrofitting, it’s simply a great opportunity to land a bigger, better location in a space that hasn’t come up for rent in over 30 years. We will be holding a storewide moving sale throughout the month of August with everything reduced at least 20%. We’ll also hold a grand opening party at the new location, sometime in September. (Details forthcoming.)

In keeping with our philosophy of sustainability and global consciousness, we intend to make this a FOSSIL FUEL FREE move. All of our inventory, fixtures and equipment will be carried, rolled or wheeled up Broad Street by use of organic and socially responsible man- and woman-power. We don’t expect to save the planet by moving the entire business without the use of fossil fuels and combustible engines, but we do hope to raise some awareness about the benefits of car-free locomotion.

It happens to millions of Americans every day: they get in their cars just to go 2 or 3 blocks away, and often spend more time parking than it would have taken them to walk the short distance. These short and unnecessary drives typify the conspicuous dependency on oil and automobiles that contributes daily to frivolous fuel consumption, excessive greenhouse emissions, rising rates of obesity, and a general disconnect with the environment.

We expect to carry out this move in just a couple of days with the help of a small team of volunteers, dollies and bamboo wagons. In addition to the warm sense of community and camaraderie, volunteers will also be treated to an assortment of refreshments. For move info about our moving sale, grand opening party, or to volunteer, contact Bambu Batu at 788-0806.

After years of grazing the pastures of SLO County in search of the richest plot of soil in which to run our vigorous roots, Bambu Batu is finally ready to embark on its most promising transplant ever. Just a stone’s throw from our current downtown location, across Higuera Street and under the verdant canopy of SLO Creek’s thriving grove of willows and sycamores, this bigger and brighter space offers a spectacular opportunity for Bambu Batu to continue flourishing for years to come.

Away from the seemingly endless construction of mandatory retrofits, enterprising pizzerias and up-and-coming mixed-use high-rises, the new, creekside location includes unsurpassed Zen access and plenty of room to develop our own variety of panda-monium.

Still within sight of Big Sky and the beloved Hemp Shak, we now look forward to making good neighbors with the Natural Cafe, the SLO Museum of Art and Creekside Brewing Co. And we can’t wait to see you there. In the meantime, we will be conducting a storewide moving sale, with discounts of at least 20% on everything in the store. Come join us in celebration!

Faces of Buddha

As we’ve just gotten in a beautiful new batch of mythic eastern statuary, this seems like an apt moment to review the line-up of Far Eastern iconography. The mighty Buddha is known to take many shapes and forms, sometimes even the absence of form. For those not so well versed in the Buddhist mythology and symbology, it can get a little confusing. So whether your looking to invoke serenity, attract prosperity, remove obstacles, or perform some other mystical transformation, here’s a quick primer on the many faces of Buddha.

Buddha in Deep Meditation

The slender, cross-legged figure depicts the young Buddha seated in deep, mindful meditation. Legend says that Siddhartha Gautama lived off just a single grain of rice a day for six years in hopes of discovering the truth. Finally he sat under the Boddhi tree in quiet solitude, and after 49 days achieved Enlightenment. At that time he became known as the Buddha, or “The Awakened One.” He serves as reminder of what can be accomplished through concentrated mindfulness.

Fat Laughing Buddha

In order to reach enlightenment, the Buddha first had to discover the Middle Way, the path of moderation between self-indulgence and self-mortification. By following this path, the Buddha was able to transcend duality and all the pairs of opposites, such and good and evil, joy and sorrow, human and divine. With this realization he broke the cycle of suffering, and the fat, laughing Buddha expresses this state of bliss.

Hotei, the Rejoicing Buddha

Arms lifted overhead in a display of joyful victory, Hotei is considered the god of good fortune, the representation of contentment and abundance, and sometimes the guardian of children. Whether seated or standing, his message of prosperity and satisfaction remains the same. You don’t need to spend a dozen years in cave in profound meditation to appreciate the sense of joy and levity conveyed by this version of the Buddha.

Guan Yin

The eastern goddess or bodhisattva of compassion, female embodiment of Avalokiteshvara, Quan Yin’s worship goes back thousands of years, throughout China, Japan, and southeast Asia. Also known as the goddess of mercy, her name literally means “She who hears the cries of the world.” Westerners might think of here as a loose equivalent to the Virgin Mary, full of grace and mercy.

In most imagery, Guan Yin is seen holding a vase or a vessel of some kind. Sometimes she holds her vessel upright, collecting the tears of the world and bearing our sorrows. In other instances she appears to be pouring the tears outward, emptying her vessel, releasing the pain and suffering of the world.

(Also spelled Kuan Yin or Quan Yin.)


The story of this iconic Indian deity goes back many thousands of years and incorporates dozens of myths from the ancient Vedic texts. He is most commonly known as the remover of obstacles, but in his negative aspect he can also be the creator of obstacles. Ganesh is also revered as the lord of success and a guardian of travelers. He is easily recognized with his elephant head and six arms, but has many different incarnations.

Most representations of Ganesh include a small mouse at his feet, and often he is even riding on the mouse’s back. This imagery evokes the unity of opposites and a special balance between the grandest and the most humble of creatures. Other names for Ganesh include Ganesha and Ganapati. Check out the complete article on Lord Ganesh to learn more.