Friday, 29 February 2008

(1) Raw Fear

It has come to this -- confessing in public what it is like being in hell.

Truly being in hell is sitting in full lotus at dawn in Japan, spine held rigidly up, chin forcefully pulling back and down into the neck, your whole system caught in the frozen double-handed grip of the fear paralysis response vs the baby panic reflex, while back in England the woman you love is retiring for the night to the bed of another bloke. And nobody is to blame but your stupid self.

All my clumsy efforts to promote the Buddha's teaching, from doing donkey work for Gudo in Japan to more recent groping in England for the meaning of "vestibular re-education," have been grounded in the fearful fire of hell.

In the final analysis, as Master Dogen truly says, in hell or not is nothing to worry about. Truly being is the thing. And as an easy and joyful gate to truly being there is, according to Master Dogen, no greater Dharma-gate than sitting in full lotus -- even if it is only bodily, with a posture that is rigidly fixed on the horns of a hellish dilemma.

Left to its own devices, fear paralysis would quench the fires of hell, and bring all to a totally peaceful conclusion -- parinirvana. But as long as the deathly pallor of fear paralysis is opposed by the red flush of its dialectic opposite, the most primitive of all vestibular reflexes, the baby panic reflex, the fires of hell continue to burn.

Ah, the fires of hell!

I remember one morning at the end of 1985, sitting opposite Gudo in his office, in a very agitated state. It was shortly after a short holiday in England. "The fire is burning again," observed Gudo, stating the obvious.

Ah, the fires of hell!

It is a principle that, in the heat of a moment, I am always liable to forget, but even the fires of hell are subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.


Anonymous said...

We create our own hell. Sometimes however people help us.

The only question is what to do about it. Martinis are out, but toasted marshmallows are in....

Mike Cross said...

Sometimes mothers bring to see me children who are really suffering at school, in which case I endeavor as best I am able to get to the vestibular root of the problem.

The child is really suffering.

The mother brings the child to see me in the hope that, if the root of problem is vestibular, I may be able to help.

It is serious work, and efforts to alleviate the children's suffering seems to help me to get to the bottom of my own.