Sunday, 9 March 2008

Who Turned Freedom Into Its Opposite?

When I set up this blog, I used as the strapline the question: Who Turned Freedom Into Its Opposite?

The answer, of course, is yours truly, my own stupid self. I was aided and abetted in my folly, though, through my devotion to a Buddhist Patriarch, Gudo Nishijima.

From the beginning, he urged me not to be idealistic, not to try to become Buddha. At the same time, he exhorted me to do my very best to keep my spine straight vertically. And he told me his expectation that, if only I could transcend family life, I would become the most excellent Buddhist master in the world. Thus, whatever his teaching was in theory, in practice the center of his teaching, as I with my faulty sensory appreciation received it, was just effort to become Buddha by keeping the spine straight vertically and 'transcending' (for which read suppressing) sexual desire.

The reason I embraced the teaching of FM Alexander so enthusiastically when I encountered it is that it began to show me my own folly; it began to enlighten me to the error of my ways. It began to demonstrate to me the general futility of trying to be right, and the particular futility of a vestibular basket-case such as myself trying to be right.

Hence this blog -- an effort to clarify, primarily for my own stupid self, how I still tend to go off in completely the wrong direction; how, having embarked many years ago on a quest for freedom, I still tend to turn freedom into its opposite, by trying to be right.

In the context of the present discussion of the six samsaric realms, trying to be right corresponds to effort to clamber out of the lower realms into the human realm, where buddhas realize enlightenment. To make that kind of effort is just to turn freedom into its opposite.

Effort in the opposite direction, learning the backward step of turning light and shining, is distilled in the words of the American Alexander teacher Marjorie Barstow who, working with a person who was sitting in a not very upright posture, is reported to have advised: "See if you can find a bit of ease in your slump."

Om mani padme hum.

No comments: