Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Final Paragrah -- Wait For It!

The final paragraph of Shobogenzo chapter 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, has only three and a half lines of text. So this bit of a translation effort is nearly at its end. If I finish today or tomorrow, before Thursday 1st May, I might then publish to the internet "The Samadhi That is King of Samadhis, Nishijima-Cross translation, revised by Mike Cross, April 2008," and thus I might arrive at a kind of resolution to a conflict that has been troubling me deeply. Maybe this nagging pain in my guts will then clear up. That possibility exists in my brain, at least.

But wait.

I have learnt from experience, particularly in the context of Alexander work, that nearly at the end is a place where things are very liable to go wrong.

As we approach what we conceive to be the end of something, our attention is liable to stray from the path to the perceived destination, from the work of polishing a tile to the idea of making a mirror, from attending to the means to grasping for the end, from the action of bending the knees to the seeking of a chair with the bum. I am afraid that this tendency is just part of the human condition, and neither certified Zen Masters nor qualified teachers of the FM Alexander Technique are immune from it.

Quad Erat Demonstrandum, Ad Nauseam

Marjory Barlow taught me a way of working on the self in which there is no expectation of finally eliminating this "end-gaining" tendency. The point was rather to see all our wrong tendencies as our raw material, our best friend. Thus, instead of trying to be right, we dare to be wrong. Instead of trying to be right, we investigate how, in combination with unreliable feeling, the end-gaining tendency causes us to go wrong. We practise opposing the end-gaining tendency, by learning how to stop and think, and thus we begin to glimpse the possibility of conscious action, as opposed to instinctive reaction.

The word ZA, sitting, appears many times throughout the present chapter, and we tend to think we know what Master Dogen, Master Nagarjuna, and Gautama Buddha, meant when they spoke of "sitting."

In maybe a similar way, the so-called Einstein of the Ear, Alfred Tomatis, spoke often of "listening." We think that we know what it is to listen, but Tomatis said that in his experience an act of listening was something very rare: "The ear is an apparatus which we use for balance. It is also the passive receptor of sound. But you may reach the level of listening. Listening is really wanting to take information and listen to it. It is very rare. I am convinced that there are exceptions, and that is why all the monks are people who know how to listen."

Similarly, again, FM Alexander pointed to conscious action as a plane to be reached. People who conceive of Alexander work as a kind of bodywork, to do with posture, generally fail to understand why Alexander described his work as the most mental thing there is. Alexander saw that we cannot reach the plane of conscious action just by reacting instinctively, relying on unconscious means.

Before I came to Alexander work, I was more confident that I understood what Master Dogen meant by the practice of just sitting, SHIKAN-TAZA. The truth may be that when I felt I knew what SHIKAN-TAZA was, all I was experiencing, without even knowing it, was my own unconscious reaction to the stimulus "Just sit!" The truth may be that at that time, notwithstanding my hope that I might have penetrated more or less to the centre of just sitting, I had not even scratched the surface of the egg.

So, let me not fall into the trap of failing to pay due attention to the translation of the remaining three and a half lines. As Marjory often used to say to me, "It always pays to wait!"

Full lotus sitting is the supreme, deep, and subtle Dharma:

Hard to meet in millions of aeons.

I now have been reading about it, and might be able to make it my own.

Instead of rushing to the end of the translation, let me stay with the wish to understand what Master Dogen really means.

The final sentence of the final paragraph contains four Chinese characters read as HA-BI-SHU-TO, literally "grasping the tail and getting the head," i.e. from beginning to end, through and through, out and out. It is part of Master Dogen's parting exhortation that we should devote ourselves to full lotus sitting fully -- not half-heartedly, but all the way.

After reciting the verse to open the sutras this morning, I read aloud the final paragraph in Japanese, before a great assembly of none -- until my wife came in with a cup of tea and made me feel foolish, sitting there preaching loudly to myself.

Then I started to think again about the meaning of HA-BI-SHU-TO. In the more than ten years since I last worked on the translation of this chapter, through Alexander work, through working towards what Ray Evans called "understanding of the human condition," I have come to see the task of helping others primarily as a problem of developmental re-education. This field of work is sometimes bottom-up -- for example, beginning with very slow movements to retrain the vestibular system. And it is sometimes top-down -- for example, starting from the playing of games, or from efforts to make people aware of basic misconceptions which are unconsciously influencing their behaviour.

If I translated HA-BI-SHU-TO as "through and through, bottom-up and top-down" would that be a literal translation that is true to what Master Dogen really meant? Or would that be me cluttering up the text through a bias of my own that is not originally there? Would I then stand guilty as accused of making a translation, "based on AT theory"?

Again, in asking these questions am I trying to be right, and therefore getting in the way of something spontaneous that might otherwise happen?

Probably I should wait another ten years, at least. Probably I should wait another ten years at least, not writing anything more off the top of a demon's head, but rather using my human inner ear for its deepest and highest purpose -- just listening, just sitting.

Probably I should. But very probably I won't.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Penultimate Paragraph

Evidently, full lotus sitting is the samadhi that is king of samadhis, and is experience and entry. All samadhis are the followers of this king of samadhis. Full lotus sitting is righting the body, is righting the mind, is righting the body-mind, is righting the buddha-ancestors, is righting practice and experience, is righting the head, and is righting the lifeblood. Fully to cross these here human legs of skin, flesh, bones and marrow is fully to cross the legs of the samadhi that is king among samadhis. The World-Honored One constantly upholds, and leaves be, full lotus sitting. He conveys to his disciples the true transmission of full lotus sitting, and he teaches full lotus sitting to human beings and gods. The mind-seal authentically transmitted by the Seven Buddhas is just this. Sakyamuni Buddha under the bodhi tree is sitting in lotus, and thus he passes one by one through fifty minor kalpas, through sixty kalpas, through countless kalpas. Sitting in full lotus for three weeks, or sitting for hours, is the turning of the wheel of the wonderful Dharma, and is the lifelong teaching of the Buddha. It lacks nothing. It is just a yellow scroll on a red stick. The meeting of Buddha with Buddha is this moment. This is exact moment when living beings become Buddha.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

"The body itself rights sitting": Explanation

For the record, I would like to say something about a class of reflexes sometimes called righting reflexes, and sometimes called anti-gravity reflexes.

For 13 years under Gudo in Japan I had heard him preach endlessly about the autonomic nervous system.

Thus, Gudo taught me, in connection with the first two paragraphs of this chapter, Zanmai-o-zanmai, that physical sitting means sitting in which the parasympathetic nervous system is in the ascendancy, and mental sitting means sitting in which the sympathetic nervous system is in the ascendancy.

In my bones, I knew that Gudo's interpretation was missing the target. At the same time, I also knew that the intention behind Gudo's interpretation was true: he wanted to clarify as clearly as he could, for people educated in science, what the original teaching of Gautama Buddha was.

When I started to become aware of the discoveries and the work of FM Alexander in 1994, I began to realize that there were practical aspects of the body-mind problem that Alexander had grasped but which Gudo had never grasped. So I returned to England at the end of 1994 with the intention of investigating Alexander's discoveries as deeply as I could.

Gradually, through the writings of Alexander himself, who referred to the work of Charles Sherrington and Rudolf Magnus, and also through the writings of Frank Pierce Jones, and the personal communication of my Alexander head of training Ray Evans, I began to understand that Alexander's principle of "the right thing does itself" had to do with the postural righting reflexes, sometimes called "anti-gravity" reflexes.

When I wrote to Gudo from England, in around 1996, about the anti-gravity reflexes, he wrote back expressing great interest. He wrote that he thought this might be a key to understanding the true meaning of Zazen. Because of this correspondence, I felt justified in including one or two references to the anti-gravity reflexes in the footnotes of Shobogenzo Book 3, which was being prepared for publication at that time by me in England, and by the Luetchfords, together with Jeremy Pearson, in Tokyo.

When the Luetchfords found references to the anti-gravity reflexes in the footnotes, however, not knowing about the correspondence between me and Gudo on the subject of the anti-gravity reflexes, they were, as Luetchford later told me, "shocked." And as a consequence of this shock, in combination with various other causes and conditions, they acted as they did, and Gudo reacted as he did.

My sense is that, as a consequence of that reaction, Gudo is now suffering in hell, and I am suffering with him. The Shobogenzo translation has been the most important thing in his life. He, a congenital bookworm, wanted to be the one who accomplished a translation that would be read "for a thousand years." I, for my part, wanted to help him realize that dream.

Tragically, however, what we human beings should wait with joined hands to receive, sometimes we cannot stop ourselves from grabbing as if we already owned it. That deep tendency, psychologically, is related with attachment. Physiologically it may be related with aberrant primitive fear and grasping reflexes.

Quad Erat Demonstrandum

Recently on the news I heard the American billionaire Tom Hicks say this: "Fifty-fifty is a difficult business proposition because you can't do anything without your partner's agreement."

It seems this is a principle in business, in which case Gudo knows it well, in which case he knows that he did wrong in 1997, and he knows that he redoubled the wrongness more recently when he went ahead with the POD version of Shobogenzo without my agreement. James Cohen can spout legal bullshit for all he likes. In Gudo's heart, he knows that he has done wrong. Why did he go into hospital? The doctor's diagnosis might be anaemia, but in Gudo's heart he knows that he has done wrong.

Last year, before nominating Brad as his successor, Gudo wrote me an email saying he didn't want to continue communication with me any more. So after Gudo named Brad as his successor, I endeavored just to let my relationship with Gudo be, and not bother him further.

But then at the beginning of this year Gudo bothered me with emails which, at first, I ignored. He wanted to send me a cheque for $1800 for half of the royalties from the POD publication.

My question, however, is this: How can he make a gift to me of what does not belong to him?

My translation work I have given to Gudo freely, from the beginning. If he wants the present "Broken Mirror Reflects Again" version, he can have it. We can call this version that is being translated now the revised Nishijima-Cross translation, if Gudo agrees to that. In that case, I cannot translate a single word without his agreement, and he cannot translate a single word without my agreement.

So, Gudo, if that is the way you want it, let your wish be known. But, in that case, stick to the fucking rules. Otherwise it might be difficult for you and I to avoid a kind of fight to the death.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

4th Paragraph -- a broken mirror reflects again

Sakyamuni Buddha tells a large gathering:

"This is why we practise full lotus sitting."

Then the Thus-Come, the World-Honored One, taught his disciples that they should, like this, sit.

Among those who stray from the way some seek enlightenment by constantly remaining on tiptoes, some seek enlightenment by constantly standing up, and some seek enlightenment by constantly carrying their legs on their shoulders. Mad and stubborn mind like this is sunk in the sea of falsity, and the physical form is not quiet.

Therefore the Buddha taught his disciples full lotus sitting -- sitting that rights hearts and minds. How so? Because, when we allow the body to be upright, the heart tends to mend.

When the body itself rights sitting, then the heart is not faint and, with open heart and true mind, we tether our attention to what exists before us.

If the mind races or becomes distracted, if the body leans or becomes agitated, [sitting] inhibits this and brings us back. When we want to experience samadhi and want to enter samadhi, and yet all kinds of thought-chasing and and all kinds of dissipation is going on, [sitting] totally puts a stop to all this.

Training and learning like this, we experience and enter the samadhi that is king of samadhis.

"The body itself rights sitting" may better reflect the core principle of FM Alexander, based on his observation in action of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, that the right thing does itself. At the same time, it may be as close as I can get to the literal translation of the original four characters.

4th Paragraph -- translation "based on AT theory."

Sakyamuni Buddha told a large gathering:

"This is why we practise full lotus sitting."

Then the Thus-Come, the World-Honored One, taught his disciples that they should, like this, sit.

Among those who stray from the way some seek enlightenment by constantly remaining on tiptoes, some seek enlightenment by constantly standing up, and some seek enlightenment by constantly carrying their legs on their shoulders. Mad and stubborn mind like this is sunk in the sea of falsity, and the physical form is not quiet.

Therefore the Buddha taught his disciples full lotus sitting -- sitting that rights hearts and minds. How so? Because, when we allow the body to be upright, the heart tends to mend.

The body, being upright, sits: then the heart is not faint and, with open heart and true mind, we tether our thoughts to what exists before us.

If the mind races or becomes distracted, if the body leans or becomes agitated, [sitting] inhibits this and brings us back. When we want to experience samadhi and want to enter samadhi, and yet all kinds of thought-chasing and and all kinds of dissipation is going on, [sitting] totally puts a stop to all this.

Training and learning like this, we experience and enter the samadhi that is king of samadhis.

This translation, from a source text contained in volume 9 of Gudo Nishijima's Gendaigo-yaku-shobogenzo, was written on my computer screen and published to the internet on the morning of 26th April 2008. It was never my intention to translate Shobogenzo by myself, and this morning's translation from Nagarjuna has indeed not been done by me.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Interlude -- Redoubling a Demon's Desire

The next paragraph is one pure chunk of Chinese characters representing the original teaching of the Buddha. There is one line of seven characters whose translation, in particular, I deeply desire not to fuck up.

The reason I use the word "fuck up," is that I wish to make it clear that this demon's deep desire is not an intellectual desire; it is more akin to a hunger, a drive: it comes from a deeper part of the brain, from a deeper place in the heart, from a deeper place in the gut, from a deeper place in the solitary bollock of a non-castrated water buffalo who spent most of his 20s in excrutiating sexual frustration, in order to become able to translate Shobogenzo.

The first four of the seven characters are KEK-KA-FU-ZA, full lotus sitting; the fifth character is JIKI, which means to restore order to, to set straight, to mend, to right, to make upright; the sixth character is SHIN, heart/mind; the seventh character is, again, ZA, to sit.

That line expresses full lotus sitting, through which sitting itself orders the mind. It might be the one pivotal sentence on which the whole of Shobogenzo turns.

I deeply desire to translate the fourth paragraph in such a way as to blow the Nishijima-Cross translation out of the water, and send an old bastard to his grave a broken man.

The supreme, deep, and subtle sitting practise of the Buddha

In millions of aeons is hard to meet.

I now am reading about it, and I might be able to make it my own.

I desire to understand what [the fuck] the Buddha really meant.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

3rd Paragraph -- translation "based on AT theory."

Sakyamuni Buddha told a great gathering:

"In full lotus sitting, the body-mind experience of samadhi, there is dignity that many respect. Like the sun lighting up the world, it clears away sleepy, lazy and sad states of mind. The body is light and tireless. Consciousness is also light and quick. Sit at ease, like dragons coiling! The king of demons is frightened on seeing even a picture of lotus sitting -- let alone a person experiencing enlightenment, sitting at ease without leaning or moving."

Thus, to observe just a depiction of lotus sitting makes the king of demons surprised, worried and afraid. Still more, when lotus sitting is really practised, its benefits are impossible to fathom. In short, everday sitting is happiness and good beyond measure.

Translated on the basis of the teaching of FM Alexander -- starting with the principle that sitting at ease is a very rare flower that can only blossom in the absence of fear of being wrong/trying to be right; and avoiding any mention of the word "posture" -- on the morning of 24th April 2008.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Interlude -- A Demon's Wish

In the next paragraph of Shobogenzo chapter 72, The Samadhi That Is King of Samadhis, Master Dogen quotes a sutra in which the Buddha talks of "sitting at ease, not leaning or moving."

I would really like to know what the Buddha had in mind when he spoke the words that were translated into Chinese as the two characters ANZA.

I don't mean know only intellectually. No fucking way did I only want to know intellectually. Really wanting to know, totally, I came back from Japan to England in 1994 to investigate as deeply as I could the discoveries that FM Alexander made about how to find ease in sitting.

Politically, in view of Gudo's pre-existing prejudices, that made me vulnerable to the intervention of the Luetchfords, who duly intervened and poisoned the Nishijima-Cross translation partnerhship.

So what? So, I had better redouble, as a matter of life and death, my desire to understand what the Buddha really meant when he spoke the words translated into Chinese as ANZA.

AN means ease, comfort, stability. The pictograph is of a woman under a roof. ZA means sitting.

Really wanting to know what the Buddha meant, sometimes I recite aloud the following traditional gatha called KAI-KYO-GE, or Verse for Opening a Sutra.

The gatha doesn't neessarily have to be recited by angels accompanied by the sound of celestial bells.

Sometimes, because of really wishing to understand, a demon can be heard singing this verse as it goes into combat.

The supreme, deep, and subtle method

In a million aeons is hard to meet.

Now that I have found out about it, and have a chance of making it my own,

I want to know what [the hell] the Buddha really meant.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

2nd Paragraph -- just for the hell of it

My late Master, the Olden Buddha, said: "Zen practice is body and mind dropping off, and just sitting has got it from the beginning. It is not necessary to burn incense, to perform prostrations, to contemplate the Buddha, to practise confession, or to read sutras."

Clearly, the one who has gouged out the Eye of the Buddha-Ancestor and sat inside the Eye of the Buddha-Ancestor, for the past four or five hundred years, is my late Master alone. Few in China have matched shoulders with him.

Rarely has it been clarified that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and that the Buddha-Dharma is sitting. Even if some understand with their bodies that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma, no-one has known sitting as sitting. How then can there be any who let the Buddha-Dharma be the Buddha-Dharma?

So then, there is mental sitting as opposed to physical sitting. There is physical sitting as opposed to mental sitting. And there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, as opposed to sitting as body and mind dropping off.

Actually to have got what sounds like this is the practice and the understanding of the buddha-ancestors, in mutual accord.

Allow this awareness, this thinking, this reflection.

Investigate this mind, this intention, this consciousness.

Translated off the top of a demon's head on the morning of 22nd April.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The Samadhi That Is King of Samadhis

Instantly surpassing the whole world and being, in the house of the Buddha-Ancestor, a great noble being, is full lotus sitting.

Treading on the heads of strayers and demons and being, in the inner sanctum of the Buddha-Ancestor, a real human being, is full lotus sitting.

What surpasses the supremacy of the Buddha-Ancestor's supremacy is only this One Dharma.

For this reason buddha-ancestors practise this, having no other duty at all.

Know exactly: the world of sitting, and other worlds, are far removed. Clarifying this truth, buddha-ancestors intuit and affirm awakening of the mind, training, bodhi, and nirvana.

Just in the moment of sitting, investigate whether the world is vertical and whether it is horizontal.

Just in the moment of sitting, what is that sitting?

Is it a somersault? Is it a state of vigorous activity? Is it thinking? Is it not thinking? Is it doing? Is it free of doing?

Is sitting practised inside sitting? Is sitting practised inside body-mind? Is it that, through shedding such vistas as the inside of sitting and the inside of body-mind, sitting is practised?

There should be investigation of thousands and tens of thousands of points like these.

Bodily practise full lotus sitting.

Mentally practise full lotus sitting.

Practise, as body and mind dropping off, full lotus sitting.

-- Translated off the top of a demon's head, on the morning of Sunday 20th April, 2008.

Friday, 11 April 2008

What Turns Its Opposite Into Freedom?

The answer is HI-SHIRYO, non-thinking.

Bodily full lotus sitting, dumbly squashing a black sitting-cushion, is non-thinking.

Mental full lotus sitting, thinking ears and shoulders apart, thinking nose and navel apart, making a mental decision not to do, is non-thinking.

Body and mind dropping off, losing the self just in sitting itself, is non-thinking.

Birdsong bouncing around spacetime is non-thinking.

For 750 years between Master Dogen's writing of Shobobenzo chapter 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, and the existence in the world of my problem-solving ability, nobody has clearly understood the above.

I have tried to clarify the above to my teacher Gudo Nishijima, but weighed down by his wrong view about the autonomic nervous system, he has not been able to understand. Rather, he has responded to my efforts by violating the Dharma without reason, and causing himself and others to slander me, willy-nilly.

How can I say such a thing? asks Plato. I can say such a thing, Plato, by not worrying about being right or being wrong, by not bothering about being humble or being arrogant, loyal or disloyal. I can say such a thing because it is true.

Moreover, saying it seems to have caused my stomach pains to disappear -- after I posted the previous post, and gave up trying to deny the bald fact that my teacher seriously violated the Dharma, my stomach stopped hurting.

For nearly four weeks now I have been in France devoting the time to full lotus sitting. So far, I am sorry, but in the way of a conclusion this is the best I can do.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

KEKKAFUZA: Full Lotus Sitting

In the previous post, I suggested as a translation:
"To tread over the heads of those who are off the way, demons ... is to practise full lotus sitting."

But how about:
"Treading on heads of off-wayers, demons... is full lotus sitting."?

That would be a saving of 19-11 = 8 words.

The new improved translation I came up with less than a week ago, on further consideration, might have been just another mistake. Today's effort is bound to be another mistake. But there is a direction inherent in these efforts/mistakes -- to seek out the translation which is more literal, more direct, and more dynamic.

Three years ago, Gudo Nishijima sent me an email, cc-d to his legal adviser James Cohen, in which he recommended me to follow the example of Michael Luetchford and publish my own independent translation of Shobogenzo -- "based on AT theory."

That proposal was totally unjust and totally unreasonable. The existing Nishijima-Cross translation is already my own translation, just as much as it is his translation.

The Nishijima-Cross translation was something valuable, a valuable process that was poisoned in 1997. Have I finished grieving yet for the loss of that process? Yesterday I thought maybe I had. But as I sit at this laptop again this morning, a nagging aching in my stomach indicates otherwise.

Is whatever it is that causes my stomach to throb only the suppressed anger of Mr Wrong?

The Nishijima-Cross translation was not so much a thing as a 3-way dynamic, involving the source text itself, Gudo's effort to interpret/translate it, and my effort to understand/translate it.

I never saw it as my job to interpret, on the basis of what Gudo calls "AT theory," or on any other basis. Interpretation was Gudo's area. My job was, as far as possible, to purge the source text of interpretation. Interpretation, as I saw it, was for the footnotes. My task was to let Master Dogen himself speak for himself.

Sometimes I failed in this task because of Gudo's lack of understanding -- for example his lack of understanding of the literal meaning of MIMI TO KATA TO TAISESHIMEN, causing opposition between ears and shoulders.

Sometimes I failed because of our mutual inability to hit the target, not for want of trying -- as in the case of BUTSUKOJO NO JI, the matter of buddha ascending beyond [buddha].

But mostly I failed because the process of translation involves thousands and thousands of decisions on how to translate individual words, and how to structure individual sentences, and many of the decisions I took, inevitably, were wrong. Gudo left ZAZEN, "sitting-zen," untranslated as Zazen. So did I. That was my mistake. Gudo translated BUSSO as "Buddhist patriarchs" or "the Buddhist Patriarch" I should have changed it into buddha-ancestors or the Buddha-Ancestor, but I didn't. And so on.

The mistakes I have made in the Shobogenzo translation process have been too numerous to list. But in my heart I know full well that my effort, to serve Master Dogen, has been true from beginning to end. Gudo's proposal that I should make another translation "on the basis of AT theory" slanders me, and I dare say slanders not only me.

What to do now, or not to do, with regard to the Shobogenzo translation?

(1) Leave the Nishijima-Cross translation as it is.
(2) Revise the Nishijima-Cross translation, to make it more literal, more dynamic, more direct, and publish that, as the Nishijima-Cross translation.
(3) Publish the Mike Cross translation.

The point of the emails I received from Gudo and Cohen three years ago was to make it clear that I was not authorized to take the second option. I was not authorized to revise the Nishijima-Cross translation "on the basis of AT theory."

So what then is to prevent me from taking option (3)?

The answer to that is I do not wish, never in a thousand years, to follow the treacherous example of Bodhirucci Sanzo.

I have been in France for three weeks now, mainly sitting. After three weeks of bodily sitting and mental sitting -- with not much in the way of body and mind dropping off -- there were a couple of hours yesterday evening in which I did seem to become a target that was hit. Last night, in replying to an email from an Alexander colleague, I wrote:

The weather has been a bit miserable, but today we were able to sit outside, listening to the birds singing all over the place, spine seeming to lengthen like an antenna. It seems to me a long time since I had an experience like that -- maybe something akin to what has been called in the Tomatis work "an auditory opening." (Either that or another instance of self-delusion courtesy of faulty sensory appreciation.)

I slept very well last night -- again, for the first time in a long time. And while sitting this morning I noticed that I wasn't suffering stomach pain. I thought to myself that maybe this finally signalled the end of my bereavement process? Maybe my full lotus sitting has trodden on the head of the demon, finally, once and for all?

But no, when I engage in that kind of wishful thinking, it is just the demon who is treading on my head.

People like Jeremy Pearson who have often exhorted me to "move on" do not understand that in 1997, when the Luetchfords intervened, when Gudo over-reacted on the basis of false suspicions, and when Jeremy himself failed to do the job I had entrusted to him, what was broken then was not only my heart. Something was violated then other than only me.

In chapter 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, Master Dogen writes the shocking statement that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and the Buddha-Dharma is sitting. If I didn't doubt Master Dogen's teaching, I might not doubt that my own effort for these past 25 years or so has just been the Buddha-Dharma itself, which has been violated.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

GEDO-MATO: Those Who Are Off the Way, Demons

GE means outside of, off. DO means bodhi, the buddha's enlightenment, the buddha's truth; again, DO means the way. MA means demon. TO means group.

In the opening paragraph of Shobogenzo chap. 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, as per the Nishijima-Cross translation of 1997, Master Dogen writes that "To tread over the heads of non-Buddhists and demons... is to sit in the full lotus posture."

"Non-Buddhists" was Gudo Nishijima's translation of GEDO. To leave GEDO translated as "non-Buddhists" was my mistake.

A better translation might be "To tread over the heads of those who are off the way, demons ... is to practise full lotus sitting."

Since I left Japan and went to England to train as an Alexander teacher, Gudo Nishijima, who somewhere deep inside maybe fears his own wrongness to have tried to reduce the teaching of Gautama Buddha to a theory of the autonomic nervous system, has projected his own inner demon onto me, and treated me as if I were a demon who is off the way. Gudo has portrayed me as a non-Buddhist who is out to identify Buddhism and what he calls "AT theory."

In the truth, it may be that a demon that is off the way, a demon that would like to reduce the Samadhi of Gautama Buddha to a theory of balance of the autonomic nervous system, resides within that old bookworm, Gudo himself. I would like to recommend Gudo to light a stick of the best quality incense for his demon, and invite him to share a nice cup of tea.

Still, I accept the designation of a non-Buddhist, because I revere the teaching of non-buddha, HI-BUTSU, which is a key phrase, a turning word, in Shobogenzo. The phrase appears in chap. 28, Butsu-kojo-no-ji, The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond. A buddha who ascends beyond buddha is a non-buddha. A non-buddha is a true buddha who, due to individual peculiarities and particular circumstances, does not meet with conventional expectations of what buddha is.

Understanding of HI-BUTSU, non-buddha, may be very relevant to understanding of HI-SHIRYO, non-thinking, and vice versa. HI-BUTSU means buddha itself, but not what people generally think of as buddha.

It is said the Nelson Mandela, during his years of physical captivity in prison, reasoned that as long as he hated his oppressors they controlled him. So he somehow learned not to hate those oppressors, in order to enjoy a greater degree of freedom within. That might be a rare example of the mental aspect of HI-SHIRYO -- learning how not to think in old ways, but rather to think in a new way, so as to free oneself from emotional slavery.

I notice on the statistics of my webpage at www.the-middle-way.org that I get a disproportionate number of hits from South Africa. Whoever is quietly listening to me out there, I salute you.

Generation after generation of oppressor, as Robert Mugabe is just now demonstrating so well, subordinates the truth to power. To break that cycle, as one or two exceptional and inspirational individuals have demonstrated through history, requires a degree of fortitude and wisdom that seems beyond the rest of us. The battle is fought, I would like to remind myself, primarily within the self.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Pearl & The Lotus

Plato asked me:

Bodily lotus sitting
Mental lotus sitting
Dropping off body and mind lotus sitting
Can they happen in any of the six realms?
Is that what Master Dogen means when he says do not worry about being in the six realms as the bright pearl is there?

My response:

What Master Dogen means is that the value is there throughout the whole developmental process -- the bright pearl is there throughout the whole lotus.

According to what Gudo taught me, physical full lotus sitting is permissible, mental full lotus sitting is permissible, but body-and-mind-dropping-off sitting is valuable.

Gudo tried to impress upon me, forcibly, what he felt to be the truth of his interpretation that sitting when the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant is permissible; sitting when the sympathetic nervous system is dominant is permissible; but sitting when the autonomic nervous system is balanced is valuable.

In the original Japanese, however, Master Dogen used the same word subeshi , "should practise," in each of the three sentences:

Practise bodily full lotus sitting.
Practise mental full lotus sitting.
Practise body-and-mind-dropping-off full lotus sitting.

What Master Dogen means is do not worry about where your lotus sitting is at. The mucky root is valuable. The sun-kissed petals are valuable. The whole bloody thing is value itself. So don't worry. Just sit.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


When stubborn trying to be right
Leads straight back to hell,
Just sit, with neck and shoulders tight,
Till hell's allright as well.


With no control of body bits,
Still yearning for maternal tits,
In a floating world where nothing fits,
It's a lonely hungry ghost who sits.


Where worms and beetles creep around
And wrens and robins send out sound
A dumb Zen beast may here be found
On a zafu on the ground.


Demons like to kick and punch;
They do not think, they do.
This zafu I would like to crunch,
For I'm a demon too.


When I sit is something sitting
Quicker still than I?
Just to sit is not just sitting.
White moon breaks blue sky.


Here I am, still sitting proud
Om mani padme hum.
Sadly, though, celestial cloud,
Is no place for a bum.