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.

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