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 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.

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