Thursday, 29 May 2008

.... Will First Cross Over You, True Buddhists

What is a true Buddhist? A true Buddhist might be one of those many thousands or millions of people in the world today who is searching for (or in some cases think they have found) the true meaning of Buddhism.

What then, really, is Buddhism? Buddhism is a concept which is most truly understood by non-buddha.

In total enjoyment of Sitting, non-buddha is not tainted by any kind of -ism. Non-buddha is especially not tainted by Buddhism.

Non-buddha eats and drinks the tea and toast of non-buddha, and shits the shit of non-buddha, but non-buddha does not look for any meaning in Buddhism -- because non-buddha knows that Buddhism is an utterly meaningless and bankrupt concept.

In the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo you will find many uses of the words Buddhist and Buddhism. But you won't find any in my new translations -- unless one is carelessly included by mistake.

There is no word or compound in the whole of Shobogenzo that deserves to be mistranslated as Buddhist or Buddhism.

When BUTSU appears before a noun, as in BUTSU-E, there is no need to talk of the Buddhist robe. The kesa is the Buddha-robe, the robe of Gautama Buddha and all the buddhas.

BUKKYO, similarly, is the teaching of the Buddha, the teaching of all the buddhas, not a view, not an opinion, not anybody's Buddhism.

BUPPO, again, is the Buddha-Dharma, the Buddha's Truth of Sitting, the Method of Sitting of Gautama Buddha and all the buddhas. By calling it true Buddhism, real Buddhism, or any other kind of -ism, we slander it.

Twenty years ago when I translated BUPPO as "real Buddhism," I thought I was doing a favour to Gautama Buddha and all the Zen Patriarchs of India, China, and Japan. In fact I was just, in my youthful arrogance, trying to identify myself with the strongly-held opinions, and four-phased philosophical dogma, of Gudo Nishijima, who succeeded in convincing me, having succeeded in convincing himself, that he was the true world champion of real Buddhism.

But now I see that a person who considers himself to be a true Buddhist is just suffering from a delusion. The idea that Buddha and -ism might be compatible with each other, is completely misplaced. Any sentence prefaced by the words "We, true Buddhists...." can never be anything but a pack of lies, a heap of shit, pure falsehood.

So if any flock or herd of true Buddhists is reading this, I would like to vow to you, in all sincerity, as follows:

I, Mr Wrong, hereby vow that I will cross over you, True Buddhists, to the far shore of non-buddha, before I cross over myself.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

I, Mr. Wrong,...

I, Mr Wrong, wish to be clear in my intention to clarify wrong views of what Zen Master Dogen meant by full lotus sitting.

The negation of idealism, is not it.

The negation of materialism, is not it.

Philosophies of action, are not it.

Keeping the spine straight vertically as a means to bring the autonomic nervous system back to balance, is not it.

Soto Zen practice of shikan-taza, is not it.

What Master Dogen meant by full lotus sitting might be not anybody's view but just full lotus sitting itself -- physical sitting, mindful sitting, and just sitting.

A teacher who writes on his blog, "We, true Buddhists...." have such and such an understanding in regard to mindfulness, whereas they who have that understanding of mindfulness are non-Buddhists: such a teacher is not my teacher. I totally renounce the viewpoint of such a teacher. My sitting practise is utterly different from, nay, opposed to, his sitting practice.

Gudo's thesis is the thesis of "We, true Buddhists, have such and such an understanding of True Buddhism."

Without my going wrong in my endeavor to subscribe authentically to the thesis of True Zen Patriarch Gudo, there would be no chance of me, as Mr Wrong, being clear in regard to the proper anti-thesis to Gudo's thesis.

So I bow to Gudo, and thank him for putting his head above the parapet. I thank him for his heroic and courageous putting forward of his static true Buddhist thesis. And I say to Gudo: Go to hell, you old bastard, who fell so hopelessly in love with his own view, thinking it to be true Buddhism.

This is my attempt at a less fixed, less rigid, more dynamic anti-thesis.

But nobody comes from a more fixed, more rigid, more frozen-in-fear-ful place than me, with all the compensatory mechanisms I have constructed over the course of a lifetime to try to appear all right on the surface in spite of deep vestibular dysfunction within.

The insincere cloth-eared Paddy whom I slag off, the one who would like to bask in the warm glow of having asked the True Zen Patriarch a good question, is nobody but Mr Wrong himself.

FM Alexander said, "To know when we are wrong is all that we shall ever know in this world."

What FM said is true, at least for me it seems to work. For me, as one individual in my own chunk of spacetime, FM's approach seems to have opened up a kind of mission in life: to clarify, as Mr Wrong, what this wrongness is -- at least until such time as some more dynamic individual is able to see through my anti-thesis, truly expose me as the insincere fraud I am, and send me to join Gudo in that dustbin in hell that is reserved for the ashes of Zen teachers whose view turned out to be false.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Harry's Question On Mindfulness

Dear Mike,

In the West, from various Buddhist sources, we hear a lot about "mindfulness". It is widely considered a Buddhist practice to strive to attend to our daily tasks with an unbroken attention, which may be similar to the 'one-pointedness' developed in certain types of meditation.

What is your view on this type of practice?

Thank-you & Regards,


I have been busting a gut to answer this question on my blogs for how many years already? Have you listened to a single word, you useless, conceited, cloth-eared paddy?

Venerable Hanrei? Do me a favour!

Dropping off all viewpoints
Was the sitting-zen he sat
Teaching conscious means-whereby:
I bow to him King Guat.

In other words, Harry, you can stuff your stupid question, asking for my view on mindfulness meditation, where the sun does not shine.

My intention is to point you, deaf and blind though you seem to be, in the direction of SITTING.

Master Dogen asked us to understand that there is MENTAL SITTING, as opposed to PHYSICAL SITTING. And there is PHYSICAL SITTING, as opposed to MENTAL SITTING.

Beyond physical and mental sitting, there is SITTING itself, which is totally and utterly opposed to the Soto Zen practice of "shikan-taza."

I have been busting a gut to clarify for you already this central pivot of Master Dogen's teaching. But you seem less interested in the truth that I have been telling, than in showing how clever you are with your presumptuous comments here and arse-licking tangential questions there.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Performing Buddha

Last night I briefly fell asleep on the sofa while watching a documentary about Russia, and so my late-night sitting-zen was fresher than usual. It occurred to me that I would like to translate GYOBUTSU not as "acting buddha" but as "grooving buddha" or "buddha in the groove." The original Chinese character GYO looks like railway lines; it has connotations, to me at least, of carrying on, easily, going with the flow, in a groove. And instead of "dignified behaviour" I thought I would like to translate YUIGI as "integrity."

I would like to get away from the manufactured dignity of professional Zen actors and performers. You know what I mean -- so-called Dharma-heirs who are lay men and yet call each other "Venerable So and So," and like to sign off with "Gassho" or protestations of their desire for universal peace and compassion. "Get away" is probably not strong enough. I would like to kick that kind of dignity in the bollocks.

But the danger with this line of thought is that it can all too easily turn into performing as non-buddha. But that is not it, either.

Is it that, in the middle way between the thesis of performing as buddha and the anti-thesis of acting as non-buddha, there is a synthesis -- a middle way of buddha grooving in the flow? No, that is not it, either.

In the background to the above musings was a conversation I had over the weekend with a Zen practitioner who is also a pianist, a musical performer. He asked me in a follow-up email if I thought there was more virtue in the lotus posture than in performing. My reply was this:

There is no virtue in the full lotus posture. Manifesting the full lotus posture is always the doing of a little performance -- a la Yoga, a la virtuoso concert pianist, a la virtuoso Alexander maestro.

The jewel in the lotus is sitting itself.

What I mean by sitting is just the right thing doing itself, and nothing but the right thing doing itself -- sitting that is in no way tainted by my fearful old self desiring to win the approval of others, by doing its little performance.

It is, as Nelly Ben-Or truly says, usually hidden from me.

With these thoughts still circulating in my body-mind, some time in the early hours of this morning I phoned Gudo Nishijima at his office in Ichigaya, as I usually would to clarify any point in Shobogenzo that I wanted to clarify. Invariably I would hear him singing out in his usual formulaic way, "Hello? Oh, please come!" But this time what I heard was a long pause, in which I realized Gudo was choking in his effort to fight back tears. Eventually he told me "Better .... carry on ... by ... yourself." There was another long pause in which I was aware of the possibility of saying some healy-feely words. But I didn't go down that path. I simply said, "OK" and put the phone down.

So all this is the background to what translated itself for me this morning -- under the title of "The Integrity of Buddha In the Groove."

"Dignity" or "Dignified Behaviour" would be closer to the literal meaning of YUIGI. But I like integrity. So integrity it is.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Quick Realization of a Buddha's Body

In Shobogenzo Hotsu-Bodai-Shin, Kick-Starting the Bodhi-Mind, Master Dogen quotes four lines from the Lotus Sutra:

Constant spontaneous production of this thought:
"How to make living beings
Able to enter the supreme truth/Way/awakening,
And quickly realize a buddha's body."

What is a buddha's body like?

What is the body like of Sitting buddha?

What is the body like of buddha Sitting?

Is the neck stiff?
Is the chin being pulled backward and downward into the neck?
Is the spine held rigidly upright, necessitating abdominal breathing?
Are the shoulders and hips tight, as if pulling the limbs into the body?


Is the neck free?
Is the head being released up out of the body, like a ping pong ball on a fountain?
Is the back releasing upwards and outwards, in a lengthening and widening direction, so that the ribs move out and in easily and the breathing does itsef without any bother?
Are the limbs being released out of the body?

A few weeks ago I wrote on this blog a verse praising my own bodhi-mind. Afterwards I wondered if it was appropriate or not to praise one's own bodhi-mind. Probably it was another mistake.

Probably it arose out of an immature emotional reaction to being denigrated, to being accused of trying to identify so-called "Buddhism," and so-called "AT theory."

That immature emotional reaction, and this immature emotional reaction that I am expressing now, are probably not the bodhi-mind working.

But my journey from translating the Lotus Sutra in Japan, to Alexander work here in England, broadly speaking, has just been the working of the bodhi-mind. How else would I have arrived at the above questions?

Non-Establishment of the Bodhi-Mind

The Nishijima-Cross translation says, "Even if their form is humble, those who establish this mind are already the guiding teachers of all living beings."

But "establish" is completely the wrong word. It has connotations of stability, fixity. Nishijima selected that word, "establish," and Cross failed to boot the word into touch, into Row Z, where it belongs.

Brad Warner has written that the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo is the best that there will ever be. On what basis does Brad make a comment like that, other than knowing that it might be music to the ears of Gudo Nishijima? That bit of Bradley Warner bullshit might be symptomatic of the same lack of clarity, the same rigidity of body and mind, that led Nishijima to select the word "establish" and that led Cross not to boot the word "establish" into Row Z.

"The Establishment of the Bodhi-Mind" might be the worst translation of HOTSU-BODAISHIN that there will ever be.

The original word, OKOSU in Japanese, would better have been translated as "rouse" -- a word that seems to be favoured by translators of ancient Pali texts, like the one recently quoted in Peter Clothier's blog.

But I would like to go further still in the direction of non-Buddhist dynamism and directness.

I would like to suggest the image of a grubby old biker who kick-starts a machine so that, grimy though the old biker may be, and old and rusty though the bike may be, by kick-starting the bike into action, the grubby old biker may lead a pack of millions to their true destination ....

"Crude in appearance though he may be, because he kick-starts this mind into action, he is the guiding teacher of all living beings."

When the old biker climbs back on his bike and kick-starts his old machine, what is established?

Nothing is established. Sweet FA is established. But something, for a while, is kick-started into action.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Reaching Up, Not Clouding Over the Sun & Moon

FM Alexander wrote an enigmatic footnote in his second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, and then referred back to again it is his fourth and last book. He wrote: "I wish it to be understood that throughout this book I use the term conscious guidance and control to indicate, primarily, A PLANE TO BE REACHED rather than a method of reaching it."

Again, Alfred Tomatis said that (1) the ear is primarily the organ of balance (and therefore the ultimate arbiter of the middle way, which is an obvious fact but one generally not recognized by Soto Zen professionals, Buddhist theologians, Vipassana pyschologists and the like); and that (2) the ear is also a passive receptor of sound; but that (3) it is also possible for us to REACH THE LEVEL OF LISTENING.

The central principle in the work of both Alexander and Tomatis, as I understand it, is that the right thing does itself. The right thing does itself, as long as we can stop ourselves from doing the wrong thing -- namely, straining on the basis of deeply-held misconceptions, straining to have good posture, straining to listen, straining to hit the right note, concentrating. But this stopping of the wrong, when you go into it, is not so easy. There's the rub.

Still, this cause for optimism remains: A person well trained in the use of the whole self, or well trained in the use of the voice, or well trained in the use of the listening ear (the three ultimately amounting, once the use-voice-ear connection is openly and clearly understood, to the same thing), can reach the level of the right thing doing itself -- which might be called Listening, or Singing, or Chanting. There again, it might be called Sitting.

At the level of the right thing doing itself, the sense is one of effortlessness, ease, spontaneity, play.

What is this samadhi of effortless play?

To summarize what I wrote a few days ago, effort to be polite, or effort to be natural, or effort to regulate oneself, is not it. And so, my instinctive response to a two-faced Zen charlatan like James Cohen who tries to impose his standards of politeness on others, would tend to be an extremely rude one.

But that kind of effort is not it either.

There is bodily effort, based on feeling, to practise full lotus sitting.

There is mental effort, based on thinking, to practise full lotus sitting.

But even those kinds of effort are not it, either.

The most important point in Shobogenzo is simply affirmation of the fact that there is, going on up beyond physical and mental effort, full lotus Sitting.

The importance of clarifying that message is such that, much as I would like to devote this blog to slagging off James Cohen and the like, using abundant fruity language,.... I had better not.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Playing Keep-Up With the Sun & Moon

A monk asks Zen Master Chimon Koso, "What is the matter of buddha going on up?" The Master says, "The head of the staff is playing keep-up with the sun and moon."

This translation, which just popped into my head willy-nilly this morning, judged by the standard I have striven to uphold for most of my adult life , is totally unacceptable. "Playing keep-up with the sun and moon" in no way respects the literal meaning of the original Chinese character. It is just something I have come up with this morning, off the top of my head.

The original meanings of the verb in question, given in the Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary, include "contend for" and "make love to." ("The knob of the staff is fucking with the sun and moon"? Maybe a step too far.)

The Nishijima-Cross trying-to-be-as-literal/authentic-as-possible translation goes with "hoist up." But I like the idea that the old master thought that the head of his staff was playing keep-up with the sun and moon. So I am going with that.

How dare I take liberties like that with the translation of Zen Master Dogen's masterwork, Shobogenzo?

Only by not really giving a shit.

If you really, really give a shit, then get a source text, get a dictionary, and do your own authentic Buddhist translation. The translation I am doing now is a non-Buddhist translation, work that I am doing for the hell of it, and for the fun of it -- based not on trying to make the autonomic nervous system balanced by trying to keep the spine straight vertically, but based instead on the AT theory that trying to be right is not a path that goes on up to anywhere.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Kicking Shobogenzo Up the Arse and Making It Come Alive

Yesterday, Friday, was an Alexander training school day and my younger son's 15th birthday, so I didn't do any translation work. This morning when I read what I had written on Thursday afternoon, I realized there was something wrong with it. It was somehow too convoluted -- somehow falling back into the old tendency of trying to be right, trying too hard to be literal. When I read it out loud, it didn't flow easily. So, while reading it out loud, I edited it with a view to making it more enjoyable for me to read out loud. I changed it so that I would have more of a chance, when reading it out loud, to make it sound as if I really meant it -- to make it sound as if I wasn't reading some old text out loud, but was rather, with eye, ear, and two resonating voices, just letting the actual truth be heard.

I realize that this is going to be one of the guiding principles of this new translation -- to be prepared to sacrifice the conscientiously literal in favour of the English wording that may help the listening/speaking/going-on-up process come alive.

Whether I succeeded or failed this morning, I will leave you to judge:

Ungo Doyo visits Tozan, who asks him: "What's your name, governor?" Ungo says, "Doyo." Tozan asks further, "Go on up and say again!" Ungo says, "If I were to reach up and say, it would not be named Doyo." Tozan says, "When I was in Ungan's order, our exchange was no different."

These words of master and disciple must be examined closely. Doyo says: "If I were to reach up and say, it would not be named Doyo." This means that Doyo is going on up. We should learn in practice that in Doyo just as he has come, there is something, not named Doyo, that is going on up. Doyo, having realized the truth that going on up is beyond being named Doyo, really is Doyo. But never say that there might be Doyo in his going on up. On hearing Tozan's words "Gon on up and say again!", if he were then to blurt out his enlightenment by exclaiming, "Reaching up, I would still be named Doyo!" just that would be his expression of going on up. Why do I say so? Because Doyo instantly springs into his brain in order to contain his body. And while thus concealing his body, he makes a show of himself.

In recent years I have realized that I have spent my life compensating in various ways for deep underlying dysfunction in my ear, and in all the innermost parts of the brain connected to the ear.

This kind of dysfunction is the primary root cause, in many cases, of difficulty not only with balance and listening but also with reading and spelling - in many cases, but not in mine. A peculiar thing is that, dysfunctional ears notwithstanding, I was precocious at reading and spelling as a young child.

Later on today, the mother a seven year old girl who is having problems with spelling is going to bring her daughter to meet me, to see if I can help her with her reading and spelling. This little girl, her mum tells me, is physically well co-ordinated, loves dancing, and is at home on the sports field, but reading does not come naturally to her. It has generally been more difficult for me to understand what is going on in the brain and body of a girl like this, because I, as a boy, never had any problems at all with reading and spelling.

So this morning the question I am thinking about is: why not -- why didn't I have problems reading and spelling, notwithstanding congenital ear dysfunction? I think the simple answer is that, from a very early age, my mother got me into reading aloud from picture books.

If you wish to understand why this activity is such a good one for co-ordinating the eyes, ear, voice, breathing, mind, et cetera, I strongly recommend Paul Madaule's book When Listening Comes Alive. I bought this book about seven or eight years ago, after meeting Paul through the good auspices of Peter Blythe of INPP Chester. I thought the book was so brilliant that I immediately lent it to a client who really needed to understand what the book said... but then I never got the book back. Having bought a copy already, I was reluctant to buy another one. That was a big mistake. I did finally get round to buying another copy a couple of years ago, but it is only in the past few weeks that I have got round to reading it closely. And, without putting too fine a point on it, the book is brilliant. Everybody who has ears and eyes and a voice should read it -- preferably out loud.

One of the recommendations Paul Madaule makes is that parents should talk to their children in the parent's own native tongue. The truth of this recommendation strikes me greatly. A Japanese person with a Japanese ear, when they read Shobogenzo aloud in English, will never do it justice. An English person with an English ear, when they read Shobogenzo aloud in Japanese, will never do it justice. If you have a French ear, you should look forward to the day when you can read Shobogenzo aloud in French. If you have a Spanish ear, you should look forward to the day when you can read Shobogenzo aloud in Spanish. If you have a Greek ear, you should look forward to the day when you can read Shobogenzo aloud in Greek. If you have a Martian ear, you should look forward to the day when you can read Shobogenzo aloud in Martian.

I have been secretly looking forward, for more than 25 years, to the day when I might be able to read Shobogenzo aloud in my own mother tongue, which is English. Some day soon, inshallah, I may do that. I may make an audio recording of these new chapters I have begun translating. I think I might enjoy that.

The years I spent in Tokyo, in many ways, were not good for my ears, not good for my voice, and not good for my soul. The occasional 3-day or 4-day breaks I had in Tokei-in temple in Shizuoka, in contrast, which were filled with the sounds of nature and filled with the sounds of slow chanting, were very good for my ears and very good for my soul.

Gudo Nishijima had a superb ear for Shobogenzo in Japanese and a superb voice for reading it aloud in Japanese. It was a great pity that, being so full of himself, it never occurred to the little control freak to entrust the English reading to his so-called "four Ejos" -- Jeff Bailey, Michael Luetchford, Larry Zacchi and me.

Unable to perceive the difference between glass and grass, or courteous and cautious, Gudo could not clearly make that distinction in his own speaking. In the same way, unable to perceive the difference between a control-freak's uptightness and spontaneous uprightness, Gudo could not clearly make that distinction in his own teaching. Gudo could not clarify the distinction between trying to uphold a right state, and spontaneously going on up.

But clarification of that distinction, with eyes, ears, voice, breath, skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, might be nothing but the lifeblood itself.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Not The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond

I woke up this morning not feeling happy about "ascending beyond" as a translation of KOJO. I tried "reaching up" instead. I wanted to reflect this sense that there is in what Masters Tozan and Dogen are describing, as in the work of FM Alexnder and Alfred Tomatis, a condition of being, of sitting or of listening, which is spontaneous, automatic, effortless -- a plane to be reached.

So I went through the chapter changing "ascending beyond" to "reaching up"... and then I went through changing everything back again.

But then this afternoon, fortified by a midday nap (following the inspirational example of Master Koboku Hojo), I realized without doubt that "ascending beyond" didn't fit in Tozan's pithy exchange with Ungo Doyo. I asked for something more colloquial, and what came out was "going on up."

Yes: The Matter of Buddha Going On Up.

That is the translation that hits the target. It fits.

Some will say that it is a translation "based on AT theory." But to tell the truth, it is a translation arising out of 25 years of me straining ineffectually just to hear the voice of the Buddha.

Falling Into the Celestial Translator's Trap

Yesterday, after seeming to sail effortlessly through the translation of a large paragraph of The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond, I celebrated by adding a stupid comment which I later deleted, but shall own up to in this blog, where confession of my own stupidity more properly belongs.

FM Alexander wrote that what he meant by "conscious control" was primarily a plane to be reached. In the same way that unenlightened practitioners of Soto Zen are prone to think that Master Dogen's teaching is all about the process of sitting, as opposed to the goal of enlightenment, people tend to think that Alexander work is all about attending to the means, and not being interested in the end. But that is not the whole truth. FM was also interested in the end, which he called "conscious control," as primarily a plane to be reached.

Adam Nott, a very experienced Alexander teacher trained by Marjory Barlow, and a sly man in the tradition of G. Gurdjieff, once told me that he saw the Alexander process of inhibiting and directing as like a ladder leading up onto the plane of conscious control, and that we generally have a sense of when we are operating on that plane. But unfortunately, Adam continued, when we fall down off that plane we tend not to have any sensory register of having fallen down. We are prone to believe that we are still up there, happily ascending beyond, when in fact we are not.

As a piece of concrete evidence of what Adam was talking about -- having fallen off already without realizing it -- I shall copy and paste here my own stupid comment of yesterday:

People say that the Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting is baffling and impenetrable. Let me tell you something. To me, this morning, the meaning is just too obvious for words, and the translation of one large paragraph does itself in a matter of minutes without any bother at all. Probably that is because, thanks to the help of FM Alexander, Alfred Tomatis, and one or two of their descendants, I seem to have actually gouged out for myself the Eye of True Sitting.

FM Alexander said: "The right thing does itself."

Alfred Tomatis said: "The ear is the organ of balance, and also a passive receptor of sound. But you can also reach the level of listening."

Listening. Speaking. Sitting. Too simple. Very rare.

Yes, indeed. Too simple for the likes of me!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Elgin Marbles

One thing I am not proud of is not having kicked up more of a fuss, hitherto, about the Elgin Marbles. It is the kind of issue that it is easy to leave to others. But if all fair-minded people take that stance, then the day is won by people of extreme views and sophisticated arguments.

A few years ago my local MP phoned me and asked if there was any pressing issue I would like to discuss. I said: "Yes, we should give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece." He said that was a first for him, to have a constituent raise that issue.

I haven't got a lot of complicated arguments to present about the Elgin Marbles. Leave complicated arguments to the brainy types at the British Museum, and to defenders of the British Empire/Establishment. Britain stole the Elgin Marbles from Greece. Britain should be in a hurry to give them back.

If there is any British tendency to be proud of, it might be fair play. So, if there are British people reading this blog who might be open enough (to the point of gullibility?) to be interested in the views and opinions of a person like me, one view I would definitely like to express is that we should give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting -- new blog

Without further ado, I have set up a new blog on which to publish new translations of Shobogenzo, which I am starting to translate as "The Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting." That is not a literal translation. It a translation that reflects the understanding of nobody but me. Or, if I state my belief straight out, it reflects the understanding of just Master Dogen and me -- non-buddha alone, together with non-buddha.

The first chapter I have posted is, naturally, The Samadhi That is King of Samadhis.

The second chapter that I could not wait to post up is The Buddha-Ancestors. I could not wait to post this chapter up, because I could not wait to get away from the sickening stench of Patriarchal Buddhism, of which, over the past 25 years, I have had more than a gutfull. "Buddhist" and "Patriarch" are two words, I vow, that will never taint any of my translation work from now on.

Message from Nishijima Roshi

Dear Michael,

I hope this finds you well.

Recently, it has come to Nishijima Roshi's attention that you are making statements such as the following on your blog and elsewhere:

While waiting/not waiting for Gudo to make up his mind whether or not I am doing this work in his name, I am going to proceed at random to translate Chapter 28 of Master Dogen's True Dharma-Eye Treasury, titled "The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond."

Nishijima Roshi, who is cc'd on this mail, would like me to make it clear to you that he does not wish to be associated with your new translation in any manner. He wishes you to remove his name in all ways from any connection with the project, and he requests you to make it clear that you are not doing any part of this work in his name. Finally, it is not in any way to be treated as an approved revision or later edition of the "Nishijima-Cross" translations of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Yes, like it or not, I am writing as his lawyer.

That being said, nobody as any ill will toward you, we hope that your project of translation of Shobogenzo, and all other work you are involved with, go well. However, Nishijima Roshi does not want to be associated with this translation or your ideas on Alexander Technique.

Thank you for understanding. If you wish, you may publish this email (if in its entirety) on your blog.

Gassho, Jundo James Cohen

My reply:

Dear Jundo, Sensei,

Thank you for letting me know the decision.

Whether or not I have the real understanding, the ability, the strength of will, or the emotional detachment/disloyalty to "erase the efforts" of Sensei, I do not know. But it may be my inevitable duty to endeavor do what Sensei feared I might do.

If, in that case, I succeed, it will never be the erasing of Sensei's efforts. It will be the fruition of his efforts -- whether he is able to recognize it or not.

If, on the other hand, I fail, the Nishijima-Cross translation will remain as the standard, which will also be the fruition of Sensei's efforts.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Cross

A Non-Fairy Story: Parable of the Non-Cyclist

This morning I received the following question on sitting-zen, and I have attempted to answer it in the form of a parable, a kind of non-fairy story. I hope it makes some sense!

A question on sitting-zen!
What is happening during sitting after we think "ears and shoulders apart, nose and navel apart"? Do we observe the result? Do we abandon ourselves to the effect of mental sitting until the effect of the thinking exhausts itself? You told me that this time is fushiryo, beyond thinking! Does it mean the period after thinking of the vital directions in sitting-zen? Is it like riding a bicycle where after a few strokes in the pedals the bike goes by itself until at some point we have to give a few more strokes to in order to keep going? I hope the question makes some sense!

The Parable of the Non-Cyclist

A skinny, skeptical youth, hungover from the previous night's boozing, found himself in a library in a northern English town, searching in vain for meaning, inside a cycling book, when all of a sudden the woman of his dreams, a beautiful young princess ... SNEEZED!!! .... momentously, and the library building shook. His whole being woken up by the princess's sneeze, the skinny non-fairy understood that the real and true meaning he sought was not to be found in the library. And so the dream hero of our story, the non-fairy, travelled east, in search of the true Tao of Cycling.

After negotiating a few dragons and moats, he eventually meets a certified Patriarch of the Tao of Cycling, and his cycling journey begins in earnest. The certified Cycling Patriarch introduces the non-fairy to an ancient text titled "The Eye-Treasury of True Cycling," which in many places is very difficult to fathom. The difficulty of understanding this text, however, is balanced by the simplicity of the practice that the Cycling Patriarch recommends, which is to practise every day, for as long and hard as possible, four sessions every day, just pedalling an exercise bike. From time to time, the Cycling Patriarch leads our hero to a large gym, where dozens of cycling devotees enjoy riding their exercise bikes together.

Our innocent non-fairy throws himself into pedalling practice with great enthusiasm, and realizes that what the Pedalling Patriarch says is true: this kind of exercise is very good for a human being's health. Pedalling like this on an exercise bike brings the practitioner into the middle way, a state which is neither too lazy nor too emotionally heated -- a state in which the autonomic nervous system is balanced. The young dream-hero decides to try to forget about the beautiful sneezing princess and devote himself instead to helping the Cycling Patriarch in his great mission, which is to spread the gospel of pedalling throughout the world. In particular, the Pedalling Patriarch recognizes the dire need that exists in 'white man's civilization,' in 'western intellectual civilization,' for practical, pedalling-based wisdom -- for wisdom that arises out of the balanced state of the autonomic system, which can be maintained through daily pedalling practice.

Guided, encouraged, and supported by the Pedalling Patriarch, our non-fairy attempts a scrupulously literal translation into his own language of "The Eye-Treasury of True Cycling." The ancient text, however, begins to raise some doubts in the non-fairy's mind. It not only advocates the physical practice of pedalling but also seems to be pointing the cyclist in the direction of some kind of mental practice -- something called "steering."

Then our hero comes across a book written by a western expert on balance and movement, which seems to be describing the same kind of phenomena described in the ancient text -- stuff about moving in a certain direction, stuff about the possibility of not remaining fixed in the same place, and specifically cycling-related stuff which mentions not only pedalling but also lays great emphasis on this thing called steering.

Greatly excited, our innocent hero shows the book to the Cycling Patriarch, who laughs loudly, for a while, and says:

"I am afraid that you have fallen back into your old western habit of reliance on intellectual thinking. I hope you will come back to the practice of True Cycling, which is not to steer, but just to pedal."

Then the laughter turns into a kind of anger, and finally the Pedalling Patriarch pronounces:

"True Cycling is just to pedal! Just to pedal is True Cycling! What you are advocating, cycling on the basis of western intellectual thoughts about steering, is just non-cycling. You are a non-cyclist!"

This then, is the tale of the metamorphosis suffered by a callow non-fairy, who dreamed of being a great cycling hero. Instead of turning into what he dreamed of, he turned into a complete and utter non-cyclist.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Chapter 15 of the True Dharma-Eye Treasury: The Buddha-Ancestors

Introduction: Shit on the Right Dharma of the Patriarchs

The Subtle Truth of Sitting! Supreme, and Very Deep!

But hard to meet, even in a billion ages.

I now, being witness to it, might make it my own.

Let us pray to understand what the Buddha truly and really meant.

Among the so-called Dharma-heirs of Gudo Nishijima is a liar/lawyer called James Cohen. When I call him a liar, I mean that he is a man who has a tendency not to tell the truth, but to twist the truth and, going beyond that, to tell lies. This is what I have observed to be the case, when James Cohen has written lies about things I know to have been otherwise.

How can this be? How is it possible for a man like James Cohen to exist as a Zen Patriarch who has received the Dharma from a Zen Patriarch in a lineage going up through Dogen, Nagarjuna, and Gautama, up to the Seven Buddhas?

If you look up James Cohen on the internet, you will find a picture of him sitting next to Gudo, both wearing formal robes, the latter wearing a big authority-conferring hat. Cohen uses the picture to convey the impression of himself as a legitimate, lawful, rightful Dharma-heir of the Zen Patriarch Gudo Nishijima.

A more recent Dharma-heir is Michel Proulx in France, who tells me that he teaches his students "to sit concentrating on their posture." Cohen writes emails to Proulx calling him "Venerable Michel." What is venerable about Michel? Michel has received the Dharma from Gudo, but Michel has not glimpsed the supreme, deep and subtle truth of Master Dogen's sitting, even in a dream. What is venerable about him? Yet Cohen calls him "Venerable Michel." It is all just the hugest crock of horseshit.

In 1989 a film crew from BBC Midlands visited me in Tokyo and filmed me as part of a half-hour documentary, titled "Turning Japanese," on midlanders living in Japan. The film showed me sitting, working on Shobogenzo, and visiting Gudo's old Zazen dojo. When the documentary was broadcast around the end of 1989, I was on a visit back to my parents house in Birmingham. So Jeremy Pearson, who was living near Warwick at the time, was able to phone up the BBC, get my phone number, and visit me at my parents' house. I remember picking up the phone and hearing Jeremy's voice, full of nervous anticipation and sincerity.

When Jeremy came to Japan shortly thereafter, I took him to meet Gudo at Gudo's office and recommended to him that the best way for him to get to know Gudo's teaching intimately was to serve Gudo in some concrete job, for example, taking dictations. So Jeremy started his service of Gudo like that, straight away, with notepad and pen in hand.

Several years later, after I had returned to England to train as an Alexander teacher, Jeremy visited me at the house in Aylesbury where I now am, and what a difference had come over him. His attitude towards me had changed to one of smiling condescension. He had become a Dharma-heir of Gudo, a Zen Patriarch, whereas I, at that time, had not taken that step.

As the Dharma-heir of Gudo, when Gudo decided to go ahead and violate our fifty : fifty agreement, Jeremy failed to do what I was relying on him to do -- to protect me from Michael Luetchford's intervention, which I was expecting. Jeremy didn't let me know about it. He didn't tell me the truth. So my question to Jeremy and others is this: If becoming a legitimate Zen Patriarch causes you not to tell the truth to your friend and mentor, then what is the fucking point of becoming a legitimate Zen Patriarch?

By transmitting the Dharma to the likes of Michael Luetchford, Jeremy Pearson, and latterly me, Gudo has made it more difficult for us to tell the truth about goings on in Dogen Sangha. Michael Luetchford carried on for years, biting his lip and pulling in his chin, suppressing himself, until Gudo nominated the Ven. Bradley Warner as his successor, at which time Michael Luetchford could not prevent himself from, briefly, blowing the whistle.

Since then Michael Luetchford has, apparently, gone back to biting his lip. He knows that his criticisms of the master from whom he received the Dharma would only undermine his own credibility as a legitimate Zen Patriarch.

But I come back to this question: If being a legitimate Zen Patriarch causes you not to tell the truth to your friend and mentor, as in Jeremy's case, what is the fucking point? If being a lawful Zen Patriarch causes you to tell lies, as in Cohen's case, what is the fucking point? If the prospect of being nominated as a Zen Patriarch's rightful successor causes you to twist the truth, putting your own spin on something you know nothing about, as in Brad's case, what is the fucking point?

My own answer is this: I will leave to Brad the preaching of the Right Dharma of the Zen Patriarchs. My consolation is to be found in Master Dogen's teaching that Bodhidharma's lifeblood is nothing but full lotus sitting, and to be found in common or garden telling of the truth.

To all people who, like my old friend Jeremy, are in awe of the Right Dharma of the Zen Patriarchs, let me tell you just this truth: You think that there is something called the Right Dharma that has been transmitted from Zen Patriarch to Zen Patriarch, but there is no such thing at all. So shit on the Right Dharma of the Zen Patriarchs. The lifeblood of the ancestors is nothing but full lotus sitting.

The Buddha-Ancestors

Our buddha-ancestors become real when we remember and honour our buddha-ancestors -- an act which is not only of the past, present, and future but which may ascend even beyond buddha ascending beyond. Truly, when we rummage through those who have kept up, and let be, their buddha-ancestor faces and eyes, we bow down before them and we bump into each other. By making the virtues of our buddha-ancestors real and using them, we have already been inhabiting them; we have already been saluting them, and experiencing them.

Opening paragraph rummaged again on the morning of Sunday 4th April 2008. Translation provoked by Gudo Nishijima.

Copyright Mike Cross, 2008.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Chapter 28 of the True Dharma-Eye Treasury: The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond


While waiting/not waiting for Gudo to make up his mind whether or not I am doing this work in his name, I am going to proceed at random to translate Chapter 28 of Master Dogen's True Dharma-Eye Treasury, titled "The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond." I am moving on to this chapter because, notwithstanding the baseless opinion of Venerable Brad Warner, the Nishijima-Cross translation of this chapter published in 1996 is a load of crap. At that time I was clueless as to the real meaning of such teachings as non-buddha, and not listening. Maybe I am still clueless, except that one thing I now know for certain is that my attitude then -- trying hard, in sitting and in translating, to be right -- was just wrong. Whatever the not listening, not speaking, and not sitting of non-buddha is, it is not a level reached by one who is trying hard to realize a state. The 1996 title of this chapter was "The Matter of the Ascendant State of Buddha" -- the state in question, in Gudo's mind, being -- you guessed it -- balance of the fucking autonomic fucking nervous fucking system. But this chapter is not about a state; it is more about orientation/movement in a cerain direction, that direction being.... UP! I think it is about upright sitting, speaking, and listening that does itself, effortlessly, spontaneously, naturally -- not what the Venerable Zen Masters of the present generally understand as sitting, speaking, and listening. If we want to understand the real, true, original meaning of this chapter, the secret to understanding it might lie in the discoveries of FM Alexander and Alfred Tomatis -- not in the fixed and static notions of Zen tossers who call each other "Venerable" and recommend themselves and others to concentrate on their own posture.

If you don't like me straying from the literal, I can understand that objection, and would suggest that you bugger off back to the 1996 version, and read that. In the spirit of experimentation, I would like to go for a less scrupulous, less careful, more direct, more dynamic, more real translation of this chapter, a more non-Buddhist translation.

So, here goes:

The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond

The high ancestor Tozan is the close and direct heir of Ungan, going up through thirty-eight ancestors from the Buddha. He is the thirty-eighth ancestor in ascending beyond himself. One day he preaches: "When we physically get the matter of buddha ascending beyond, then we can speak a bit." A monk asks: "What is it to speak?" Tozan says: "In speaking, governor, you are not listening." The monk says: "Are you listening, Master, or not?" Tozan says: "Waiting for myself not to speak, just then I am listening."

Translated by Who?

My process of reading Shobogenzo in the original Japanese was initiated, guided, nurtured, and financially supported by Gudo Nishijima. When he proposed that our arrangement should be, in his words, "fifty : fifty," I agreed with his proposal.

But in the Nishijima-Cross translation published from 1994-98, the person who translated Shobogenzo from Japanese into English was me. The process took place inside my brain. The only person who can know this as a fact is me, and I know it as a fact, absolutely.

This fact seems to have been impossible for Gudo to understand. His experience was that a translation into English took place inside his brain, and he was always unable or unwilling to see that what was taking place in my brain was a different translation.

Did it matter that I was unable to cause Gudo to see the truth? Yes, it did. Because out of his state of denial, terribly wrong actions on his part have followed.

The Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo, as a real process of reading words in one language and converting them into another, took place in my brain. I am sorry, but that is the truth. Nishijima didn't do it with the assistance of Cross. Cross did it with the assistance of Nishijima.

When I clicked on the link to on Dogen Sangha Blog, I was led to the following review of the Nishijima-Cross translation, by Brad Warner:

This English translation of Shobogenzo is the best there ever was or will be. Not only does Gudo Nishijima know his stuff when translating ancient Japanese to English (with invaluable assistance from student Chodo Cross who makes the prose clear and easy to read without sacrificing a bit of the original), he has been living the message of Shobogenzo for more than six decades.

I think that Brad Warner is a very political animal, a kind of spin doctor, a PR man. Judging from this review, there may be a tendency in him to twist the truth out of political motives. Not knowing the truth, he has written here, as if he knows, just what Gudo would like to read.

I, on the contrary, have a tendency to write precisely what Gudo does not want to read, and to tell him precisely what he does not want to hear, which is the truth.

In attempting to clarify what Master Dogen wrote about mental sitting as opposed to physical sitting, and physical sitting as opposed to mental sitting, Gudo fell back on his theory of the autonomic nervous system, and thereby missed the target. In taking people by the chin and pulling the chin inches back into the neck, he led me and others woefully astray in our sitting practice. In making changes to Shobogenzo Book 3 without my agreement, he broke the fundamental rule of our fifty-fifty partnership. Brad says that Gudo has been living the central message of Shobogenzo for sixty years. I say that he has been, out of the best of intentions, perverting it -- turning the truth into its opposite.

How am I able to say these things? Because my lifeblood is nothing but the lifeblood of the founding ancestor, and the lifeblood of the founding ancestor is nothing but my lifeblood. Because, notwithstanding my degree in Accounting & Financial Management from Sheffield University, 25 years of full lotus sitting have left me, as I approach the age of 50, more or less jobless, out of work, unemployed, with no professional position or career to speak of, with no status to lose. Not even earning a breadwinner's wage, I rely on my wife's income as swimming teacher. In many ways I have become more and more useless, a disheartened waster. And yet, Master Dogen is telling me unequivocally that my lifeblood is the lifeblood of Bodhidharma, and Bodhidharma's lifeblood is mine. If that really is so, the virtue of full lotus sitting really is totally beyond my capacity to fathom it.

Gudo has responded to the respective efforts of Brad and me by nominating the Venerable Bradley as his successor and slandering me, Mr. Mike Cross, as a non-Buddhist. For a long time, I remained in denial about what was going on, seeing it as possibly some kind of test of my loyalty.

But no, fuck that. Wishing to be a loyal servant of a true Buddhist Patriarch is just the seed of trying to be right.

The truth that Gudo does not want to be heard, especially by himself, is that the process of translating Shobogenzo from Japanese into English, which was initiated by him, was done by me.

In that regard, there is no difference between the translation that we published from 1994-1998, and the one I am about to post on this blog now. They both took place, for better or for worse, inside my brain.

Still, to go back to my opening statement, my process of reading Shobogenzo in the original Japanese was initiated, guided, nurtured, and financially supported by Gudo Nishijima. That is not me trying to be loyal. That is just the glaring, undeniable truth. So if Gudo wishes me to keep his name before mine, and let me call what I am about to post up the Nishijima-Cross translation (revised 2008 version), then all he has to do is let me know, on his blog or on this blog.

If that is what he wants, he needs to clarify his wish in public, so that there is no legal ambiguity about it. He needs to make a public retraction of what he and his legal adviser James Cohen told me three years ago, that I was not authorized to publish any translation in Gudo's name, and that I should rather publish my own translation "based on AT theory" just in my own name.

And Gudo needs to make this clarification right now, right this fucking minute. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, he can fuck off and I will follow the example he (along with Michael Luetchford) has already set, and "go ahead by myself."

This is not a threat. It is more akin to the state of a cat that is poised to finish off a mouse. I am letting Gudo know what I am now totally ready to do -- unless he acts, NOW.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Zanmai-o-zanmai -- Last Paragraph

The founding ancestor, the Venerable Bodhidharma, after arriving from the west, went to the Shaolin temple on the Shaoshi peak of Mount Song and, facing the wall in lotus-sitting-zen, passed nine years. From that time through to the present China has bulged with brains and eyes. The lifeblood of the founding ancestor is nothing but full lotus sitting. Before the founding ancestor came from the west, living beings in eastern lands had never known full lotus sitting. Since the founding ancestor came from the west they have known it. So, through one life and ten thousand lives, from bottom to top and top to bottom, not leaving the forest, day and night, just to practise lotus sitting and be otherwise jobless -- this is the samadhi that is king of samadhis.

Translated late at night on 2nd May 2008 by one full-lotus-sitting man, an individual, through whose veins has coursed the lifeblood of the founding ancestor. As for Zen Buddhist patriarchies, from old ones like the Soto Sect to new ones like Dogen Sangha...

The lifeblood of the founding ancestor is nothing but full lotus sitting.

Cure for Hard-Heartedness?

A homeopath I see observes in me a tendency towards hard-heartedness. I generally think that my heart was broken by events, but another way of looking at it is that I caused those events through hard-heartedness. Hummm.

Now, what was that that Master Nagarjuna said about righting hearts and minds? What is the practise through which the heart tends to mend?

Does anybody know a good teacher versed in the art of allowing the body to be upright?

FM Alexander and Alfred Tomatis might have been two such teachers, but they are no longer with us.

I have been taught by their proteges -- the likes of Marjory Barlow and Paul Madaule. I have been pointed in the direction of true sitting, speaking, and listening, using the head-neck-back relation, using the voice, using the ear. And yet still I have this pain, this apparent blockage, around my heart/stomach.

Let's hope the homeopathic remedy does the trick. If not, may I blame the homeopath, along with Barlow, Madaule, Alexander and Tomatis? May I blame Gudo, along with Dogen, Nagarjuna and Gautama?

Even if I don't blame all the others, it is very difficult for me not to blame Gudo, who so crudely pulled my chin back into my neck all those years ago, compounding the tendency I already had towards stubborn rigidity.