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.