Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Friday, December 9, 2005

Philosophy of Act (2) Philosophy of Life

A German philosopher Dilthey criticized that Idealism has become onesided to the intellectual consideration, and it lacks substance, which is much related with life. And he insists that it is necessary for philosophies to pursue the real facts, which are related with life itself, and he made his efforts to overcome the philosophies, which were devided into Idealism and Materialism. He utilizes a method of intuition to grasp the vigorous substantial facts in our daily life, and I think that such a realistic efforts also belong to the new streame of philosophy, which wants to grasp the real facts in human life with the intuitive method directly. People usually think that Nietsche, Bergson, Dilthey, Simmel, belong to this lineage too.

22 Comments:

Blogger Jundo Jim said...

Hello,

I am Jundo Jim, another "Heir" of Nishijima Roshi. That means nothing. All that means anything is how someone lives their life, and the effect they have on others through their words and actions.

The sky was beautiful today, and the winter air fresh. I would just caution against too many words and debates, about discussions about the "right" way to practice Zen.

For, in my limited view, Nishijima's message is that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to practice Zen ... because the practice of Zen is just to sit Zazen beyond right and wrong. If you do that much, then you are doing it "right."

The "philosophy of action," for me, is living in the world, picking our direction and making choices about right and wrong while, hand-in-hand, knowing that there is no place other to go, nothing ultimately to choose. The way life actually "is" versus the way we wish life "could be," what it "should be" if only things were "right" … that chasm is the measure of our suffering.

For most of us, the gap between "is" and "is not" gives birth to despair or dreaming. Anger and frustration, or wishful longing, sprout when we cannot turn life our way. That crazy Buddhist Wisdom lets us be fully at home in the world "just-as-it-is," in circumstances just as we find them.

But, without a gap, Zen Buddhism is not a philosophy of passivity. We need not but sit in bliss upon our lotus leaf, watching life pass us by. Life is to live, hope, dream and desire, to select and move on - for otherwise it is death. We live our lives abundantly, moving forward … all the while knowing that we are always truly "here," that there is no place ultimately to "go."

Anyway, that is my understanding of the "Philosophy of Action," and what I teach my own students about Nishijima.

Already too many words. Time to return to that winter air.

Gassho, Jundo

1:33 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger J&J said...

Why does Nishijima seek to interpret Zen through the lenses of physiology and philosophy? With respect, the connections seem tenuous. I don't know much about philosophy but to claim Nietsche as part of a lineage of "Realists" get my bullshit detector going.

Also what definition of realism are we using here? It seems to me that most of the idealists and all of the materialists I have met considered themselves "realists."

2:07 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

I enjoy your comment jundo jim.

3:38 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Good question, j & j -- how many thousands of times have I asked it myself, over the years.

All these bloody German thinkers. Didn’t we have to fight two world wars to defeat them? Yes, we did, and surely that is the point. Ideas are dangerous.

How was Germany defeated? I think the answer has something to do with Jewish realism, and also something to do with Anglo-American pragmatism.

Two thousand five hundred years ago a human being called Gautama become the all-enlightened Buddha, at least so I believe. How to understand the direction of world history, and the discoveries of modern science, in light of this momentous historical fact: I think that is where Nishijima Roshi is going with this Blog. But, yes, his slow and stupid way always tries one’s patience. Like a naughty boy in a philosophy class, I want it to be playtime, NOW. I am with you.

I love the honesty of your question. In it there is no attempt to curry the favour of the Great Zen Master. It contrasts sharply with the attitude of some of Nishijima Roshi‘s so-called Dharma-heirs who, following the deluded tendency which Pierre Turlur has eloquently described for us, are always trying, on some level, to advertize themselves as the real deal. Why do they annoy me so? Looking into the mirror of their behaviour, who do I see?

5:07 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Jundo Jim,

Here you are. Nice ro read you. I also quite like the content of your post. I would not caution against too many discussions about the right way to sit. Anyway, there is for most zen guys a right way, that's why they all keep correcting people's sitting, pulling this and pushing that. I believe many heirs of Nishijima do so. Don't you do it too? What you say sounds cool, but in practice, it is a different story. Beginners are corrected, it is a kind of agression because it is done with heavy and firm hands and it is also done against the very wisdom of our bodies: it is useless to adjust the body to fix the mind. All these corrections end up nowhere, the body comes back to its original position very quickly anyway. I believe that it is from within, that zazen is practiced through the intention and direction. An organic process doesn't need scaffoldings.

If being an"heir" means nothing to you, would you explain why you were against my name being included in an email list of heirs, making clear that they should be a distinction between father and sons ( children should not always listen to their parents stuff, you mentionned at the time) and therefore creating ranks among heirs themselves? Sounded cool,you might have changed your mind, but at the time it meant something to you. It meant also something to become a member of the honorable American Zen Association, didn'it?

Thank you for the tone and teaching of your post. I like what you say about crazy wisdom and I really loved the content of the letter you wrote to your dying friend. The metaphor of the plane is beautiful.

6:00 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger reallynotimportant said...

Why does Nishijima seek to interpret Zen through the lenses of physiology and philosophy? With respect, the connections seem tenuous

If you read any serious psychology (not physiology so much) and philosophy I think you'll understand.

All 3 are trying to understand what being human is all about. Zen started with trying to be in the body and in the present moment (Sitting under a tree) and moved from there. Physchology started from trying to understand the mind and negating the body (initially). Philosophy negated both the mind and the body and spoke of abstract.

I have found that Zen and Psychology overlap in some large areas of understanding - they have just arrived there from different directions. In other areas, sometimes Zen has the better answer and sometimes Psychology has the better answer.

In the west we believe we know a lot about psychology and the mind. Maybe some people do, but Joe Public does not.

Sometimes I have read both Psychology and Zen books on the same day. Sometimes I can see the psychology text trying to explain with childlike understanding what is written in the Zen books. Sometimes I think that much of Psychiatry is centuries behind where Zen already is.

As for my own bullshit detector. When I read this blog it does not read like stuff I would 'expect' a monk to write. But so what.

He seems to write what he wants to write from his understanding. He doesn't seem to give a crap whether we believe him or not. He also doesn't seem to 'feed' off or be inspired by the comments either way.

He might still be the worlds biggest bullshitter. I don't know. I really don't care. If he says stuff that makes sense to me I will read it and contemplate it. If not then not.

jundo jim: I am Jundo Jim, another "Heir" of Nishijima Roshi. That means nothing. All that means anything is how someone lives their life, and the effect they have on others through their words and actions.

Aside 1: I thought he was bald because he shaved his head. Now it seems like I was wrong. All his heirs are scatterred around the world.

Aside 2: I am the heir of no-one. Does that mean that my views are more important or less important or make no difference? Does it mean that my ego is large or smaller?

6:16 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Reallynotimportant,
Master Dogen encourages us in Fukan-zazengi to succeed authentically to the samadhi of the ancestors. I agree with you that having a certificate is absolutely no guarantee of authenticity. But the fact that there are a whole lot of unelightened egotistical phoneys in the present who do have a certificate (I do not exclude myself), does not change the fact that all Buddhist ancestors from Gautama Buddha through Master Bodhidharma, through Master Dogen and to Master Nishijima did have a certificate. So if a person doesn't have a certificate, I would tend to think that it might reflect the fact that they haven't become a truly authentic successor to the ancestors, yet. In that case, I think that Master Dogen would recommend them quickly to establish such an intention.

I notice the same thing in the Alexander world. There are hundreds of Alexander teachers who have done their three years of training and who have certificates qualifying them to teach the technique, but who utterly fail (as I see it) to grasp the depth of Alexander's discoveries. At the same time, the Alexander teachers whom I revere all, without exception, have a certificate to say they completed a 3-year training course.

7:12 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger cromanyak said...

J&J said: I don't know much about philosophy but to claim Nietsche as part of a lineage of "Realists" get my bullshit detector going.

If you go back and re-read Nishijima's post, he didn't say that Nietsche was a realist. He said, "People usually think that Nietsche, Bergson, Dilthey, Simmel, belong to this lineage too." To me he's saying that people think that these philosophers are realist, but they're not.

10:15 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger alanpitt said...

I seem to be one of the few remaining people who havent received dharma transmission and hasnt had a certificate. I would very much like one for Christmas. Can anyone oblige?

11:15 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

A student of Tendai, a philosophical school of Buddhism, came to the Zen abode of Gasan as a pupil. When he was departing a few years later, Gasan warned him: "Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly your light of truth may go out."

3:53 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger reallynotimportant said...

Who did Gautama Buddha get his Dharma Transfer or Certificate from? What did he do that we cannot?

5:25 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Maybe it was more a question of what Gautama Buddha did not do, that we cannot stop doing, because of our deep, deep, fearful wanting to grasp onto something. Just like those philosophers Nishijima Roshi describes who "want to grasp the real facts in human life with the intuitive method directly."

No amount of postural self-arrangement can relieve the suffering of the stiff neck which I have had this week. In order to allow the muscles of my neck to resume an appropriate degree of tone, it is just necessary for me to stop grasping. On some level I see it, but on some level, on a deeper level, I don't see it. Deep deep down, I am a creature of fear. And in fear I grasp.

In this situation, a certificate is of no help at all. Salvation is the intention just to sit.

6:04 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger cromanyak said...

Having a certificate doesn't mean a thing. I don't think any real teacher would tell their student not to study with someone just because they never recieved transmission. I think anyone who grasps the truth is in the same lineage, even if they've never heard of Buddhism.

11:37 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Michael said...

With due respect to you all, I think all this back-and-forth about philosophy, dharma heirs and inka (certificates of dharma transmission) makes us all sound like armchair travelers who have read every travel pamphlet in existence but who have yet to leave the house.
I'm aware that I may be exposing my ignorance and naivete here.

12:27 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger reallynotimportant said...

michael: That was my impression. I was beginning to think that all this stuff was evidence of Parrot Zen. Parrot Zen is an obscure branch of Zen where you know all the words and can repeat whole sentences, but you have no understaning of the sentences beyond how to make ths sounds.

6:45 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I suppose that my intention has been to use this Dogen Sangha Blog to manifest myself in the world as a phoney who knows that he is a phoney. I think that a phoney who knows he is a phoney might be a much more reliable interpreter of Master Dogen's teaching than a phoney who does not know he is a phoney.

Nishijima Roshi is on a different level from me altogether: he does not worry in the slightest about whether he is a phoney or not.

It is useless for me to imitate Nishijima Roshi's attitude. I am too much of an innate worrier.

So, here I am, a Zen fraud who knows that he is a fraud, preaching liberation with a stiff neck. If that is not good enough for you, I am sorry. If my words reveal to you that I do not meet your criterion for "a real teacher," I am sorry, but here I am. So far this is the best that I can do.

7:32 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Mike,

We're all trying, and most importantly, we're all in this shitstorm together.

12:35 AM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Michael said...

Reallynotimportant wrote:

"Parrot Zen is an obscure branch of Zen where you know all the words and can repeat whole sentences, but you have no understaning of the sentences beyond how to make ths sounds."

Now I know why I have such a taste for crackers.

3:01 AM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Jundo Jim San

I agree with your opinion that all that means anything is how someone lives their life, and the effect they have on others through their words and actions.

I think also that many words and debates are usually useless.

"Right" and "wrong" are usually related with intellectual consideration, but Reality is usually related with "true" or "false."

Your words that the "phylosophy of action," for you, is living in the world, picking our direction and making choices about right and wrong while, hand-in-hand, knowing that there is no place other to go, nothing ultimately to choose.

I think that you have found the Buddhist situations.

Buddhism is always neither passive nor aggresive.


For J&J San

The reason, why I utilize the Euro-American philosophy for explaining Buddhism comes from that I revere the Western Civilizations so much. Is it tenuous? I think that even though Nietsche has spent a little unhappy life, he also yearns the warm and brilliant Greek Civilization before the appearance of tragedy.

Generally speaking in the Western Civilization it is difficult for us to find Realism, because Realism is usually not included in Materialism, or Idealism.


For Lone Wolf San

I also enjoyed his comments.


For Mike Cross San

Don't you know so excellent and so beautiful lives of Idealists, even though their lives seem to be so painful?

Is Jewish realism, or Anglo-American pragmatism beautiful?

I understand the reason why you do not like to study Buddhism under me. You think that it is a kind of play for you to study Buddhism.

I think that it is usually natural for Buddhists not to like Non-Buddhists.


For Pierre Turlur San

It is very important for Buddhist Master to correct his students' posture in Zazen. Without doing so, many students have to lose their important time, not only to lose, but also to hurt their body and mind very badly.

I think that it is very important for everyone to become a Dharma Heir of some Buddhist Master. Because such a license suggests that he or she can have a Buddhist lecture authentically, and can transmit Dharma to his or her students.


For ReallyNotImportant San

Before the Renaissance it might be permissible for everyone to explain something without any scientific expalantion, but I think, after the Renaissance it might be not permissible for us to explain anything without having its scientific explanation.

I am never any specialist of psychology, or physiology, and so my scientific explanations are only my propositions for scientific speialists.

I do not belong to Zen Sect. I think that even Psychology also study both body and mind. Philosophy does never negate body and mind, too. Philosophy does never speak only the abstract, but it also speak about both body and mind.

I think that even though Zazen does not speak anything, it is just the Truth itself. Psychology speaks on Zazen, but it has not sufficiently explained Zazen at all yet.

Of course every science can never be perfect yet.

Actually speaking psychology is later about 2500 years than Gautama Buddha's teachings.

I think that in the 21st Century it is necessary for even a Buddhist monk to have some kind of scietific knowledge.

I think that everyone has his or her perfect freedom to doubt my Buddhist philosophies completely. After finishing my blog, I have become to able to write my comments.

I am sorry that I have lost one reader now.

1:20 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Jundo Jim San

I agree with your opinion that all that means anything is how someone lives their life, and the effect they have on others through their words and actions.

I think also that many words and debates are usually useless.

"Right" and "wrong" are usually related with intellectual consideration, but Reality is usually related with "true" or "false."

Your words that the "phylosophy of action," for you, is living in the world, picking our direction and making choices about right and wrong while, hand-in-hand, knowing that there is no place other to go, nothing ultimately to choose.

I think that you have found the Buddhist situations.

Buddhism is always neither passive nor aggresive.


For J&J San

The reason, why I utilize the Euro-American philosophy for explaining Buddhism comes from that I revere the Western Civilizations so much. Is it tenuous? I think that even though Nietsche has spent a little unhappy life, he also yearns the warm and brilliant Greek Civilization before the appearance of tragedy.

Generally speaking in the Western Civilization it is difficult for us to find Realism, because Realism is usually not included in Materialism, or Idealism.


For Lone Wolf San

I also enjoyed his comments.


For Mike Cross San

Don't you know so excellent and so beautiful lives of Idealists, even though their lives seem to be so painful?

Is Jewish realism, or Anglo-American pragmatism beautiful?

I understand the reason why you do not like to study Buddhism under me. You think that it is a kind of play for you to study Buddhism.

I think that it is usually natural for Buddhists not to like Non-Buddhists.


For Pierre Turlur San

It is very important for Buddhist Master to correct his students' posture in Zazen. Without doing so, many students have to lose their important time, not only to lose, but also to hurt their body and mind very badly.

I think that it is very important for everyone to become a Dharma Heir of some Buddhist Master. Because such a license suggests that he or she can have a Buddhist lecture authentically, and can transmit Dharma to his or her students.


For ReallyNotImportant San

Before the Renaissance it might be permissible for everyone to explain something without any scientific expalantion, but I think, after the Renaissance it might be not permissible for us to explain anything without having its scientific explanation.

I am never any specialist of psychology, or physiology, and so my scientific explanations are only my propositions for scientific speialists.

I do not belong to Zen Sect. I think that even Psychology also study both body and mind. Philosophy does never negate body and mind, too. Philosophy does never speak only the abstract, but it also speak about both body and mind.

I think that even though Zazen does not speak anything, it is just the Truth itself. Psychology speaks on Zazen, but it has not sufficiently explained Zazen at all yet.

Of course every science can never be perfect yet.

Actually speaking psychology is later about 2500 years than Gautama Buddha's teachings.

I think that in the 21st Century it is necessary for even a Buddhist monk to have some kind of scietific knowledge.

I think that everyone has his or her perfect freedom to doubt my Buddhist philosophies completely. After finishing my blog, I have become to able to write my comments.

I am sorry that I have lost one reader now.

1:20 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

I agree that in Buddhism the certificate is revered so much, but I do not know the situations in AT traditions at all.


For cromanyak San

Even though people usually do not think that Nietsche is a Realist, but because he belongs to Existentialists, and he yearns for the ancient and sunny Greek Civilization before the occurrence of tragedy, I interpret that he is also a philosopher, who yearns for Reality so much.


For alanpitt San

I am sure that Santa Claus will present it to you.


For Jules San

I think that what Master Gasan says is true.


For ReallyNotImportant San

I think that Gautama Buddha has got the Truth by himself, and so I think that he is only one person, who has got the Truth by himself, throughout all human beings.


For Mike Cross San

I think that even though we were so diligent in studying the Truth, if there were no Gautama Buddha, it might have been completely impossible for all human beings to be successful in getting the Truth.

Any intention to grasp something perfectly destroys the practice of Zazen.

A person, who has the certificate, does not intend to grasp anything in Zazen. Salvation is never the intention to sit, but salvation is just sitting itself.


For cromanyak San

Master Dogen proclaims in his Gakudo-Yojin-Shu, or Advices for Pursuing the Truth, that if it is impossible for anyone to get the True Buddhist Teacher, it must be much better for him not to study Buddhism.


For Michael San

It is true for us actually to travel is absolutely different from reading a guidebook of travelling. And I think that such a knowledge is never ignorance or naivete.


For ReallyNotImportant San

It can never be a Parrot Zen for everyone to notice the diffrence between to travel really and to read a guidebook.


For Mike Cross San

I think that anyone, who knows that he is a phoney, should never teach Budhism others at all.

If I notice that I am a phoney, I should never teach Buddhism to other at all. I have much ignorance, but I am never a phoney.


I hope that you will not imitate me. It might be impossible for you to do so.

I think clearly that Buddhism can never be so insincere.

3:49 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

I agree that in Buddhism the certificate is revered so much, but I do not know the situations in AT traditions at all.


For cromanyak San

Even though people usually do not think that Nietsche is a Realist, but because he belongs to Existentialists, and he yearns for the ancient and sunny Greek Civilization before the occurrence of tragedy, I interpret that he is also a philosopher, who yearns for Reality so much.


For alanpitt San

I am sure that Santa Claus will present it to you.


For Jules San

I think that what Master Gasan says is true.


For ReallyNotImportant San

I think that Gautama Buddha has got the Truth by himself, and so I think that he is only one person, who has got the Truth by himself, throughout all human beings.


For Mike Cross San

I think that even though we were so diligent in studying the Truth, if there were no Gautama Buddha, it might have been completely impossible for all human beings to be successful in getting the Truth.

Any intention to grasp something perfectly destroys the practice of Zazen.

A person, who has the certificate, does not intend to grasp anything in Zazen. Salvation is never the intention to sit, but salvation is just sitting itself.


For cromanyak San

Master Dogen proclaims in his Gakudo-Yojin-Shu, or Advices for Pursuing the Truth, that if it is impossible for anyone to get the True Buddhist Teacher, it must be much better for him not to study Buddhism.


For Michael San

It is true for us actually to travel is absolutely different from reading a guidebook of travelling. And I think that such a knowledge is never ignorance or naivete.


For ReallyNotImportant San

It can never be a Parrot Zen for everyone to notice the diffrence between to travel really and to read a guidebook.


For Mike Cross San

I think that anyone, who knows that he is a phoney, should never teach Budhism others at all.

If I notice that I am a phoney, I should never teach Buddhism to other at all. I have much ignorance, but I am never a phoney.


I hope that you will not imitate me. It might be impossible for you to do so.

I think clearly that Buddhism can never be so insincere.

3:50 PM, March 07, 2006  

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