Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Zazen(1)Zazen and Yoga

(Buddhist practice and Yoga)
Even though Zazen is a method of practice, which Gautama Buddha began for the first time in ancient India, hundreds years before that there was another special method of practice in India called Yoga. However, the philosophies, which exist behind Buddhist practice and Yoga, are completely different from each other. So it is absolutely impossible for us to identify Buddhism and Yoga together.

(Pursuit of thoughts)
Gautama Buddha noticed the existence of a very strong conflict between idealism, or sasvata-drsti, and materialism, or uccheda-drsti, which has always existed in almost all human civilizations. He thought that without solving this serious confict between the two fundamental philosophies, it would be perfectly impossible for human beings to become happy at all. The solution of this very serious problem, however, is something, which only Gautama Buddha has solved in the whole history of human beings for the first time. We have to say that it might have been completely impossible for even Gautama Buddha to be successful without sacrificing everything for sake of finding the Truth.

At first, Gautama Buddha thought that what was called the Truth might be something, which can be caught by intellectual consideration relying upon the function of human brain. So he first selected such a method. Gautama Buddha visited Alara Kalama, and made his efforts to get the thoughts that "people usually do not have anything originally." However, he recognized soon that it was impossible for anyone to be saved from their serious suffering in their real life in this way. But actually he continued his same attitudes further. He was taught the idea that "everyone should not consider anything, and furthermore should not consider even not to think," from Udraka Ramaputra. But in this case too Gautama Buddha could not be saved from all difficulties. So he noticed that no one can ever be saved only by some kind of thoughts at all, no matter what that thought might be.

(Ascetic life)
Then Gautama Buddha discovered that human beings can never get happiness by getting any kind of thoughts, and he recognized that it was completely impossible for human beings to get happiness only by getting any kind of thoughts. Therefore he decided to take a different way. Before that time, Gautama Buddha had believed that it was possible for him to get the tuth by having some kind of true thoughts. But he had experienced that such fact had not occured at all on the earth. Therefore he wanted to begin another method, which was also popular in ancient India, that is, asceticism.

In this practice in ancient India there were so many kinds of ascetic methods, and so Gautama Buddha went to the woods, where many ascetics were living together. Among them Gautama Buddha's ascetic life was very sincere and very hard. Because he want to get the truth relying upon his ascetic life, he never permited himself to have any kind of compromising attitude, and so it is said that he fell down into syncopic states several times. Because Gautama Buddha's attitude towards his ascetic life lacked any kind of compromising attitude, after beginning his very hard ascetic life, there had been rumors that "Gautama Buddha had died because of his severe ascetic trials." After such hard practice for many days, however, he noticed gradually that it was impossible for human beings to enter into a balanced and comfortable life relying upon any kind of ascetic life at all. Therefore one day he decided to stop his ascetic life completely. But the many other ascetic practioners thought that "Gutama Buddha has given up his ascetic life because of the painfulness of it." Therefore many ascetics in the woods laughed at him so severely. But Gautama Buddha, who was only sincere to grasp the Truth, did not have any kind of emotional reaction to this at all. He left the woods quietly and alone.

(Practice of Zazen)
Departing from his ascetic life, when Gautama Buddha walked dragging his feet along the Nairanjana River, a girl, called Sujata, from a nearby village, seeing Gautama Buddha's wretched style, presented some gruel boiled with animal milk. Gautama Buddha enjoyed such a small volume of guel enormously. We can easily suppose Gautama Buddha's very joyful situation when eating the small amount of gruel whole-heartedly. We can think that he might have wondered, "What is food?" "What is eating?" "What is it to live?" "What is Reality?"

After such experiences he had begun his normal life.

But his will to grasp the Truth had never become weak, and so he began another new practice. That was Zazen. Several centuries ago before Gautama Buddha was born, there was a rather special practice called Yoga in India already. It had so many kinds of posture in sitting. Gautama Buddha selected the best two postures among them, which were called the Half Lotus Posture, and the Full Lotus Posture. They said that among many kinds of Yoga postures those two were the most duifficult postures. But in the case of Gautama Buddha he selected the most difficult two postures from the beginning, and continuded the practice every day. And after practicing for several years, one day he practiced Zazen in the morning, and he looked at Venus in the Eastern sky. At that moment he noticed that he was never living in thoughts, nor living in sense perception, but he was just living in Reality.

(Realization)
This experience is the fundamental basis of Buddhist philosophy, and Gautama Buddha continued the practice of Zazen further. Before that time many Indian poeple believed in Brahmanism, which was a typical idealist philosophy. Also many poeple believed in materialism, or skepticism, which was taught by philosophers we now know as "the six non-Buddhist thinkers." Gautama Buddha found that idealism could never be the Truth, and materialism or skepticism could never be the Truth. But Realism, which he had found after his practice of Zazen, was just the Truth itself. In many miscellaneous philosophies, which have occured in human histories, almost all philosophies may belong to idealism, or materialism. But it might be almost impossible for us to find any other philosophies, which belongs to Realism. It is very strange that even though we, human beings, are always living in Reality, yet it is very rare for us to notice the important fact that we are just living in the real world. In such a meaning, we have to think about the enormously important value of Buddhism in human history. It is necessary for us to study Realism, which was found by Gautama Buddha for the first time in human history.

14 Comments:

Blogger indifferent children said...

It's great to see a new posting. I thank you for more teaching.

8:46 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger Esmerelda said...

Glad you are writing again, thank you.

1:28 AM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger ryunin said...

Yes, welcome back, roshi! Great to have the opportunity to learn from you again.

5:59 AM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you Gudo Nishijima Roshi for continuing the blog and the teachings on Zazen.

I hear to be awake is to SEE without thoughts covering your perception. Mind aware without thoughts would experience through sense perception. But you say to be awake is not living in the extreme of sense perception either. So without sense perception and without thoughts what is the reality that is left to experience?

1:23 PM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I wonder: Did Gautama Buddha sit in the full lotus posture as the realization that Realism is the Truth itself? Or did Gautama Buddha sit in the full lotus posture as the dropping off of Realism and the like?

And how about Gudo: Does Gudo sit in the full lotus posture as the realization that Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System is the Real Content of Enlightenment? Or does Gudo sit in the full lotus posture as the dropping off of Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System and the like?

5:05 PM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

I wonder: How about Mike? Does Mike sit in the full lotus posture all wrapped up in thoughts about what other people are thinking while sitting in the full lotus posture? Or does he just sit?

3:00 PM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Mike got a page of a Buddhist sutra glued to his left hand. When he tried to take it off with his right hand, the page got stuck to his right hand. But by shaking just his right hand, he could finally throw it off.

Thus, when Mike read's Gudo's blog, Mike does not believe even one word of it. Mike thinks that Gudo is just a little yellow liar, whose only legacy on this earth might be a very meagre band of little white liars.

4:21 PM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

Thank you for resuming your posts, Nishijima san. I am looking forward to your next article.

11:19 PM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger Askinstoo said...

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3:53 PM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger Dharmabum512 said...

Gudo, thanks for returning to share your wisdom,I'm a natural skeptic & I find your perception & translation of Zen very solid.Despite the foolish ramblings of Micheal Cross,who only seems to enjoy mental masturbations through a narcissistic & perverted perception,I find the rest of the comments helpfull as well.

12:03 AM, May 30, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For indifferent children San

I feel very happy to come back to my blog again.


For Esmerelda San

I feel very happy to come back to my blog again.


For ryunin San

I feel very happy to come back to my blog again.


For Lone Wolf San

I feel very happy to come back to my blog again.

In human history, some people believed that what we think is real. Therefore we human beings could believe in God. But in the modern age people are prone to believe that what we perceive is real. However, in Buddhism we think that what we think is not real and what we perceive is not real.
Because even what we perceive is just excitement of sense organs, and so it is not real. And since the middle of the 19th century human beings have begun to believe in such realistic philosophies of existentialism, phenomenology, philosophy of life, pragmatism, and so forth. Therefore I think that in near future the age of realism will come to the earth, and Buddhism will become the backbone of the new realistic age.

8:20 PM, June 17, 2006  
Blogger t-om said...

Being a brahmin himself, yogi Siddhartha probably had established a firm ground in the knowledge of brahmin philosophies already while living the princerly live. Maybe even some yoga/samkhya philosophy. To brahmins he seems to have spoken also in their own terms, for example referring to himself as one who has attained the absolute etc.

What comes to asana practice, Siddhartha is believed to have practiced also at least surya namaskaras in the mornings, a sequence of asanas mentioned in the vedas. I'm not sure at which point of his quest this is believed to have happened, but it is one way to pave way to mastering the padmasana posture (doing plain surya namaskaras is not very effective for that, though). The ability to sit long times comfortably in padmasana or other sitting meditation postures is a fruit from regular asana practice.

8:38 PM, June 17, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

I think that it is not necessary for you to worry about such a problem. Because the situation, in which Gautama Buddha realized that he is just sitting in reality, and the state in which he has lost the consciousness of body and mind are just the same as in sitting in Zazen.

I am always sitting in the balance of the autonomic nervous system. But it is just a simple fact at the present moment, and so we should think that the fact at the present moment and the theoretical explanation of the fact should be separated. Because a fact and the theoretical explanation are different from each other in their dimentions.


For Jules San

I also have the same question as you to Mike Cross San.


For Mike Cross San

Unfortunately there is nothing for me to want to get from you.

Tt is true that I am a little yellow, but I have never told anyone even a bit of wrong Buddhist philosophy at all.


For Jules San

Thank you very much for you to read my blog, and it is my best joy to tell Buddhist philosophy to others.

12:24 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Askinstoo San

Thank you very much for your kind offering, but it is rather difficult for me to understand the system of your job, and so I would like to think about the problems further.


For Dharmabum512 San

Thank you very much for your kindness to read my blog. About Mike Cross San it is very difficult for me to find any meaning in his insistence, and so recently I have decided to give up to understand his opinion at all.

12:58 PM, June 18, 2006  

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