Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Monday, November 6, 2006

Gakudo-yojin-shu (7) No. 6 What we should know in practicing Zazen

The title above means that it is very important process for us to practice Zazen for studying the Truth, and so we should never despise it.
How is it permissible for us to practice it carelessly?
In the cases of ancient Masters, Master Taiso Eka cut off his arm, and Master Gutei cut off his student's finger. Those are very excellent cases in China.
In the ancient time, Gautama Buddha left his family and his state, and this was a very excellent trace in practicing the Truth.
Modern people usually say that it is better for us to practice the easiest one, which is as far as possible.
These words are exceedingly wrong, and so they do never fit the Buddhist principle absolutely.
When we make our efforts to do something as an only one practice solely, even just to lie down on the floor without doing nothing, it might be also too much painful for being boring.
And if we were boring in one factor, it is necessary for us to be boring in everything.
It is very clear that a person, who likes to be easy, might be inevitable for him not to be a
person, who has the nature to fit pursuing the Truth. Furthermore, Gautama Buddha's teachings, which are pervading throughout human societies today, have been got by the Great Master Gautama Buddha relying upon miscellaneous difficult practices and painful practices since the limitlessly long past actually.
The origine of the source was inevitably like that.
How is it possible for us, who just belong to his lineage, not to be difficult?
A person, who likes to meet the Truth, should never look for an easy practice.
If he look for an easy practice, it might be clear that he will not arrive at the true Reality without fail, and it must be provably impossible for him to arrive at the place of jewels.
The ancient Masters, who had their excellently great ability, still said that it was very difficult for them to practice the Buddhist practice.
We should notice that the Gautama Buddha's Truth are so profound and so great.
If the Buddhist teachings are easy to practice originally, how is it possible for many Buddhist practitioners, who have had so excellent ability, to say that it was very difficult for them to practice it and to understand it.
When we compare modern people with the ancient people, the difference of those kinds of people's ability, must be much more eormously many than comparing total number of each hair on fur of nine bulls with a piece of hair.
Therefore even though we would try to make our efforts comparing our small natural ability and
scarce knowledge with the ancient people's easy practice or easy understanding, it might be impossible for our efforts to arrive at their easy practice or easy understanding at all.
What the teachings of easy understanding and easy practice, which the modern people are enormously favorite, are?
They are even different from the secular principles, or Buddhist principles, inferior to the practice of idealistic demons or concrete demons, or inferior to non-Buddhists or two kinds of Hinayana Buddhists. Shall we call them as people, who are much more losing their way and are deluded than common people?
Even though they want to leave the secular societies, their life might be much more disturbed by the endless series of cause and effect.
When we observe the cases of breaking the bones, or crushing the marrow, those conducts might be never easy, but the most difficult act, which we do, is just to regulate our mental balance.
It is never easy for us to keep our pure conduct, or Buddhist action for a long time, but it is the most difficult efforts for us is to regulate our physical conduct.
If it were valuable for us to break our bones into pieces, there have been many people, who have been able to endure such a kind of pain from the ancient time, but actually it has been very rare for people, who realized the Truth.
If it were valuable for us to keep our daily life pure for a long time, there might be many people, who maintained their daily life pure, but it has been very rare for people, who crarified the Truth actually.
The reason, why such facts occur easily, comes just from that it is very hard for us to make our mind balanced.
Excellent ears or clear eyes are not so important, studying or understanding is not so important, mind, will, or consciousness, is not so important, image, thoughts, or intuition, is not so important, but we will enter into the Buddhist world directly utilizing the balance of the autonomic nervous system without relying upon miscellaneous abilities, which I quoted above.
The Great Master Gautama Buddha says that "Avalokitesvara has entered the stream, and has transcended the whole intellectual ability," and Gautama Buddha's intention must be this meaning.
In those situations, the two kinds of states, the two forms of motion and stillness do not appear at all, and that is just this harmony.
If it is possible for anyone, who has excellent ears and clear eyes, or pervasive understanding, to be able to enter into Buddhism, and then the highest student called Jinshu must be the person, who should succeed Master Daikan Eno.
If it is true for a common physical condition, or being humble and lowly, to be hatred in Buddhism, how is it possible for the Ancestral Master Daikan Enou to dare succeed Master Daiman Konin's position?
Because of such examples, it is very clear for the teachings, which can transmit Buddhism, to exisist outside excellent ears, or clear eyes, or wide understandings, absolutely.
The facts can be found relying upon research, and it is possible for us to experience the facts relying upon our reflections.
At the same time Buddhism does not hate old age, or aged situations, but a the same time, it does not hate infant, or adult.
Master Joshuu Jushin has begun to experience Buddhism when he was more than 60 years old, but it was possible for him to become a excellent and great Master in the Bhodhi Dharma's lineage.
The daughter of the Tei Family, when she was 12 years old, had studied Buddhism for a long time, and she could also be an excellent leader in the Buddhist temple.
The dignity in Buddhism manifest itself relying upon whether he or she has participated with Buddhist organization, or not, and the facts are separated by experiencing Buddhist practice, or not.
In the case of experienced teachers in the theoretical Buddhism, or expert genious in secular classics should visit Buddhist temples, where the practice of Zazen is familiar.
Such kinds of examples have existed so many.
For example, Teacher Nangaku Eshi was a genious of wide knowledge, but he studied still Buddhism under Master Bodhi Dharma.
Master Yoka Genkaku was a very excellent person in Buddhist philosophy, but he still also studied Buddhism under Master Daikan Eno.
It might be necessary for us to rely upon studying Buddhism under Buddhist Master for clarifying the Rule of the Universe, and for getting the Truth.
When we ask a question to our Buddhist Master, after listening to the Master's opinion, we should never identify the Master's opinion to our own opinion.
If we identify the Master's opinion to our own opinion, we can never get the Master's opinion itself.
When we visit a Master to ask the Rule of the Universe, we should make our body and mind clean, and have our eyes and ears serene, for just listening to the Master's opinion without mixing any other's opinion at all.
In such situations the Master's body and mind have fused with the diciple's body and mind, and the Master's teachings are poured into the disciple's body and mind as if a cup of water has been poured from the Master's cup into the diciple's cup without fail.
If the situations are just like this, the diciple can get the Master's Dharma exactly.
Nowadays, however, stupid and dull people, sometimes remember what they read in a book, or sometimes they maintain what they listened to in the past, and they identify those ideas with their Master's words.
In that siuations, even though there are only their own ideas, or the old expressions of words, but they haven't understood their own Master's words at all yet.
And in another case, there are some kinds of another group, where they revere their own ideas first, and then they open some Buddhist Sutras, and they remember one or two words from the Stras, and utilizing those words they insist that what they have slightly memorized is just the Buddhist teachings.
And later, when they have chance to listen to lectures of excellent Masters, or our lineal Masters, if those lectures sound well to the audience of own opinion, they affirm the lectures of those Masters, and if those lectures do not sound well to the existing old opinion of them, they refuse the lecturers' insistence.
They do not know the method of throwing away wrong opinions, and so how is it possible for them to climb up for arriving at the Truth itself?
Even though they have passed limitlessly many Ages, they might be still travellers, who have lost their own way completely. They might be endless travellers, who are absolutely pitiable. How will it be possible for anyone not to worry about such a pitiful condition?
All Buddhist practitioners should notice that the Buddhist Truth just exists outside consideration, distinction, supposition, intuition, perception, or intellect.
If the Buddhist Truth actually exists inside those intellectual areas, we, human beings, are always existing inside those areas, and so we are always playing with those intellectual matter, but why is it impossible for us to realize the Buddhist Truth even today?
In pursuing the Truth, we should never utilize consideration, or distiction.
If we, who are almost always keeping considerations, would check ourselves in detail, it might be very clear as if we were looking at a very bright mirror directly.
The gate, through which we should enter, has been indicated so clearly by Masters of our own lineage already.
It can never be known by Buddhist teachers, who only rely upon the method of literal characters solely, at all.
This was written on the day after 15 days later than the vernal equinox.

(Comment)

In this chapter, Master Doge insists that it is the most important task for us to practice Zazen and to study Buddhism in our human life. However, in this world, how many people do they have the same ideas like that?
Some people are working so hard for getting a little bit higher social position, and some people are very diligent to get a bit of money so cinserely. In such situations of human societies, is it possible for us to be sure in the existence of the real Truth? Is it possible for us to believe in the only one possibility of the Truth in the human societies like this? Frankly speaking, it might be impossible for us to say that in the human societies, where our human beliefs are divided into the two powerful philosophies of idealism and materialism, it might be perfectly impossible for us to believe in the only one existence of the Truth actually. But if we stand upon the Buddhist Realism, there will be possibility to have a chance to expect the only one possibility of existing Truth. Therefore if we, human beings, want to believe in the existence of the only one Truth, and continue pursuing the Truth, first it is necessary for us to dispell the illusions of both idealism and materialism perfectly.

At the next point in this chapter, Master Dogen strongly refuses the common attitudes of human beings to like to follow an easier way. Of course, Buddhism can never be an ascetic philosophy at all, and so we should never pursue any kind of painful condition in Buddhist practice at all. But at the same time it is necessary for us not to select easier one because of only to be easy. The Buddhist Truth is just only one Truth, which transcends both being easy and being difficult. Therefore Mastr Dogen insist that if we discuss whether it is difficult, or not, when we are beginning to pursue the Truth, such attitudes might be completely opposite to pursue the Truth.

And furthermore in this chapter, Master Dogen insists that the grasping the Buddhist Truth is irrelevant to cosideration, decision, supposition, intuition, perception, and even understanding.
And when we consider this insistence from the viepoint of intellectual philosophies, it might seem to be so much ridiculous idea. But when we noticed that the Buddhist Truth does not related with our intellectual ability, but it is just ralated with the distinction whether the autonomic nervous system is balanced, or not, we can clearly understand the fundamental basis of Gautama Buddha's teachings. Therefore it is necessary for us to recognize the fact that the Buddhist Realism is always related with the human conditions, whether our autonomic nervous system is balanced, or not, just at the present moment. The simple fact like that has been existing since the first birth of human beings, but it has been necessary for us to find it for waiting the 19th or 20th century. Therefore I feel sometimes so happy that I am just living in the 21st century.

Therefore we should think that it is impossible for us to realize the Buddhist Truth relying upon only verbal letters, or words, but it is necessary for us to practice Zazen everyday to keep our autonomic nervous system balanced. And without such efforts to make our autonomic nervous system balanced, it is impossible for us to touch the Reality directly. Therefore we can say that it is just the human duty for us to keep the autonomic nervous system balanced. Recently in our human societies, we can notice the historical facts, that the training in sports, performaces in music or drama, the very big scale of scientific experiments, or fieldworks, and I think that such kinds of historical tendencies suggest that the human civilization has become entered into the very gorgeous and sunny age of Realism already. Therefore I think that it might be human duty for us to destroy the old and wrong two strong philosophical systems of idealism and materialism, which have finished their own so remarkably and valuably excellent Ages already.

35 Comments:

Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ted, [if you are still around]

Thank you for posting up the Koan "Hermit, Monk, Tiger" (Pi Yen Lu, Case 85, Trans. Thomas Cleary).

I cannot be sure of your intent but nonetheless I found it useful. It is not one that I was aware of (no big surprise there!)

If you wish to see what my thoughts are on that particular koan then you will not find the answer directly on my blog and yet the answer is there in my recent posts.

Whether or not my understanding of the koan is 'correct' is of no concern to me. I have found it useful and it has become part of me.

Irony duly noted given my previous comments on Koans.

Mike.

6:15 AM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Master Nishijima,

Thank you for your translation and your comment.

You wrote, “Master Dogen insists that it is the most important task for us to practice Zazen and to study Buddhism in our human life.”

I thank you for emphasizing the importance that Master Dogen placed on both “practicing Zazen” and “to study Buddhism.”

Something I did not understand was what you meant by: “But if we stand upon the Buddhist Realism, there will be possibility to have a chance to expect the only one possibility of existing Truth. Therefore if we, human beings, want to believe in the existence of the only one Truth, and continue pursuing the Truth first it is necessary for us to dispel the illusions of both idealism and materialism perfectly.”

What is “Buddhist Realism”? Is it something different than Buddhism?

Also, when you say that for pursuing the Truth the “first” thing that is necessary is to “dispel the illusions of both idealism and materialism,” do you mean to say that it is more important to dispel these two particular “illusions,” than any of the other numerous “illusions” people live by, like “naturalism,” for example?

I have just one more question, about your use of the term, “Zazen.” Do you use this term as strictly meaning, “sitting meditation,” or is it the same as what Dogen means, for example, in Shobogenzo, Genjokoan:

“When we use the whole body-and-mind to look at forms, and when we use the whole body-and-mind to listen to sounds, even though we are sensing them directly, it is not like a mirror’s reflection of an image, and not like water and the moon.”
Shobogenzo, Genjokoan, Nishijima & Cross

Thank you for your time.

Gassho, Ted

3:12 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear MikeDoe,

You are welcome for the koan posting. I am glad you found it useful.

Perhaps you will like this one, which I think makes a similar point:

A monk asked Ta Kuang, "Chang Ching said, 'Joyful praise on the occasion or a meal'--what was the essence of his meaning?"

Ta Kuang did a dance. The monk bowed. Kuang said, "What have you seen, that you bow?" The monk did a dance. Kuang said, "You wild fox spirit!"
Pi Yen Lu, Case 93, Trans. Thomas Cleary & J.C. Cleary

Ha! I hope you enjoy it.

Gassho, Ted

3:22 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you very much Gudo Nishijima Sensei.

3:23 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ted,

[My understanding of both Koans may of course be inaccurate or wrong]

Their are similarities but the two koans taste quite different to me.

{achoo} I feel an analogy comming on.

When I look at the recipe for an omlette and a pancake they both look quite similar - eggs, milk and a frying pan. If I look at and study the recipes for both I could think that I have reached an understanding of them. It is only by cooking and tasting that I can actually discover the difference between the two.

Now, when I make pancakes I do not use a recipe. Instead I first mix milk and eggs together. I then add flour (and maybe sugar or salt) until it feels like a pancake mix. Am I still following the recipe?

Even if your only desire was to read and enjoy recipes that is not the way that recipes are understood.

I think it would not hurt you in the least to spend a lot more time cooking.

Mike.

5:30 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear MikeDoe,

Thank you for your comment.

Yes, very true. I have been making pancakes for 30 years, but todays pancakes are not yesterday's pancakes.

Gassho, Ted

5:17 AM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ted,

I'm sorry to hear this.

"I have been making pancakes for 30 years, but todays pancakes are not yesterday's pancakes."

I almost hesitate to mention the word 'souffle' to you.

Maybe it's something to aim for once your pancakes are consistent?

6:14 PM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

enough with the cooking metaphors already! lol

7:48 PM, November 11, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

A person who is white with fear can recognize fear. A person who is red with fear can recognize fear. A person who is golden in Buddhism cannot recognize anything called “balance of the autonomic nervous system.”

Zen Master Dogen was just the golden body of Buddha, who pursued the truth fearlessly. But he never had any concept of the autonomic nervous system. So I think that a modern day translator who rams his own concept of the autonomic nervous system into Master Dogen’s words is not accurate, not reliable, and not true.

It is a kind of intellectual arrogance, a kind of gap.

For many years I suffered Gudo’s criticism of Western intellectual arrogance. It took me a long time to realize Gudo was just looking into a mirror and criticizing himself.

Even though the old bastard is like this, he is trying to say something truly valuable and important. Unfortunately, however, as soon as he opens his mouth to speak, out comes something about the autonomic nervous system.

The task of the partnership between Gudo and I was first, as one process, to produce an authentic, literal translation (not interpretative) of Master Dogen’s own words. Then, as a separate process, to clarify Master Dogen’s idea as clearly as possible in our own words.

Unfortunately, however, the process was fucked up by Gudo’s fearful reaction to me leaving Japan to investigate Alexander’s discoveries.

You stupid old bastard. Instead of trying to keep your autonomic nervous system balanced, why didn’t you keep an eye on your own deluded fear?

When girls sleep together in a dormitory, their menstrual cycles tend to harmonize with each other. If you put several grandfather clocks in a room together, the pendulum of each will tend to harmonize its rhythm with all the others. The Universe likes order. Can it all be explained by balance of the autonomic nervous system? No, it fucking well can’t.

Gudo is proud of his discovery of the importance of the autonomic nervous system. In that pride there is a gap.

In Fukan-zazen-gi Master Dogen does not write anything about the autonomic nervous system. But he very clearly cautions us against that kind of gap.

Looking into Gudo's mirror, I am enraged by the intellectual arrogance of a person who thinks he has got the answer.

The mirror principle never fails.

8:55 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

The Buddha’s teaching is not only an idea. It is a real state to be realized, and a concrete way to be obeyed.

Speaking from my own personal experience of 25 years of struggle, I would like to express my conclusion that to realize the state and follow the way is not difficult.

Clearly knowing that it is not only an idea but a real state, Gudo calls it “balance of the autonomic nervous system.” But it is not that.

Because Gudo’s teaching is a real state which is not what Gudo writes and not what Gudo thinks, I make my crude and unskillful effort to obey it, to clarify it, and to express it. Almost all of the time I fail.

Sometimes I manifest a false pretense of knowing. But even that is only a manifestion of my true state of struggle.

To realize the state and follow the way is not difficult. It is extremely, extremely difficult. On that point, between Gudo and me, there is no gap.

7:01 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

Mike,

They say the definition of insanity is to repeat the same actions over and over again expecting different results.

Your posts to this blog are a good example of this. Has ramming your head against the wall made your headache go away yet?

A friend of mine mentioned being taught the Alexander technique in school recently and i found i had an instantly negative reaction to his words. Then i realized it was because i now associate AT with your maniacal writings.

g

3:35 AM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Ted,

You wrote ...

What is “Buddhist Realism”? Is it something different than Buddhism?

Also, when you say that for pursuing the Truth the “first” thing that is necessary is to “dispel the illusions of both idealism and materialism,” do you mean to say that it is more important to dispel these two particular “illusions,” than any of the other numerous “illusions” people live by, like “naturalism,” for example?


May I take a swing at this? I just came from observing my wife's Aikido class ... the Sensei there also just likes to observe the students' tripping over themselves. He steps in when needed.

In my experience, Nishijima's point is very simple:

In Nishijima's meaning, "Idealism" is a general term (both in Eastern and Western philosophy, but also in out daily lives) for hoping or expecting the world (and our lives in it ... not separate, by the way) to be any other way than just-the-way-it-is. It is thinking of how the world and our lives "should be" or "could be" "if only" something were otherwise, better, put "right." It can range from wanting fate to take a north turn when a south turn comes, to hoping for some God in Heaven (or Buddha's Satori) to make it all "better" when the kingdom finally appears.

In contrast, "materialism" is any perspective by which this world as it is (and our lives in it ... both one thing and two) is just cold, dead, meaningless, pointless matter, we are born/we reproduce/we die/end of story, etc.

The "Realism" of Buddhism is the perspective that our world-life is just-what-it-is, nothing to add to it or take away, no place else to go than where we are, turning north when things turn north and south when things turn south. Yeah!!

That does not mean, by the way, that we need sit passively, not wishing to make our selves and the world different or better. We are not in an opiated state. We (sailors like you) try to navigate the vessel of our lives as we think best, heading down the course we think it best to head in ... north when we think our destination north, south when we think that best, moment-by-moment. All the while, however, we know that things go as they go, the wind will ultimately blow us as the wind blows no matter how we set the sails (yet, set the sails we must!). Thus, Nishijima also calls Buddhism a philosophy of "Action," of living and being, here and now, moment by moment, step by step.

Then, says Nishijima, forget all this chit-chat and bullshit. Just sit and put the "philosophy of action" into "stillness-action" (if I may coint that term just now). When mind-body is in balance, in Zazen, it is simple as pie. Yes, right then world/your-life/Zazen are one thing.

Anyway, I hope (no need of hoping really) that this answer helps you ... all the while knowing that you are not requiring help.

Gassho, Jundo

3:28 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

To find examples of the spontaneous flow of water directly downward, e.g. in waterfalls and raindrops, is not so difficult in nature. Similarly, to find examples of human beings enjoying balance of the autonomic nervous system is not so difficult in the world -- for example, at work, in sport, doing hobbies, et cetera.

To find examples of the spontaneous flow of water directly upward, e.g. in a geyser, is much more difficult in nature.

We clever human beings can artificially create the conditions for a spontaneous flow of water directly upwards, as when we build fountains, or point a garden hose up in the air. But to find a person who is skillful in allowing such a spontaneous upward flow in themself, is very difficult. I believe that Gautama Buddha was such a person, and Master Dogen was such a person.

In my practice and experience, the practice and experience of the state that Master Dogen compared to the state of a tiger before its mountain stronghold, is the practice and experience of a spontaneous upward flow of which I am an integral part. It took me 25 years of difficult practice to become able to practice and experience this state even a little. But even after 25 years, and even when I am aided by breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings, I still cannot access it so easily.

Gautama Buddha used as a symbol of the state of enlightenment a fact which is even more difficult to observe that the spontaneous upward flow of water in nature, and that is the blooming in nature of the udumbara flower.

It is not right that Gudo’s so-called Dharma-heirs should write their own books and commentaries on Master Dogen’s teaching as if Master Dogen’s teaching were an idea that they had understood already. It seems to me that Michael Luetchford, Brad Warner, James Cohen, et cetera, have only borrowed the inaccurate ideas of a man on a stupid and straight way who sees the target but invariably misses it. Luetchford, Warner and Cohen do not even see the target. They haven’t got their own enlightenment at all.

That James Cohen presumes to intervene on Gudo's behalf in order to clarify Gudo's teaching, is very very wrong, in my view.

Whether this viewpoint is only my arrogance or not, I do not know. But this is my real feeling.

I wonder whether Gudo understands the situation, or not.

6:44 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Mike 'Tigger' Cross:

"In my practice and experience, the practice and experience of the state that Master Dogen compared to the state of a tiger before its mountain stronghold ... It took me 25 years of difficult practice to become able to practice and experience this state even a little.."

Sometimes you write honestly. Mostly not.

There is little in what you write that suggests you know about what you write.

Often I think you have swallowed the words and missed the teachings of Dogen.

25 years of struggle is not something to boast about. It just marks you as a slow learner.

After 25 years of struggle a wise man might consider the fact that struggle is not working and that something else might be worth a try.

You fight with everything and everyone. If there is not fight around you start one. Mostly though you fight with yourself and the imaginary demons that you create.

My understanding of Zazen and of Fukan Zazengi is that Zazen is 'simply' allowing yourself to be and allowing the world to be and accepting both fully in their 'is-ness'. Its essence is passive not agressive. It is a giving up of struggle rather than continuing to struggle.

7:56 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

I'm really struck by a pattern that I'm seeing.
Meditation practictioners who fixate on special states and transcendence are insane, or heading toward insanity.
I've read accounts by those such as Mike Cross, followers of Andrew Cohen and Adi Da, etc.
These people are deluded. They chase after special experiences and become more and more caught in trying to attain those states.
In my experience, those states do not last at all. Nothing i've read suggests that they do. And when they do, it usually means the person has gone totally over the deep end.
Good luck to anyone who attempts this foolish path. Meditation should reveal more and more ordinariness. More stability. Less grasping. less bullshit. Less incomprehensible gobbledygook. But people WANT gobbledygook because it is preferable to the boredom and tedium of life.
Enjoy your gobbledygook Mike!

g

12:28 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Meditation should reveal more and more ordinariness. More stability. Less grasping. less bullshit. Less incomprehensible gobbledygook. But people WANT gobbledygook because it is preferable to the boredom and tedium of life.

Thank you for this, Gniz. Absolutely right, if I may offer my personal opinion. Like the close friend who's the only person in the world to honestly tell you that you have bad breath, I hope that there is ever somebody around to tell me when I fail the bullshit test. I have no idea how Laddi Da is, but will google him.

The only thing I would add to your comment is that the ordinariness of it all is anything but ordinary, is it not?

Thanks and Gassho

5:14 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

And to top that off, i dont know if the ordinary every becomes less ordinary because its so awesomely ordinary! I dont know about that.

I do know that at times i've hidden behind my meditation and hoped that it would make the moment more bearable. it doesnt. If it does, its because i'm doing it with some fantasy in mind.

Life is just life. Its strange and weird and complex and difficult unless its not.

And people who want to chase after states (as I have done in the past) will become even weirder and less happy. As evidenced by at least one person on this board.

BTW, its Adi Da. Google him. Google Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, Gangaji, Poonjaji, all of these advaita people...Big Mind, etc etc.

While you're at it, google Gudo and Brad. Because they worship at the shrine of Dogen and Soto Zen which i find equally distasteful.
g

5:37 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Jundo,

Thank you for your input. Does master Nishijima approve of your comment on his meaning?

You wrote:
“In Nishijima's meaning, "Idealism" is a general term (both in Eastern and Western philosophy, but also in out daily lives) for hoping or expecting the world (and our lives in it ... not separate, by the way) to be any other way than just-the-way-it-is. It is thinking of how the world and our lives "should be" or "could be" "if only" something were otherwise, better, put "right." It can range from wanting fate to take a north turn when a south turn comes, to hoping for some God in Heaven (or Buddha's Satori) to make it all "better" when the kingdom finally appears.”

I am familiar with the philosophy of Idealism; although your definition does not match any of the schools of its thought that I know of. Does master Nishijima define it as you do? (In both Eastern and Western philosophy, Idealism posits the notion that mind and spiritual meaning are the essential elements in the universe).

You wrote:
“In contrast, "materialism" is any perspective by which this world as it is (and our lives in it ... both one thing and two) is just cold, dead, meaningless, pointless matter, we are born/we reproduce/we die/end of story, etc.”

I am also familiar with the various philosophical forms of materialism. Here, your definition accords with what is regarded as “extreme materialism,” which has not had any credible exponents for many years.

You wrote:
“The "Realism" of Buddhism is the perspective that our world-life is just-what-it-is, nothing to add to it or take away, no place else to go than where we are...“That does not mean, by the way, that we need sit passively, not wishing to make our selves and the world different or better. We are not in an opiated state. We (sailors like you) try to navigate the vessel of our lives as we think best, heading down the course we think it best to head in ... north when we think our destination north, south when we think that best, moment-by-moment. All the while, however, we know that things go as they go, the wind will ultimately blow us as the wind blows no matter how we set the sails (yet, set the sails we must!). Thus, Nishijima also calls Buddhism a philosophy of "Action," of living and being, here and now, moment by moment, step by step.”

First of all, “Realism,” is also a philosophy. Realism posits the view that there is an objective world that exists independently of our perception, which of course is a sharp contrast to “Idealism.”

Your definitions … “our world-life is just-what-it-is, nothing to add to it or take away, no place else to go than where we are… All the while, however, we know that things go as they go, the wind will ultimately blow us as the wind blows no matter how we set the sails…” etc. Is an almost perfect illustration of the philosophy of “Naturalism,” which, you must know, Zen Master Dogen repudiates with great passion in the Shobogenzo.

The way I understand it, Buddhism is the rightly transmitted Buddha-Dharma, and not a philosophical school. As my question to master Nishijima was not about the definitions of the various philosophical schools of thought, but if he thought that holding to the views of the two philosophies of “Materialism” and “Idealism” were somehow more dangerous than holding to the views any other philosophy.

I assume that you must have misunderstood master Nishijima, and he does not hold to the definitions you attribute to him (which would seem to place him in direct opposition to Zen Master Dogen).

I hope to hear from you on whether master Nishijima approves of your “interpretation” of his meaning.

Thanks again for your efforts.

Gassho, Ted

6:41 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Hi Ted,

As far as I know (Nishijima Roshi, please comment if I have it wrong), my description of Nishijima's use of "Idealism" "Materialism" "Realism" and "Action/Being" conveys the ways he uses those terms. I found them so when I translated one of his books awhile back (plug, plug):

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/
booksearch/
isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=
1589612124&itm=2

One thing I have discovered about Nishijima Roshi, and that threw me off for quite awhile about his writing (besides the language issues), is that he is actually trying to describe mostly very orthodox, traditional Zen and Buddhist teachings in his own way, with his own personal wording and with a modern flavor. But, as far as I know, he uses the terms in the way I said. For example, "Idealism" in Nishijima's meaning is anything from a hoped for messiah, to a view of some "heaven" (in contrast to which this earth is a shadow), to a promised political or social "Revolution" that will bring "justice once and for all", to even our hoping in our personal lives that we don't get flat tires, broken relationships or cancer when flat tires, broken relationships and cancer are in the cards. Any view that holds that this life/world would be better or should be someway other than it is = "idealism."

Yes, "idealism" and "materialism" can have other meanings in philosophy (just as you point out), but Nishijima means them as I describe, I believe.

One thing I would question you on is that I was describing "naturalism" when I said "we know that things go as they go, the wind will ultimately blow us as the wind blows no matter how we set the sails." I believe that naturalism can be described as:

In Philosophy. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
In Theology. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.


I would disagree with you because (as far as my understanding) neither Dogen or Nishijima are focused on describing the causes of why the world is the way it is, but just are focused on accepting the world the-way-it-is as opposed to contrasting it with a way it could be otherwise. This is what is meant by "realism" in Nishijima's view. Just to give you an example (and here, this may be more my own thinking than Nishijima's), Zen Buddhism is a form of agnosticism that is so embracing of "the way things are" that it would accept whatever the cause(s) of life. For example, if the cause of our lives is just a random Big Bang and evolutionary dice role in a directionless universe ... no problem, just keep fetching water and chopping wood. If the cause of our lives is some god with a white beard who created adam and eve, and if the messiah were to appear in my living room tonight ... no problem, just keep fetching water and chopping wood. Of course, I personally do not put much stock in (or have any personal need for) messiahs and such, but if one appeared in my living room, that would be "the way the world is." I would offer him dinner.

Which leads me to something Gniz said ...

Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, Gangaji, Poonjaji, all of these advaita people...Big Mind, etc etc.

While you're at it, google Gudo and Brad. Because they worship at the shrine of Dogen and Soto Zen which i find equally distasteful.


I am so much of an agnostic that (while personally I think that Ken Wilbur, Gangaji, Adyashanti and such are full of new age malarky and are doing just what you describe Gniz) whether they are right or wrong would not effect my Zen practice one way or the other. I will still embrace things as they are, flat tires, broken relationships and cancer, as well as childrens' smiles and chocolate ice cream.

As well, I recently wrote the following to someone ...

[We need to avoid a tendency] to idealize (and turn into a "religion of Idealism") Roshi's own teachings decrying "religions of idealism." Roshi's words, and Master Dogen and the Shobogenzo, can be made into idealized objects of fetish. ... In the end, we must not to put Buddha, Dogen, Shobogenzo or such up on any high altar, but make their teachings come alive in our ordinary, daily lives. Ours is a "proof is in the pudding" teaching, and if this does not work in our boring, emotionally and physically trying, ordinary lives than it has no practical value. In the end, the reason I lend an ear to Nishijima Roshi is much more than his words, or from any expectation that he be perfect all the time (who of us are?), but arises from his simple smile, and the balance he seemingly exhibits both in sitting and living in that little room of his.

I would disagree with you, Gniz, in saying that Brad and Nishijima are "worshiping at the shrine of Dogen" etc., because all three of us, I think, are pretty practical about these teachings, and "proof is in the pudding" people. Otherwise, what's the point?

Anyway, time to sit.

Peace, J

2:37 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

What is called Zazen, or “sitting-meditation,” is the practice and experience that perfectly realizes the supreme, rightly directed, balanced and integrated state of bodhi, that is, the Buddha’s enlightenment.

This is the Buddha’s teaching -- a real state, not an idea, not an -ism. The Buddha’s teaching, ultimately, is far beyond Gudo Nishijima’s Buddhism.

The Buddha’s teaching is a real state, but it is not only balance of the autonomic nervous system. Because it includes the meaning of spontaneous activity and conscious reflection through the whole body, not only the autonomic nervous system. It includes the meaning of waking.

Waking UP.

Master Dogen’s instruction is to think this state. Not think ABOUT it. THINK it. How? Non-thinking.

In short, think this real state of the Buddha’s enlightenment which is beyond thinking. How? Non-thinking.

To get this intention is not difficult. It is very, very difficult. Even having got it already, it is very difficult to get it again.

How wonderful it is, here in the 21st century, to be meeting and struggling with this real difficulty. There again, how very, very difficult it is to explain to others what this real difficulty is.

In the Buddha's time, there was a Buddhist teacher like James Cohen, and also in Master Bodhidharma's time, and also in Master Dogen's time, and also now in the 21st century. Such Buddhist teaching exists as concretely as a rock, a chemical compound, a fire; as concretely, as fences, walls, tiles and pebbles. Truly it may be that the transmission is unbroken from the Buddha's time to today. Even if Gudo remains silent, Jundo Jim, I clearly affirm your real existence.

5:53 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Mike 'Tigger' Cross:

"Waking UP.

Master Dogen’s instruction is to think this state. Not think ABOUT it. THINK it. How? Non-thinking.

In short, think this real state of the Buddha’s enlightenment which is beyond thinking. How? Non-thinking.

To get this intention is not difficult. It is very, very difficult. Even having got it already, it is very difficult to get it again. "


You are confusing many things here.

"Just Wake up" was an instruction by dogen and not hinting at some temporary altered state.

Non-thinking is just a natural consequence of waking up.

In order to practice non-thinking it is necessary to take away (even temporarily) the reason for thinking.

THERE IS NO MAGIC ALTERED STATE TO EITHER PRACTICE OR ATTAIN.

It is just ordinary mind.

6:38 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Mike 'Tigger' Cross:

"Waking UP.

Master Dogen’s instruction is to think this state. Not think ABOUT it. THINK it. How? Non-thinking.

In short, think this real state of the Buddha’s enlightenment which is beyond thinking. How? Non-thinking.

To get this intention is not difficult. It is very, very difficult. Even having got it already, it is very difficult to get it again. "


You are confusing many things here.

"Just Wake up" was an instruction by dogen and not hinting at some temporary altered state.

Non-thinking is just a natural consequence of waking up.

In order to practice non-thinking it is necessary to take away (even temporarily) the reason for thinking.

THERE IS NO MAGIC ALTERED STATE TO EITHER PRACTICE OR ATTAIN.

It is just ordinary mind.

6:38 PM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

Mike Doe,

I have a response i've written to your blog.

Its on my blog-come check it out.

7:27 AM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Jundo,

Thanks for your response.

You wrote:

“As far as I know … my description of Nishijima's use of "Idealism" "Materialism" "Realism" and "Action/Being" conveys the ways he uses those terms.”

Okay. Since you are a student of his, and as you make clear, are trusted enough to translate his books, have you ever thought to mention the implications of using these terms like that to him? I mean, if someone uses a term but defines it with a totally different meaning than the commonly understood meaning, it could lead to a great deal of confusion. Perhaps you could suggest he put his new meanings in parentheses or something.

You also wrote:

“One thing I would question you on is that I was describing "naturalism" when I said "we know that things go as they go, the wind will ultimately blow us as the wind blows no matter how we set the sails." I believe that naturalism can be described as:

In Philosophy. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
In Theology. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.”

First of all, when you cut and past a quotation you should be careful not to indicate that this is “your” definition by indicating the source (in this case part of definition 3, and definition 4 of, The Microsoft Bookshelf Basics – Dictionary). Second, you should either quote it fully, or indicate that it is a partial quote by using three periods like… Third, as a translator you should know that The Microsoft Bookshelf Basics – Dictionary is not the most reliable dictionary, especially for philosophy or religion. For instance, I doubt that you would concur with its definition of Zen Buddhism:

Zen Buddhism noun
A Chinese and Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition…
The Microsoft Bookshelf Basics – Dictionary

With this in mind, I am sure you can understand my dismissal of your critique about what you “believe naturalism can be described as.”

Jundo, quit trying so hard. You have nothing to prove, do you? If you don’t know, just say you don’t know… Even Bodhidharma said it from time to time. (He is traditionally considered to be the founder of Zen in China, in case you did not know.)

Thanks again, now, back to the cushion with you.

Gassho, Ted

4:16 PM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Ted,

Thank you for the comment. Yes, blogging (and Google) can make one intellectually lazy. I am sorry that I reached for the handy web definition. Perhaps Wikipedia would be better?? :-)

So, what is your definition of "naturalism" that causes you to think it my perspective?

I must confess that it does not really matter to me. I have not been able to take much of an interest in many of the "angels on the head of a pin" debates of Western philosophy, since starting this Zen thing about 3 decades ago, in my searching youth ... when such things seemed to matter more. (I feel the same about many of the arcane and silly philosophical debates of some schools of Buddhism). I do not need debate on the true nature of vanilla ice cream, or more books on the subject ... I just need the taste on my tongue and to not question the wholeness of the experience.

From that perspective, I believe that it does not matter whether Nishijima's use of his words comport with other peoples' or not (although I have mentioned your point to him before ... he has said that their use of the terms should comport with his) ...

The reason is that his words are just his words. just what they are, his insights just his insights, and the life-world he describes just-what-it-is, nothing at all to add or take away. When something is that unneedful of change, why fix it? We best all forget the words (the packaging) and remember the ice cream.

Back to the cushion for both of us?! :-)

Gassho, Lazy Bones

6:12 PM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Master Dogen’s teaching of oneness of means and end, also, is more difficult than we are prone to realize.

Under the bodhi tree, Gautama Buddha not only experienced anuttara-samyak-sambodhi; he also practiced it.

In emphasizing this point, Zazen practitioners of the so-called Soto Sect sometimes stress the means and seem to think light of the end. I also have fallen into that trap.

But Master Dogen’s original teaching is not like that. Master Dogen’s teaching is that means and end are one.

Under the bodhi tree, Gautama Buddha not only practiced anuttara-samyak-sambodhi; he also experienced it.

Even though the path to bodily sitting in the full lotus posture may seem to be filled with pain and difficulty, we need not worry about the pain and difficulty. Not worrying about the pain and difficulty, we will realize the aim of bodily sitting in the full lotus posture. Gudo taught me like that when I was 22, and Gudo’s teaching turned out within two or three years to be true.

Similarly, even though the problem of the Buddha’s enlightenment is so difficut, we should not respond unconsciously to this difficulty by thinking and saying that only the means is real, not the end.

Not worrying about the difficulty, we should not lose our will to enlightenment, our bodhicitta.

The state which Gautama Buddha practiced and experienced under the Bodhi tree was utterly real, utterly beyond thinking.

When a person today sits in the full lotus posture and thinks that real state which is beyond thinking, this also might be a bit of bodhicitta manifesting itself.

What does it mean to think that real state?

It is not what people understand as thinking.

To get the point of this koan has been difficult for me. While just expressing the means, it only makes sense in light of the end. To cause others to get the point also must be difficult, inevitably.

I am grateful to have been reminded, by Gudo’s comments on this post, not to be discouraged by the difficulty.

6:38 AM, November 18, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Jundo,

Thanks for your comment.

You wrote:

"So, what is your definition of "naturalism" that causes you to think it my perspective? I must confess that it does not really matter to me."

My definition on naturalism is pretty much in line with the one Dogen defines throughout the Shobogenzo (In Bussho, for example). But nevermind that. If it does not really matter to you, then why do you persist in attacking my comments without bothering to understand what I am saying? If you really want to communicate, fine. If you just want to demonstrate how wise you are and how unenlightened I am, don't bother. I happily admit that I do not understand Buddhism. You are much wiser than I.

Gassho, Ted

12:30 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Ted,

I have been reading your Buddhist prose for a while and I am impressed by you ability to quote. Just an ability. And then you turn into the "I don't know much about it", " I don't understand it" after having given lessons about how to quote and what is this or that.

It seems to me like a mind game. Nothing genuine. It sounds that you are completly caught in the head, don't worry, you are not the only one for I am a scholar too, an ex University teacher.

Relax. Sit. Throw your books away. There is something very wise about what James says. Can't you hear it? Why always filtering the beautiful voice of things as they are?

take care

11:16 AM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Pierre Turlur,

Thank you for your comments.

You wrote:

"Relax. Sit. Throw your books away."

I do enjoy relaxing and sitting (and probably spend too much time doing both. Ha!) But I do not know why I would want to throw my books away. For some time, they, along with my teacher have been very helpful in teaching me how to relax and how to sit.

I have found Zen master Dogen's teachings especially helpful in this regard. I only visit this blog in order to share my own experience with it, and learn from the experience of others that have found the teachings of master Dogen as inspiring and helpful as I.

You also wrote:

"There is something very wise about what James says. Can't you hear it?"

I keep trying, but it seems as if he and I have just not had the same experience. Perhaps he is just speaking from a level of wisdom that is beyond me.

Thank you for pointing out my failure to be genuine. Perhaps if you could be a little more specific I would understand what you mean, though I have no doubts as to the genuine compassion that has moved you to try and help me.

Thank you so much!

Gassho, Ted

3:48 PM, November 21, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Pierre Turlur,

Since you brought up the subject of words and letters (books), I was wondering what you think about this notion:

Future generations will be able to understand a nondiscriminative Zen (ichimizen) based on words and letters, if they devote efforts to spiritual practice by seeing the universe through words and letters, and words and letters through the universe.

Gassho, Ted

4:03 PM, November 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted,

Pierre is kind and gentle.
I am not.
So let me ask you point-blank: Has anyone ever told you what a self-absorbed, long-winded, disingenuous twat you are?
I'm sure you've heard it before. And I join that chorus.
You seek an audience before which you can flaunt your erudition like a peacock displaying its feathers -- or like some troubled soul trying to compensate for an inferiority complex.
Your game of intellectual oneupmanship has grown tired and predictable.
Why don't you put a cork in it.

12:59 AM, November 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted,

Pierre is kind and gentle.
I am not.
So let me ask you point-blank: Has anyone ever told you what a self-absorbed, long-winded, disingenuous twat you are?
I'm sure you've heard it before. And I join that chorus.
You seek an audience before which you can flaunt your erudition like a peacock displaying its feathers -- or like some troubled soul trying to compensate for an inferiority complex.
Your game of intellectual oneupmanship has grown tired and predictable.
Why don't you put a cork in it.

12:59 AM, November 22, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Toby,

Thank you for your insightful comments.

While I was aware that I was "self-absorbed," "long-winded," "disingenuous," and a "twat." And I suspected that I might be a "troubled soul" with an "inferiority complex," I was totally unaware that my "erudition" was something that was capable of being "flaunted." (If by "erudition" you mean: Deep, extensive learning.) I always considered my learning to be more of the shallow, intensive type. Thank you for enlightening me! May you always be happy, joyous, and free!

Gasho, Ted

3:28 PM, November 22, 2006  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Ted,

I am sorry to bother you again but if your understanding is so shallow, then spare us its display. Unless you are using cynicism and irony (That I sense in your words) And by the way, I don't believe one bit in your good wishes...Your answer to Toby show the signs of bitter intellectualism and false compassion with ambiguous meaning running through...That is what it tastes to me. There is a huge difference between reading master Dogen's words and allow them to be alive through us. You are a number one lecturer and if I had time and money to spend in making a Buddhist University you would be my first choice. Fortunately, I have no more interests (or little) in mind games and and unlike clever people of some rank I mean what I say. And i mean what I say now. Without false compassion, I beg you to stop your would be Dharma discourses and come back to your original simplicity. Mike's style has something that you definetly miss: It is tough, unpleasant...but true.

5:35 PM, November 22, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Pierre Turlur,

Thank you for your comments.

I come here only to try to learn from, and share with others interested in Master Dogen's Zen teaching, not to attack others or belittle them or their understanding.

Yes, your words did sting, and yes I did try to respond to some of the attacks with a bit of irony; I do not want to call people names and try to point out their shortcomings or belittle their intellectualism or anything else hurtful. I know how it feels.

I am not exactly sure why you and Toby feel so offended by my opinions. I don't want to hurt anybody, I just want to share my own experience, strength, and hope as it relates to Master Nishijima's translations and commentary on Master Dogen.

In any case, I will try to keep my comments focused on the topic of Master Dogen, rather than the participants of this blog. Please, simply skip over my posts if they offend you for some reason.

I truly do wish good health and happiness to all. Sorry if my initial defenses were a bit over the top; my feelings were hurt and I failed to use loving speech. I will hope to improve.

Gassho, Ted

9:16 AM, November 23, 2006  

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